Sunday, October 21, 2018

2018 Summer Field Trips

Long before summer started, I decided to take the kids on a weekly field trip. Each of us, including Cousin Nate, would get to choose two of the field trips. They had to have some educational or physical merit. Or both!

June 14 - Emil and Colin and I went to the junkyard (it has junk, to be sure, but it has a lot of vintage cars waiting to get fixed up too) near our house and Emil took photos of all the old vehicles while Colin wrote the maker and as much as we could tell from looking. We ran into the owner of the place and he was super happy to tell the boys all about his projects. Emil was in heaven! And Colin enjoyed himself a lot, too. After that, the boys looked forward to Thursday Field Trips because they found out how awesome it could be. (Bridget was at girls camp and Nate had a scout thing. It was the perfect field trip for them to miss.)

June 21 - Bridget's choice was visiting Discovery Park in Pleasant Grove. It's a park with wooden castle-looking places to play. We packed a lunch and Bridget told us the history of the park, how it was built in a day by the community and etc. Then we went to North Shore for Hawaiian shave ice. They had Pineapple Dole! We took advantage of that many more times during the summer.

June 28 - Colin chose the FamilySearch Discovery Center for his field trip. We've been to the one in Salt Lake, and that's the one Colin originally asked for. The one in Lehi is THE SAME, and Daddy works there! All the kids loved it! I had Emil log in as Brian and Colin logged in as me, Bridget and Nate could log in as themselves. They went to every docking station and yelled out what they discovered. Nate was so excited about all of it! He knew so much, I was impressed. He remembers names of grandparents and great-grandparents like a pro. When we'd discovered all we cared to for one day, we met Brian in the cafeteria and ate fries.
Colin looking at the great-great-grandpa he was named after.
Nate and Bridget look at their ancestors' timelines.

July 5 - Nate's first field trip was the indoor pool. Brian had the day off, so he joined us. It's always great to have an extra set of eyes at the pool. After swimming, we went back to North Shore for Dole Whip.

July 12 - After the junkyard, Emil had an appetite for old cars. He told me he wanted to go to a car museum for his field trip. What the...?! I looked up car museums and there's a really good one at Union Station in Ogden, Utah. Hmmm. Kind of a drive, but in the name of education we did it anyway. :) I heartily endorse Union Station - it's in a beautiful old train depot, they have actual train engines on display, a fascinating train museum (did you know that people didn't own pocket watches until after the railroad? Who needs to know the time before having to catch a train? No one! That's who.), a gun museum, and a classic car museum. The kids looked at everything and interacted where they could and were so well behaved the whole time. Then we met Grandma Peggy and Grandpa Bob for lunch on 25th Street. Perfect day!
Emil asked the museum docent many, many questions. :)

July 19 - For Bridget's second field trip she chose kayaking at Highland Glen Park. There were perfect moments - watching the kids kayak and have fun in the water was a highlight. However! It was such a hot day and there were a few fights I had to break up. Sigh.

August 2 - The Natural Curiosity Museum was Colin's second field trip. We've been there plenty of times, but I think it was only Nate's second time. It's one of the loudest places on Earth, so I'm glad I knew what I was in for! :) We spent a lot of time at Kidopolis because Colin wanted to practice his bank robbing skills (!). We were there for more than two hours, but it flew by. The kids didn't get to spend much time at the water world (thank goodness), but we did get to try the outdoor playground, which is one of my favorites.

August 9 - Brian and I were at Pioneer Trek in July for one of the field trips, so I only got one field trip. I chose the Imax 3-D movie at the Dinosaur Museum, Incredible Predators. For this one cousin Banks Boney joined us. Banks and Nate were always a fun combination - ha! When we picked Nate up for this field trip and he saw Banks in the van he turned to Grandma and said, "Look who's still here." We walked around the museum after the movie (which is amazing), then I treated the kids to a swallow of ice cream. (Smallest cones I've ever seen!)

August 16 - Nate had the final field trip and he chose Hogle Zoo. I was nervous to take five kids to the zoo by myself. I packed a big lunch, brought lots of water (we drank every drop) and trusted the kids to get along without the empty threat that we'd go home if anyone started fighting. We were there early enough that we got to see animals showing off. Thank goodness my boys look up to Banks because he wanted to stop and observe the animals instead of running by them at top speed. The highlight for all of us was the bird show, which we happened to catch because we were walking by when it started. Owls and doves and hawks and parrots doing tricks and flying so close to us we could feel their feathers?! Awesome. We were all BEAT by the time we headed home. I stopped for a beverage on the way home and treated the kids to a drink too.
Bridget got to feed a giraffe!

Nine field trips! We did it! Having them on Thursdays gave us something to look forward to and helped give structure to the free-for-all feel of summer. I think the kids learned something from each field trip - even if it was only how to behave and get along, as well as appreciate the world around them. I know Emil and Colin are already thinking about their field trips for next summer. :)

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Quarterly Book Report: April, May, June 2018

1. My Life in France by Julia Child and Alex Prud'homme

I'm trying to learn more about France and I'm always interested in food stories, so I thought a Julia Child book was just right. During my binge of Top Chef I caught an episode dedicated to Julia Child. Tom Colicchio told a story about Julia Child coming to his restaurant in New York on her birthday. He came out of the kitchen to say hello and mentioned that his birthday was the same as her's (or close to it?). After that Julia Child came to Tom's restaurant every year on her/their birthday. That is why Julia Child was a success. She has that je ne sais quios! And she cared more about people than anything else.

The most important and influential relationship in Julia’s life was with her husband, Paul. When Julia was in the beginning stages of learning to cook she remarked, "Yet my friends, both French and American, considered me some kind of a nut: cooking was far from being a middle-class hobby, and they did not understand how I could possibly enjoy doing all the shopping and cooking and serving by myself. Well, I did! And Paul encouraged me to ignore them and pursue my passion." At 37 years of age, Julia Child threw herself into cooking and ended up changing the way a generation thought about cooking at home.

My Life in France details the making of the labor of love, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, which sounds like it's the most thoroughly researched cookbook in history. It took YEARS! Julia and her French friends, Simca and Luisette (mostly Simca), tested recipes many times before coming up with the best directions. Their aim was to make French cooking understandable and doable for any home cook. There were so many times when it seemed like the book would never be published and Julia was just lugging all those pages around Europe each time they moved for nothing. She and Simca would get into little skirmishes and Luisette was never doing her share of the work. The original manuscript was more than 750 pages! Each recipe was like one of Julia’s babies and she couldn’t stand editing anything out.

After they’d come home to the United States and Julia had started doing cooking demonstrations on PBS after the success of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, the Childs were invited back to France for a short holiday. They contemplated it and decided to go after recalling one of their favorite phrases they lived by when they first got together: "Remember, 'No one's more important than people.' In other words, friendship is the most important thing - not career or housework, or one's fatigue - and it needs to be tended and nurtured. So we packed up our bags and off we went. And thank heaven we did!" On that trip, they decided to build a little house on their friends' property and it's where they spent their happiest moments in Paul's last years (Paul was much older than Julia).

This is a fun read. I understand that Prud'homme is mostly responsible, but the unmistakable voice of Julia Child comes through. Julia famously never made excuses for her food and it's that confidence that is so inspiring and refreshing.

2. Hatchet by Gary Paulsen

Bridget and I read Hatchet together for Battle of the Books. We were probably halfway through it when she went to the district battle, but it was helpful because the other members of her team had read it so long ago that they had the details mixed up with other survival books on the list.

I'd read Hatchet before - probably in grade school or junior high. I remember that he was alone trying to survive in the wild, but having an adult's (and parent's) perspective really changes this book. When I was younger, I thought about how I could totally do what Brian (the boy in the book) was doing - I would definitely make it. As a parent, I was freaking out.

One of my favorite scenes in the book is Brian trying to catch one of the fat birds so he could eat it. He looks for the birds by color and sometimes he's sitting right next to a bird for several minutes when it just flies off. He knows there is a solution to this problem and he has to slow down and think it through before he realizes that the bird is camouflaged in the bushes so completely that looking for its color is pointless. Brian starts looking for the shape of the bird instead and catches one right away. Letting a kid take the time to think through the problem is revolutionary!

I didn't care for the drama of Brian's parents' divorce and his mother's "secret." I guess we need a little background on him, but it was obvious to me from the start what Brian had seen and teasing it for so many chapters annoyed me. Bridget had to have me spell it out to her, though, so I guess Paulsen knows his audience.

3. Goldilocks and Just One Bear by Leigh Hodgkinson

Goldilocks and Just One Bear turns the classic story around and has a bear lost in the big city. Everything is unfamiliar and the bear is very nervous. He needs something to eat! He wants to take a nap after all this stress! He finds an apartment where things are just right and there's also a familiar old friend.

This is a great read-aloud book. The illustrations are kind of simple, but that puts the focus on the story, so it's fine.

4. Island of the Lost: Shipwrecked at the Edge of the World by Joan Druett

The Auckland Islands are 250 miles south of New Zealand and pretty much uninhabitable. In the mid 19th century, there were two shipwrecks on opposite sides of the island, the Grafton and the Invercauld. The survivors of the Grafton shipwreck lived and even thrived a little bit for two years. The Invercauld officers and crew almost ate each other. What was the difference?!

Joan Druett uses journals and firsthand newspaper accounts (shout out) to reconstruct the scenarios. She has much more information to go on with the Grafton because of the first mate, Francois Raynol, and Captain Musgrave's detailed journals. Was it the first mate? Guys, I gotta admit I'm writing this report months after reading the book. The whole reason I write book reports is that I never remember books like I want to after being obsessed with them while I'm reading them. I digress.

The difference is leadership, obviously. And Francois Raynol of the Grafton insisted on keeping things civilized. They started a school of sorts where the five men took turns teaching the others in their area of expertise. They build a shelter from the remains of their ship, they take turns cooking, they pray together, and they hold an election in which they elect Captain Musgrave to be their leader. You need those things! Their survival depended on them being a family. The whole reason the five men are eventually rescued is that Raynol figured out how to build a bellows and they made a new boat that Raynol and Musgrave barely got out to sea. They got help and came back for their shipmates.

On the other hand, it's every man for himself when the Invercauld wrecks 20 miles away on the Auckland islands a few weeks after the Grafton wreck. No one is the boss of anyone and no one wants to be told what to do. They separate and begin starving. They also wait around to be rescued instead of learning how to survive. One guy escapes their rudimentary shelter when two of the men talk about eating another man who is dying. Sounds like a living hell! They end up catching a disease-riddled Chinese boat off the islands. Why did that make me chuckle?

5. The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

You may have noticed that I don't read straight-up fiction very often. One of my reading-nerd friends recommended The Snow Child to me and wanted me to hurry up so we could talk about it. I listened to the Audible version, which was good, but that meant I didn't see one of the key elements in the book.

We're in Alaska around 1920 with childless couple, Jack and Mabel. (I'd like to renew my objection to 95% of male characters in all of literature and TV and movies being named Jack.) Jack and Mabel are in Alaska precisely because they are childless, to get away from the experience of a stillborn daughter (it's been too long - I can't remember if the baby lived for a little while or not) and family and friends having too much pity for them. Having been in the position of people asking too much when we're going to start a family (for almost ten years), I kind of get the need to move away. A move to Alaska, so very far away from family and friends who just want to be there for you? That's a bit too permanent for a moment that will pass, in my opinion.

Jack and Mabel are super poor, they don't know anything about Alaska or how to farm there. Mabel makes pies and sells them to the local diner and Jack tries to figure out how to farm. On the night of the first snow, Jack and Mabel shed their grief burdens and build a snowman together. It ends up being too short to be a "man" and looks more like a child. The next morning Jack spies footprints coming away from the snow child and also notes the old coat and hat they put on the snow child are missing as well. Next, Jack catches a glimpse of what looks like a girl running through the forest with a fox, wearing the coat and hat from the snow child. What the...?!

The Snow Child is a fairytale but in reality. In the printed version, the snow child, Faina, speaks, but her words are italicized instead of surrounded by quotation marks. Jack and Mabel each go through a phase of thinking they're crazy because they can see the girl, then thinking the other is crazy for the way they treat Faina.

I enjoyed The Snow Child right up until the end, which I think went off the rails a bit. I don't know how it should have ended, but I kind of hated the way it did end.

6. Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Her Daughter Mary Shelley by Charlotte Gordon
I was exposed to Mary Wollstonecraft's writing during college and Mary Shelley's in high school. I had no idea they were mother and daughter! Maybe I heard it during a class and forgot all about it, but it kind of blew my mind.

In this book, the author alternates chapters from Mary Wollstonecraft to Mary Shelley. Mary Wollstonecraft's childhood is, of course, miserable. Her father is a drunk, her mother is depressed and/or pregnant all the time. Wollstonecraft has some decent mentors, though, and is an observant and verbose young woman. The way Wollstonecraft sees her mother (a prisoner and servant to her father, who is abusive) lays the foundation for Wollstonecraft's views on women's rights later. Mary's younger sister gets married to a charming, rich man and the sister appears to be very happy. The sister has a baby, and a few days later goes completely bonkers - she won't even speak. The husband begs Mary to come stay with them and try to help, he seems genuinely stricken by the whole turn of events.

Mary Wollstonecraft arrives at her sister and brother-in-law's house to a catatonic sister and a baby who will surely die if his mother doesn't snap out of it. Mary soon notices that something isn't right between husband and wife. Her sister is only afraid of the husband, no one else. The sister reveals after several weeks that she was raped by her husband a few days after she'd given birth. Mary Wollstonecraft is not having that. At the time, wives were the property of their husbands. Husbands were allowed by law to beat their wives and marital rape did not exist. The institution of marriage, in Mary Wollstonecraft's experience, was a garbage deal for women. Mary waits until her brother-in-law is away, then gets her sister the heck out of the house. (They had to leave the baby behind, if I remember right.)

Wollstonecraft makes a pretty good living with her writing. She falls in love with William Godwin, who shares her forward-thinking ideals. Mary and William get married even though they don't believe in it. (Eye roll a little here. I think the two of them concentrated too much on marriage being the problem when it was really the way the law saw women that was the problem.) Mary gives birth to a daughter, Mary, and dies ten days later.

Motherless Mary Godwin didn't get a great start in life. William Godwin remarried fairly quickly to a woman with children who needed a husband. Godwin had a reputation that brought young "revolutionary poets" like Percy Shelley around the house. All the girls at the Godwin house were in love with Shelley, but Percy was married. And also a dummy. Mary and her stepsister end up running away with Percy Shelley and going on The Worst Road Trip in History. Shelley's wealthy family disowns him, and he's left not just his wife behind, but a new baby as well. Who are these "men"?! So disappointing.

Anyway, Percy and Mary end up getting married and having a few years of happiness trying to create poetry and not let the creditors ever catch up with them. Lord Byron shows up to get the stepsister pregnant and be The Worst. During a stormy weekend, Byron, Shelley and Mary challenge each other to come up with the creepiest story. Mary's was Frankenstein. She wins. Mary adds to the story and rewrites and edits for a few months before publishing Frankenstein. The literary world, of course, thought Shelley wrote it instead. Women can't write like that! Nonsense!

There's so much more! I was really caught up in this book. When I was working at the COB, I started to step up to a soapbox when I was asked to wash dishes from a birthday lunch in the ladies room. They weren't my dishes, although I was expected to bring food in for parties even though I road a bus in to work and I was working the same number of hours as all the men and yet they were never expected to contribute homemade food for any parties, and the only reason I was doing dishes is because I was a girl. I pointed out this discrepancy to one of the 60+ year-old men I worked for and he told me to remember the plight of the pioneers. Nah - not the point. That same dear man referred to me as a women's libber once. Ha!

Where was I...? Romantic Outlaws is well-written, and I thought extremely interesting.

7. Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh

Remember when Evelyn was a boy's name? Yeah, me neither. I really enjoy Waugh's way with words - his dry English humor is my jam. The story is just meh, though.

Brideshead Revisited is Charles Ryder remembering his Oxford friend (crush) Sebastian Marchmain and their days at Oxford before World War II. Sebastian is a character - beautiful, rebellious, unhinged (he carries around a stuffed toy and pretends to talk to it). Sebastian is also very clearly gay, which the book never comes right out and says. Charles is very reserved, so this new friendship brings out a new side of him. We get hints that Charles is in love with Sebastian, but nothing ever comes of that.

There's a lot of subtext here. I don't know if I caught all of it. Sebastian doesn't want Charles to meet his family. There's a lot of weight on Sebastian's parents' divorce and what kind of person Lady Marchmain is. Sebastian's siblings are all a little bananas in one way or another. Each of the siblings tries to embarrass Charles or make him uncomfortable, and Lady Marchmain tries to recruit him to...? Spy on Sebastian? Do her bidding?

The story is told as a flashback. The grand Marchmain house is dismantled and sold for parts after the war and it's supposed to be very tragic. The family didn't seem to really love or care about each other and every single life in this tale is empty and depressing. Even when they're "happy" they're depressing.

Waugh's delightful writing doesn't make up for the gloom that is this book.

Monday, July 9, 2018

California 2018

I read a headline the other day that said something about only having your child for 18 summers. AH! That doesn't sound right! It feels like we're making it count, but this golden time is going by fast. Our big summer vacation trip happened the very first week of summer, which makes it seem like there should be another trip before the summer is over. We spent all the money, though! Ha!

Our plan was to leave the house at 5 a.m. on Sunday morning and go to 9 a.m. sacrament meeting in Cedar City. The Saturday before we left was PACKED with activities and last-minute grocery shopping, but we were close to ready by the time we got in bed. We still ended up leaving an hour late at 6 a.m., but we got to Cedar City right on time. After the meeting we opened the back of the van to get a cold drink and the little drink cooler fell out and our drinks went rolling around in the parking lot. AH! One Dr. Pepper was exploding everywhere like a firecracker! We rounded up the drinks and backed out, dislodging a chocolate milk that rolled alongside us. HAHAHAHAHA! 
We met Brian's brother Hal and his sister Dena in St. George so that we could caravan to Anaheim. Hal had their mom, Denise, his mother-in-law Carol, and Nate in his vehicle and Dena was driving with her daughter Janessa and granddaughter Brighton. We hit traffic outside of Las Vegas because we are FOOLS. I think it added two hours to the five hour drive. The kids were all set being in the van, as the photo evidence shows.
Way back in February I booked a house in Anaheim through VRBO. It was an older home, but it had an amazing-looking backyard with a small swimming pool and covered grill with lots of seating. The kids were in their suits and in the pool before we had all the luggage unpacked. Happy day!

Day One - Disneyland

We were at Disneyland first thing Monday morning. We weren't experts yet, so we got separated almost immediately after getting our bags checked. The only thing we knew was we had to get fast passes for Radiator Springs Racers. Brian had the credit card and he was with his Mom securing her scooter and I had all the kids at California Adventures. I couldn't get the Disney app without the credit card, so the kids and I hurried to get a hard copy fast pass for the ride. Bah. We met Goofy on our way there. :)
We met everyone and after a strategy session and getting apps and fast passes, we went to Soarin' together. The line was pretty long and the kids didn't have their Disneyland Game Faces yet, so it got rough. I think we had at least two bathroom breaks during the line.
After Soarin', a thrilling, but friendly ride, Emil and Colin were super confident about going on big kid roller coasters. Aunt Dena and Janessa suggested we go on Guardians of the Galaxy. Brighton went on it last year and she's more than a year younger than Emil and Colin! It's all fun and games waiting for the ride - we get to see the Guardians of the Galaxy and we're on the elevator with Rocket. Then the lights go out and we shoot to the top of the building and drop straight back down in the dark. I could hear Emil yelling next to me, but he was yelling on the other roller coaster when he was having fun. After going up and dropping down a few more times we stopped at the tippy top of the building and the elevator doors opened so we could see all of Disneyland and Anaheim. I looked at Emil and he was TERRIFIED and bawling that he had peed his pants! WHAT?! Brian discovered that Colin was also scared out of his mind and trying to unbuckle his seat belt so he could get off the next time the elevator doors opened. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! We tried to comfort the boys through our laughing tears. The photo they took of us at the top is the most classic photo of all time.
It took a bit to get Emil and Colin to calm down, but Disneyland is full of distractions and we were presented with an opportunity to follow Loki around and try to get his autograph. He was super cheeky and never stood still. 
Loki stopped everyone before a trolley, moving at a brisk walking pace, could run over them. HA! Afterward he told them how lucky it was he was there to save them. Then he said he was sorry he saved them.
I can't remember what he asked them here - Colin had mispronounced his name earlier. I think we split up at this point and Brian and I took the kids on a couple of rides in California Adventure and we saw a long preview of Incredibles 2 on a 3-D screen. 
Red hangs out next to Mater's crazy tractor pull ride.
Our whole group of 12 went on Radiator Springs Racers together - Grandma came in our car. That is the perfect roller coaster. It's my favorite! 
Our fast passes got out of sync somewhere during the day and we split up again to go on rides after Radiator Springs. Our family went on Splash Mountain next - Bridget's old favorite. A lot of this ride is in the dark and there are ominous parts where the log (no seat belts) climbs up in the dark while a rabbit laughs maniacally. Emil lost his mind. I was right behind him and I tried to rub his shoulders to comfort him. Bridget was deliciously scared and kept yelling, "Why am I in front?!" She got soaked! Emil was so worked up after Splash Mountain that we had to take it down several notches - off to the Hundred Acre Wood to meet characters.
Brian asked the kids what the wonderful thing about Tiggers is and when he started writing his name I said, "T - I - double Guh - R." I bet the guy in the Tigger suit appreciates parents like us. Ha!
Thanks for noticing me.
Everyone is still wet, but now we're happy. The other day Emil had to spell the bad name Colin called him - "P - O - O - H." HA! We went to the Carnation Cafe for dinner - I had made reservations about three weeks before. After paying $60 for bad pizza in a noisy restaurant in Tomorrowland last time, I was determined not to have bad food at Disneyland again. 
Emil's burger was tiny, but all the fries made up for it. I had a Coke with lemon for my drink and it's never tasted so good. It was nice to sit and relax after all that running around. I took the equivalent of a 10K on my steps that first day at Disneyland!
After dinner we met up with Dena, Janessa and Brighton for the Jungle Cruise. I've never been on it! How can that be?! Our guide was a stand-up comedian - he had us all laughing through the whole cruise. "Do you like zebras? Don't look over there..." (A zebra getting torn apart by hyenas? Fake blood everywhere? I thought this was a family show.) 
One of the things the Disney app alerted us to was where and when the characters were for autographs. We made our way to Main Street to meet Pluto and then Mickey Mouse with Nate. After that we were shoulder to shoulder with all the tired Disney goers for the Pixar Parade. We watched by the water, so divided our attention between the water/light show and the fireworks. I put Colin on my shoulders for a minute and crushed what was left of my spirit and body. Thirteen hours at Disneyland!

Day Two - Being Lazy
We scheduled a lazy day for Friday, but then Dena found out it was Graduation Day at Disneyland on the Wednesday we were planning to be there. We also found out we are old people who couldn't possibly do Universal Studios the day after Disneyland. So we switched our lazy day to Tuesday and it was The Best. The kids played in the pool, Emil tried on every costume in the playroom, we ate food, the kids played in the pool. Did I mention the kids played in the pool? I will now testify that renting a house is the ONLY way to go. Renting a house with a pool is even better. We figured out that going in on this house together cost us a little over $900 for six nights. We could cook our own food in an actual kitchen, we had a really nice grill outside, and we didn't have to share the pool with strangers. WIN. 
Late in the afternoon when Brighton had been in the pool for about six hours, she sleepily made her way around the edge of the pool. She didn't want to get out, but it was so hard to keep on having fun in the pool.

Day Three - Universal Studios
It took us a few hours to get to Universal Studios, but it was a beautiful day and the kids were ready to become wizards. First, though, photo ops with Universal characters. (I love that Emil is so quick to follow my direction for photos. I wanted them to pose like the statue in the background and he was the only one who did it.)
Shrek and Fiona by a waffle cart?! That's fun.
 Leading up to our vacation we referred to Universal Studios only as Harry Potter World. We've watched all the movies as a family, Bridget (and Brian and I) have read all the books multiple times, we all love it. The California Harry Potter World isn't very big, but it really was like stepping into the movie. Our first stop was Ollivander's to get our wands.
I'd been saving my winnings for months so that we could pay for this trip with cash. It's so hard not to think about how much money we're spending when we're on vacation! I saved it up for this very purpose! But spending $164 on interactive wands made me dry heave a little. The kids went around to all the places where they could do spells (Bridget's right foot is on one of the symbols showing what spell to do) and became really good at magic. 
This was one of my favorites - the spell turned the lights in the window on.
Bridget and Brian talked me into going on the Hogwart's roller coaster. They went on it together and it was their favorite ride in the whole world! Bridget begged me to go on it with her (I was in the waiting room with the boys because they didn't want to risk it). I passed several signs that warned me if I had motion sickness this ride is not for me, etc. I went on it anyway. Like a dummy. The combination of jerking back and forth and up and down while watching fuzzy 3D images and then the ride stopping in a dark, smoke-filled spot for five minutes gave me a migraine. I played it cool (I thought) and tried not to move my head or my eyeballs while we walked into the other parts of Universal. Brian took Bridget on the Simpson's ride (not worth it) while the boys and I met Bart and Crusty.
I'm fuzzy on the timeline from here on out because my mind hurt. I know I waited at a cafe across from some Transformers characters while everyone went on another ride. Then the kids met Optimus Prime because he's Brighton's favorite (!). When Optimus Prime told the kids to do their battle pose, Brighton slowly lifted up her elbow menacingly. Hahahaha!
After this we made our way back to Harry Potter World because the boys wanted to do more magic. Yes! Let's get some more use out of those wands! I think we went right to the Three Broomsticks with the Grandmas and Hal and Nate.
Bridget got a butterbear brain freeze with her ribs and corn.
Sirius Black is a wanted man! The buildings in Harry Potter World are just the coolest.
While Bridget and Brian went on the Hogwart's ride two or three more times, the boys and I ran around casting spells and being awesome wizards. We made it home, probably, but I don't remember anything else. Dena sacrificed one of her magic migraine pills to me - it's the first medication that has ever worked for me. I got a good night's sleep and I was ready for another day at Disneyland.

Day Four - Disneyland Again
We were WISE to the Disney Fast Pass App on our second day in Disneyland. We synchronized all the passes and stayed together. The first stop for everyone but me (still fragile from the Hogwart's ride) was Star Tours. We went on it the first day with just our family and Emil was the spy! It didn't take long, and then we were off to meet Star Wars characters that we just missed the first day. One in five kids are super excited to meet Chewbacca! He was excited about Colin being his brother from another mother.
Rey taught the kids how to drive the Millenium Falcon - #useful.
The twelve of us split into groups of two and road the Autopia cars together, then went to the Monorail. Easy, fun for everyone rides. The grandmas parked their scooters next to the entrance of the Monorail, which was on the second floor. When we got off the ride, they took the scooters to the elevator and the rest of us took the stairs. We'd been waiting for a while for the grandmas before we checked to see what the hold up was - they were stuck! Nothing they tried got the elevator going again. They could hear us if we yelled into the door cracks. Once the maintenance guys and the fire department were called we settled in and ate cold pizza while we waited for them to get our grandmas out. It took more than an hour! Thank goodness they had food and water in there and neither of them freaked out.
Brian is doing his best impression of Gaston here. I've teased him since we were engaged that he looks like Gaston AND he uses antlers in all of his decorating. Being at Disneyland with the possibility of me meeting Gaston in person made Brian feel a little insecure, I think. :)
A Disneyland employee stood by us without intruding the whole time we waited for Denise and Carol to be rescued. Once they were out, the Disney person gave each of us three free fast passes. Normally you can only have one at a time and you have to wait more than an hour in between each fast pass. Jackpot! It was very liberating to know we could fall back on a fast pass any time. (We didn't know until too late that they were only for Disneyland, not California Adventures.) Off to the caterpillar ride!
I had to flag him down, but we met Gaston! After this picture he started flirting with Janessa - easy come, easy go.
The twelve of us rode Radiator Springs Racers together after more little kid rides. This time the boys were in one car with Grandma Carol and the girls were in another car. The boys talked a lot of trash, but I didn't think we'd end up racing each other. Then when we went to a Ramon's instead of Luigi's before the race I got hopeful - sure enough we pulled up alongside the boys for the race. They all went crazy! It was my favorite moment ever. Then they "won" and went even crazier. Ha!
Standing in lines is part of the deal, y'all.
Luigi's Dancing Cars is this close to being a puke ride. The grandmas and I took Nate, Emil, Colin, and Brighton on the Winnie the Pooh ride while everyone else went to Indiana Jones (Colin wasn't tall enough and the other kids had no interest in getting stressed out in the jungle). Then my family went to the Louisiana-themed restaurant for dinner. 
Mickey Mouse-shaped beignets! I could go for one right now, actually.
We ran into Dr. Facilier from Princess and the Frog. Bridget and I joked before going to Disneyland that we wanted to meet the villains. She didn't have the stomach for it in real life. Ha!
We went through the Haunted House after this and it stopped about a dozen times. Meh. Emil's obsession with Nightmare Before Christmas is going strong - he loves that kind of art and he loves that story. Funny kid. :)
Bridget doesn't want to be rude, but she'd rather not join the Dark Side.
Darth Vader was a riot! He approved of Emil's choices and told Colin he had chosen poorly.

Day Five - The Beach and a BBQ
We couldn't be that close to the ocean without dipping our toes in. We were amateurs getting there and parking, but the house we stayed in had all kinds of beach stuff so we didn't have to pack it.
Brighton let me braid her hair while Grandma Dena and Janessa got ready. She reminds me so much of Bridget at that age! Notice our sandcastle cornerstone on her right. :)
Emil was determined to catch a wave. :) 
Bridget hunted for shells in between catching waves on a boogie board.
Colin lost a tooth (in the pool) the very first night of our vacation. Is that our thing? Losing teeth while on vacation? Ha!
We came back to the house after a few hours and had steaks and baked potatoes and watched the kids swim and swim. The next morning, Saturday, we drove home!

The End