The Happiest Place On Earth ~ Disney

Nine. Seven. Three.
Seems like the perfect ages to take our kids to the
“Happiest Place on Earth”. 
moon gazing on an evening hike
We love these kids to the moon and back. 
Like most parents,
We want the best for our kids. 
We want them to enjoy life to the fullest. 
We want all their dreams to come true… 
But we probably won’t ever take them to Disneyland.
Or Legoland.
Although we have taken them to Portland.
Several times. 
I know. Disneyland is where “dreams really do come true.” 
But is that really true? 
Has anyone’s life ever been changed by a trip to Disneyland? 
Is it really the ‘happiest place on earth’?
for some…
As much as we want our kids to have the most. fun. ever. on our family vacation, 
we’re not cut out for Disney.
and we’re (all) okay with that.
For our family of five to walk thru the gates of the Magic Kingdom, it would cost us $442 *plus* the cost of travel, food and hotel.
Well, lucky us!
We were staying with a friend, who lives 20 minutes from Disneyland. 
We could see the Disney fireworks from her house every night. 
We didn’t go.
We couldn’t bring ourselves to do it. 
The kids didn’t even ask to go.
The money, the time, the energy to walk around the park all. day. long.
Hmmm… no.
We even had the opportunity to go to Legoland-with 2 of the tickets already paid for.
All we had to do was buy three more tickets, pack a lunch and hop on a bus.
We opted for the beach instead.
As the comedian Jim Gaffigan says, “How can I spend an enormous amount of money, be uncomfortable, and listen to my children complain and whine? *I know* ~Disney!”
Adam and I experienced Disneyland as kids, and went to Disney world as married adults.
We know all the Magic Kingdom has to offer.
Maybe our kids will resent us for not taking them…
Maybe they will need counseling once they grow old enough to realize they were denied going to Disney as children… 
Maybe they will decide to go to Disney as adults…
Nah. Probably not. 
Perhaps we are denying our kids of a priceless life experience…
well, I don’t think so.
Everywhere we turn, someone is trying to sell us an “experience”.
What about the experiences creation gives us?
What about the people we encounter?
We have family in Oregon and California. 
So when we visited this summer, we went to the beach, the lake, the mountains, hiking, to national parks, and quirky places like Portland. 
Portland is a magical city filled with wonder, crazy characters, yuppies, hippies and homeless people, unique restaurants, loads of local shops, farms and markets, and countless state parks.
We visited Adam’s Uncle Gilbert and Aunt Dolores on their farm ~ and their house is a state of California historical landmark. 
They are in their 80’s and have had quite a life adventure.
The kids chased their peacocks and picked fruit off their trees.
We shared stories and had a wonderful meal together.
The kids still talk about their dog, Keepers, and how much fun they had playing with him.
These are some of the happiest places on earth,
where we have created some of the most wonderful memories.
Where is your ‘happiest place on earth’?
Maybe for you it is a trip to the Magic Kingdom…
Perhaps the happiest place on earth can be right in your own backyard… 
Time with our kids is precious.
No matter where you go and what you do with your kids…
live the fullest. love the deepest. laugh the hardest. 
In Him, Leslie 
What has been your “Happiest Place on Earth” experience? 
I’d love to hear your stories! Yes, even the Disneyland ones 🙂

Surviving our Family Vacation…

my family is just coming off the highs [and lows] of an epic trip – 26 days and 6,000+ miles of travel by 5 airplanes, 2 rental cars and 5 places we stayed, throughout Oregon and California.
we’ve been back almost 2 weeks, and I am still. tired.
seriously, I was so tired.
we were constantly on the go – seeing so many people, places and things.

it. was. awesome.
seriously, it was so awesome.
all the time we spent with people, places we went to, and things we did were awesome. 

…and these are our stories of the stains, pains and gains of traveling across the country for 26 days.

travel is super fun. but it is also super hard… especially when traveling with 3 small kids.
it is taking your work with you 24/7. it is never getting a break. or downtime. it’s wiping butts elsewhere. it’s time out elsewhere. it’s losing count of how many times you turn around and say “stop fighting! keep your hands to yourselves! quit bothering your sister!” it’s not being able to separate the 3 bickering kids squished into a Toyota Camry rental car when they are used to slightly more space (at home) in the luxury of your own ’97 Honda Odyssey. it’s gritting your teeth and clenching your toes b/c your trying to force your 3 1/2 year old on the toilet and scaring her with your demon angry mom face without everyone in Powell’s bookstore hearing you yell underneath your breath at her to “GO POTTY!”…
as one friend coined the phrase: it’s parenting elsewhere.

it’s finding a tick on selah’s head during our picnic at the beach, smelling oil in the ocean as each wave brings a new whiff of the lovely odor, looking into the vast distance of the ocean, only for the view to be halted by the oil rigs doing their ‘job’. discovering the oil stains on their swim suits and bodies after we’ve spent hours playing in the water unaware of the results. the beach trips were some our favorite days, but there was always a little something to remind us nothing is perfect… even on the beach days that were close to perfect… like hearing them whine ~ “i wish the beach didn’t have so much sand! or “i wish the sand was grass!” really?! these kids.

it’s sneaking into the historical Santa Barbara Mission church service, feeling guilty about limbo-ing underneath the rope with a “service closed” sign attached. [well, soleil and i felt guilty… because we try and follow rules] so after a brief argument, we nonchalantly whistled our way under the rope. oh, and Adam walked right in and joined the communion line, no sweat. the usher telling him, “I’d never tell anyone they can’t take communion.” good job usher – you just affirmed my husband breaking all the rules. the Mission was built in 1786 and has been around a while, so i’m sure we’re not the first ones to have “broken in”.

then there’s selah yelling all the way up the hike to Multnomah falls, and all the other tourists giving me their pity – or ‘you’re a terrible mother’ – glances along the way. well, at least she smiled for the family picture. but only after i bribed her into doing so with the promise of ice cream. then there was our visit to Tillamook cheese factory where you can view the workers processing and packaging the cheese and other dairy products they are famous for. i don’t know about you, but i’m not really comfortable with a bunch of strangers staring at me while i work, packaging dairy products and passing them down a conveyor belt. so we quickly looked around, enjoyed some ice cream and headed for our last stop – the cheese sample line. we grab our toothpicks and start picking up the famous “squeaky cheese” when the lady behind me gasps pointing, “Ugh! SHE just put her used toothpick back in the box of clean toothpicks!” i mumble the response, “well… ummm, i’m not sure which 1 dirty toothpick out of the 300 in the box is hers…” so while she’s still staring at me expecting some kind of crazy reaction, i look at adam, shrug my shoulders and grab about 48 toothpicks of the top of the pile, hoping i got the right “dirty toothpick”. after we continued thru the sample line, and enjoyed our pepper jack samples – plus – the ones the kids didn’t finish, we both burst into laughter. what else can ya do?

not too far into the trip ~ our travel phrase became, “Well. they don’t have a Selah.” 

hey, it made us feel better… at least temporarily.

and then the kids’ homesickness kicked in, missing their own beds and space, and the los angeles traffic – which we are pretty sure is the equivalent of time spent in hell – seriously?! a few of the highways had 8 lanes. 8 lanes people!?! and the impatience…, and the kids moving slowly, the length of time it takes to herd kittens, err… i mean, our kids out the door every single day… it takes forever to pack lunches, extra clothes, toys, and books, for whatever adventures awaited us each day…

intertwined in the midst of the stains and pains, were the beautiful gains… 
the quality time spent as a family (we spent a lot of time getting along beautifully ;)). 
the time without television, video games, and videos on our road trips (although at times we were wishing we would’ve had a video player to minimize some of the car drama)…
the time spent without unnecessary shopping, not going into a target the entire trip (and we love target!), minimal responsibilities and material things to keep track of, less toys to fuss over, wearing the same outfits over and over again…  
the time spent hiking, waterfalls, the beach… everything outdoors!
experiencing church in different, unique places ~ the Portland Rose Garden, Crater Lake and the Santa Barbara Mission ~ on the sunday’s we were gone from our beloved home church. 
the time with adam’s parents. 
the coffee dates, and time to surf and boogie board while the grandparents watched the kids.
special memories our kids have made with their grandparents…
time with adam’s sister, our brother in law, and our neice and nephew. 
the squeals of joy when our kids and their cousins embraced each other yet again… after a year apart.
time with my aunt and uncle who had just moved from oklahoma to california the same week we arrived. 
visiting some of the area where adam grew up… the old Grananda hotel his grandfather owned… where rooms were once rented for a few dollars a night are now upwards of $400 a night.
time with adam’s aunt and uncle… whom we had not seen in over 12 years, and it was their first time meeting our kids. 
the kids running chasing enjoying uncle gilberts farm, the animals and adventures to be had.  
and hearing the wonderful family stories our aunts and uncles shared… history lessons of our family tree.
the laughter. the joy. our hearts swelled full of time with our loved ones… 
creating memories. priceless moments made. to be held forever in our hearts.

much of our travel time had a stain or pain ~ and ultimately a gain ~ attached… and we are learning this is all part of the reality of hard core traveling as a family: fighting, yelling, frustrations, miscommunication, impatience, difficult conversations, deep work thru some tough emotions…

it’s the reality of the fam~glam(orous) travel lifestyle.
and yea, we’re crazy… we survived our family road trip… and we’ll do it all again…

thank you for reading… as always feel free to comment, share and follow us our half written records. and be sure to visit the blog again soon for my next post about our experience on the second part of our Oregon / California journey when we attended the Vineyard Pastors conference in Anaheim!

In Him, Leslie