Sunday, May 26, 2013

Firefly Lights and Sparkle

We recently took a trip to Disneyland with my family before all the siblings scattered for the summer (and beyond). I was sort of like a kid counting down to Christmas during the weeks preceding the trip, even though I'm far too old to be that excited (or admit it!). I don't think this is how it's supposed to work, but trips to Disneyland have been like Stradivarius violins: they just keep getting better over the years. Or maybe I just appreciate those trips for different reasons.

1. I don't remember much about my first trip to Disneyland but I remember that it affected me DEEPLY - ha! I was in second grade at the time, and in second grade we were allowed to "self-publish" our own books (i.e. we were given card stock pages with text lines on the bottom half and blank top halves for pictures. We could write and illustrate the book and then the teacher would bind it with black spirals. It felt very official to me). Immediately after returning from Disneyland that first time, I started using my second grade "free write" sessions to work on my magnum opus (at least, that's what it felt like to me then even if I didn't know the word).

I remember that my "book" created quite a stir among my classmates. It became more of a legend the longer I worked on it and the more pages it accumulated. I wanted to describe every detail of my experience. I didn't want to forget anything. So I wrote and wrote and drew and drew with all the fervor my little second grade self could muster. (Sometimes I take myself too seriously. This was probably one of those times.) I don't remember how long it took me to complete, but it was quite a hefty little masterpiece by the time I was finished. The teacher let me use an entire reading time to read my "book" out loud to the class. That honor of honors was (I felt) a fitting end to an enthralling vacation.

(I still have that book somewhere in a box in my parent's attic. I wish I could dig it out to review for my own pleasure - and maybe scan some pages for yours - but alas. I'm sure my mother will happily take this opportunity to remind me why I should re-appropriate the rest of my boxes.)

2. In sixth grade I returned to Disneyland for a family reunion. Bliss to be trusted to leave the parents on a bench somewhere and run around all day and night with my cousins! We were so proud of ourselves, getting to know every pathway of the park as if we were the only experts there. This was pre-California Adventure days, so each night we opened up our Disneyland maps and counted the number of rides we had enjoyed, checking off each one on the list until we could proudly brag that we had ridden every single one.

3. My next trip wasn't until senior year of high school, only a month before graduation. I went with the band and choir, so the trip also encompassed long but happy bus rides with best friends. Our time at Disneyland  was more laid-back than the happy scurrying of the previous trip. It was fun and merry, though there was an underlying sense of strangeness, knowing that soon we would all be separating and starting a new sort of life at different colleges all across the country. We were nearing the end (or at least the shallowing) of those fast friendships, and I think we felt it a little more keenly, somehow, in a place like Disneyland.

So. Now that I've spent way too much time reminiscing...

4. This last time around lived up to my giddy expectations. The fun began with the car trip there (I'm a car-trip kind of gal. Bring a good book to read out loud, pack up the snacks, turn on the music, follow along with the atlas). It was a sweet chance to talk with my husband about all sorts of things - to catch up, even though we manage to find time to talk for a little while, at least, every day. Madelyn was an angel, like always, sleeping through most of the ride and talking quietly to herself when she was awake. We arrived at the hotel within a minute of my family, which was crazy since they'd had a much longer trip and we'd had a couple of unexpected traffic delays along the way.

Disneyland was fabulous. We laughed a lot. We loved being together (all of us - my whole family!). We shrieked and giggled on the rides. We took Madelyn on any ride we could and she watched the magic with big eyes. We took our shoes and socks off on Soarin' Over California. We walked slowly to savor the atmosphere. We sent Jordan running ahead to get fast passes so that we could walk slowly to savor the atmosphere...

Unfortunately, Madelyn developed a 102 degree fever the morning of the second day. She remained sweet as ever though, sleeping in her stroller most of the day while I tried to keep her out of the sun. I had my thermometer with me and baby Tylenol, so between the two I was able to have an enjoyable day without too much worry. We gave her extra fluids in between meals and I let her nurse as much as she wanted during the day to keep her hydrated.

I will say, I don't think I've been in a more baby-friendly place since Madelyn was born. I loved Disney's Baby Center off Main Street. You are greeted at the door by a friendly, matronly woman in a dress and apron, who helps direct you according to your needs. They have high chairs and microwaves, curtained rooms with cushioned chairs for nursing and pumping, cushioned changing tables and small potties for toilet trainers, and a carpeted area where babies can stretch, roll and crawl for a little while. It was quiet, away from the bustle and noise of the park. Though I mostly fed Madelyn in tucked-away corners of wherever we happened to be when she got hungry, every day I went to the Baby Center once to nurse in a little place of peace. When we were out and about, we took good advantage of the stroller passes that allowed two or three of us to stay behind with the baby and jump straight to the FastPass line when the rest of our group returned for their babysitting turn.

Dave was much more impressed with the Disney experience than he expected to be (having never been to either the -Land or -World before). We both marveled at the attention to detail given to every corner of every ride and Disney street. We admired the colors, the atmosphere, the universal friendliness and helpfulness of the staff (even of the poor street cleaners who had to sweep away the dropped chunks of chicken salad sandwiches right out from under our feet). I think I was successfully able to convince Dave that even if we had to start saving now, it would definitely be worth it to take our own little family again in a few years.

This was the "no extra spinning" cup

Dave calls this his "Madelump"

On the cool, breezy, dark (in other words, much appreciated) Small World

Madelyn loved the uncles and aunts time, even if it was more limited because of her sickness

Love this great lookin' guy

The WHOLE family. Rare these days. 

Yes, we did. 

Yes, I ruined it. 

Astroblaster pros

Grandpa time!


Dave and I weren't at our most photogenic this trip, but Madelyn was sure looking gorgeous!

(We accidentally left behind the camera, so Ty was nice enough to take lots of pictures of us.)

Dave says I love Disneyland because it "presses all my nostalgia buttons" (the first half of this post should be evidence of just how nostalgic I can be!). My own history there, coupled with the history of the park, the architecture, the blinking "firefly" lights in the trees, the rides that hearken back to favorite childhood movies and delights, the dramatic nighttime shows that are somehow delightful, emotional and moving, and the exclusive family togetherness time make Disneyland one of my favorite - and yes, nostalgic - vacations.

And here was the revelation: I haven't had many "special" moments in my life lately. While I was in Disneyland, I found myself skipping a little when I walked, I held Dave's hand while we walked and sat close to him on the rides. We were even caught kissing in the middle of a Disneyland street once or twice (gasp!). I realized that our lives have settled into a normal, fairly drab routine lately. Disneyland made me sparkle in a way I haven't done for quite a while. I started to evaluate how I could bring some "firefly lights" into my life on a more regular basis. My conclusion was that I needed to make memories more often. Watching TV and checking Facebook might be momentary mental breaks, but as that happens day-to-day, it blends into the same drab routine that ends up feeling pretty tiresome in the end.

So that was the commitment I made while I was at Disneyland: Make more memories. My post about the Botanical Gardens represented the beginnings of that effort. Hopefully there will be other memories to come!

Friday, May 10, 2013

A Different Kind of Beauty

I have been evaluating life lately. This pattern of self-evaluation began half-heartedly a couple of months ago and continued in full measure after General Conference. There are at least three posts that will illustrate the point my life is at now because of these reflections. I think I will write them in counter-chronological order (like counter-clockwise?).

I begin with today. 

Let's just say I've made a goal to DO things more often. It's not just about getting out of the house (because grocery shopping doesn't count). It's about doing something fun. Making memories. 

Incidentally, did you know that many languages don't even have a word for fun? I've asked several native Arabic speakers how they would translate an American's "fun," and they have been unable to find a close equivalent in Arabic. (To any Arabic-speakers out there, I do realize that English-Arabic dictionaries do give an Arabic word for fun. It's just....a little different somehow.) 

Now that I've said that, my goal to have more fun seems indulgent. But I believe that removing myself from drudgery once in a while will make a big difference in the quality of my relationships with others, in my sense of satisfaction from life, and in my feelings of accomplishment and growth. 

Today's something fun was taking advantage of the free admission to our local botanical garden in honor of National Public Garden Day. We have never been and we thoroughly enjoyed our morning. We packed Madelyn into the baby carrier and set off through the blooming desert "garden." It was beautiful. 

This sign said "What is a Cactus?" Dave and I both decided it was a good question and
leaned forward to read the answer. As you can see, the answer wasn't entirely helpful. 

Yes, I completely love this. 

Apparently some cacti grow hair for the same reason humans grow hair:
to shade themselves from the heat! Who would have guessed??
It was butterfly season, so Dave patiently waited in line for the butterfly house while I ran to the restroom to feed Madelyn. When I came out, I found Dave near the front of the line surrounded by about six other smiling men and women (all grandmas and grandpas), looking at me expectantly as I walked up. They had wondered about David's empty baby carrier and, since Dave makes friends with people wherever he goes, were now enthusiastically awaiting my return so they could meet the little one herself. She was showered with praise and affection as soon as we reached them. She lapped it up!

The butterfly house was cool, misty and filled with butterflies! Madelyn's visual acuity isn't developed enough for her to see most of the butterflies, but she was eventually able to focus in on some of the slower butterflies, or the ones that stayed still on a flower near enough for her to see. A butterfly landed on her hat but of course she had no idea, so when it jumped onto my camera instead, I was able to hold it in front of her face and let her watch it for a moment. So fun. I should mention that it was great fun for David and me as well. Butterflies are quiet, delicate and beautiful creatures. 

Hard to see among the flowers, but there are at least four in this picture.

Finally able to focus in on one that looks just like the white flowers around it.

Just to prove the camera-woman was there too.

Our own little bug.

The botanical gardens were too large to explore fully today, but we had a nice time wandering some of their desert loops. I have always believed Arizona has one of the prettiest deserts in the world, and the botanical gardens do a very good job of highlighting that beauty. 

Love this.