The Mouse’s House

I’m hot. I’m cold. I’m thirsty. Goofy! I’m hungry. I want. No, I want. But, I want. Well I don’t want. Mom, I picked the wrong one. Yes, I already opened it and dropped it in the fountain. Oh look, Ariel! But I wanted the other one. Can we take it back? Can we? Buzz! Can we, mom? Now?

Last week we went to Disneyland on vacation.

Lots of things happened.

But today, while it’s fresh in my mind, I want to tell you how we beat The Mouse.

We used a little-talked about and absolutely necessary piece of the Disney Experience, whether it be Land, World or Cruise: The Recalibration.

Disney is designed to twist kids up and out of their minds and the corporation is not winning until a certain percentage of parents have been driven by their over-stimulated, sugar-crashing, nap-skipping, parade-missing mini-menaces into the nearest gift shop where only $150 of sour balls and princess dresses will stop the screaming.

The Mouse relies on your compliant herd behavior as a parent. To take their gently proffered toddler tantrum solutions in the form of a stuffie or an ice cream. To use one of their strategically placed and impeccably clean bench nooks to have that discussion with your nine year old about his frowny face.

But this was not our first Toy Story Rodeo.

And sometimes, it needs to rain at The Happiest Place on Earth.

For us, that moment came four hours into the first day, when I realized I was walking with little tyrants only loosely resembling my children.

The urge to whine at them was strong. Come on, you guys. Be nice. We came all this way to have fun.

But I know that showing weakness is how you lose to The Mouse.

And so I found myself holding up ALL THE PEOPLE on their way from Soarin’ to the Little Mermaid while I reminded my chickens loudly at the end of my finger just who is the Queen of this little kingdom.

There are rules for a Disney Recalibration.

Please make it as public as possible, like a PSA for all the other kids walking by.

People will queue up to go around you, because if there’s anything we learn at Disney, it’s how to move through a line in orderly fashion. They don’t judge either, since everyone is a dropped churro away from having the same moment.

Except for the mom who leans into your line of vision, pats you on the back and tells you “Get ‘em, girl!” She has probably already completed a successful Recalibration of her own. High five her without breaking eye contact with your children, because that bad-a**ery will imprint itself on your preteen’s soul. If you will bring the thunder at The Happiest Place on Earth, no telling where you’ll stop. You want him to remember that.

Do not skimp on the Recalibration. Not unless you want to do it again. And again. And again.

Instead, make it count. Build a wall of consequences around your children that is iron clad.

Then test it. March your three year old to see Elsa. Tell her it’s a 90 minute line. If she offers to wait patiently, you are in business.

But if she shrugs it off completely and asks for the Tower of Terror instead, that’s when you’ll know for sure.

Mama: 1. Mouse: 0

Kate Disney
This was Kate on Day 2. Recalibration pay-off: happy children who pose flawlessly 50 feet off the ground.

Summer 2015: Camp Happy Update

  1. Clear water swimming is a lot less stressful than ocean water swimming. (Except when your son yells “Mom, I found an underwater cave!” and you tell him not to swim through it and he already did. That’s stressful, maybe even more than the thought of a shark lurking in the surf.) We have enjoyed swimming holes and rainbow trout nibbling our toes and water so clear we can see forty feet down. And we learned that lake hair is much better for our hair than beach hair. But not as cute.
Hair courtesy of Lake Siskiyou.
Hair courtesy of Lake Siskiyou.
  1. The summer pool membership was a good call. Mostly because they serve booze there.


  1. I came out large against camps and our kids only did a few. For the most part, it was a good call. We really got into a summer rhythm of going to bed late and sleeping later. There were lots of activities up my sleeve that we never even had to try, like the $2 summer movies or the local kid’s museum. However, I was really ready for school to start yesterday. Really, really ready. I need a break from refereeing Every. Waking. Moment.

IMG_20150831_095450 IMG_20150831_095420 IMG_20150831_095347

  1. There were lots of playdates. I enjoyed getting to know the moms better. We bonded over muffins and floaties and even a camping trip. There are some rock star moms here in our valley.
This was a playdate. At a swimming hole! Oregon rocks!
This was a playdate. At a swimming hole! Oregon rocks!
  1. In August, there will be smoke in the valley. And when I say smoke, I’m talking 31 days straight. Not like in So Cal, when the smoke can hang out for three or four days and then the wind shifts and blows it all back to Arizona. It just sat there for weeks and weeks. Can’t see across the valley bad. Can’t go outside bad. Shouldn’t be having football practice but the season starts in two weeks so what are you gonna do bad. Bad.
  1. We did a lot of reading. I am three books into the Clan of the Cave Bear series and have three Alice Hoffman books waiting on the bench. I love me some Alice Hoffman. Gabriel highly recommends the Wings of Fire series for boys his age (9-12). He’s read it twice this summer, he loved it so much. Kate continues to believe that reading is over-rated, but she liked her Frannie K. Stein required reading book well enough.
  1. Once Upon a Time is a really good show. Not really, but it’s been my summer TV binge and I’m Hook’d.
  1. The garden. The garden is a whole other post which I don’t have time to write because I have one million tomatoes to turn into sauce. And I’m nervous about that because there have been two canning fails over the last few weeks. I’m shook.
The seals blew on these red hots apples. They aren't supposed to float. And they surely are not supposed to be up side down.
The seals blew on these red hots apples. They aren’t supposed to float. And they surely are not supposed to be up side down.
The bottom of the jar blew out of this one. What???
The bottom of the jar blew out of this one. I don’t even know…

We have one last camping trip this weekend, and then we say goodbye to summer 2015, one of our best yet! Next up: 100 Days of Holidays!

Only 115 days until Christmas!

Road Trip!

We just got home from a family road trip where we drove this many miles:


The kids were rock stars. I mean…rock solid rock stars. We drove in 12 hour increments and they stood it. No tears, no whining, no fights.

Before you think we are raising angels, please. We have a 3rd row seat. Separation is the key to happiness, folks.

We stopped first in Temecula, near where we used to live. JFK Amy met us there with her family and pizza. We stayed at a SpringHill Suites and I have to give them huge props here because when Gabriel hurled his dinner and half the pool water all over our room at 11 pm, they very quickly moved us to a new room. File it away, Mama Network, it’s always good to know the hotel chains that can handle a family of five and a puking child without breaking a sweat.

The next day we hit the mall in Temecula, because Disney Store. And Williams-Sonoma. Then we went to Front Street in Old Town for dinner. We love Old Town Temecula and if you are ever in the area, it’s worth a visit. Craft breweries, antique stores and restaurants with locally sourced food and wine.

We made a point to stop by the old house and dig up the St. Joseph statue that helped us sell it. Then we had dinner with our old neighbors and the kids got to play with their friends. It was pretty awesome. And weird to see our house that’s not our house anymore.

Our time at Grandma’s and Papa’s can be summed up in one word: Water.

My parent’s pool is probably 40 years old. They don’t make them like that anymore. It’s huge and it’s deep, almost ten feet under where the diving board used to be.


The kids were in it early and late and they got to do that most magnificent summertime So Cal thing—come home hot and sandy from the beach and jump in the cool pool to wash it all off.

We also hit the Long Beach Aquarium, which is such a great deal.

Shea took this picture with his cell phone!
Shea took this picture of a bioluminescent jellyfish with his cell phone!

On Sunday we had a big ol’ pool party. There are 7 August birthdays in our immediate and near family, from my niece turning 4 to my mom turning 69. There was cake. There was sangria. There was pulled pork.

And in the middle of it all, there was an army of preschool girls, long hair curly and straight, marching around my parent’s home with dollies under their arms. They were led by Faith, and she knows her way around Grammy’s, from the paints and crayons in the play room to the big bag of Otter Pops in the freezer in the garage.

They got what they wanted because they only asked the daddies. And if that didn’t work, they asked the Papa, who these days only loosely resembles the man I called “Dad”. I actually saw him stand and wait patiently while they each chose the perfect pop.

I felt better after he told the two oldest boys “Take what I give you and be happy!”


When I see this picture, I can’t really blame him. But dear God, the men in this extended family of ours have to gather their wits about them before these ladies are teenagers or we are all in trouble. Do you hear me? TROUBLE.

Annie is not here because one of the themes of our trip was puking and it was her turn.

We drove off the driveway at 9 am and after stopping to meet my friend Jo and her kids—who were driving home from Oregon while we were driving home to Oregon—we pulled into our driveway at 10:30 pm.

At 2 am, Kate hurled all over her bed and needed a shower, completing the puke trifecta. It was ok though because I got to wash her hair, something that hadn’t happened in a week. “But mom,” she told me, “it wasn’t like I didn’t have a pool bath every single day.”

My wise girl. It’s true that in summer, soap and chlorine are interchangeable.

We have four weeks til school, but many of you are sending your chickens back to school in the next ten days.

I have one thing to say about that: YOU MADE IT.







Oregon Trail Part 1: Campgrounds and Football Games


They said they were coming at 7 am, and the big truck rolled down the street at 6:45. Shea put flip-flops on to take the kids to school and when he came back, every single other pair of shoes was packed. I got distracted while moving the kitchen supplies into the trailer and when I went back at 9:30 am, all the pots and pans were packed.

I had a pile of laundry because I thought they weren’t unhooking the appliances until the next day. “Good news!” Dan the Moving Man told me at noon that first day. “You don’t have as much stuff as we thought! We are ahead of schedule so I am wrapping up the appliances.”

I texted JFK Amy: Can we come over tonight to say goodbye? And stay for dinner? And baths? Can I borrow some pots and pans? And can I do some laundry?

We planned to leave by 1:30 pm on Friday and by 1, there was a crowd of friends to see us off.

I will never forget that.

We drove 180 miles across LA on a Friday afternoon and made it to Bakersfield in four hours. I was feeling pretty good about that. We didn’t have to sedate the dogs. The kids were calm. And we pulled the trailer over the Grapevine with nary a shudder from the engine.

This is our sweet old girl Sugar, cuddled up with Kate in the backseat.
This is our sweet old girl Sugar, cuddled up with Kate in the backseat.

The only thing was, it was dark. And every person with an RV knows that you should never set up your brand new RV for the first time in the dark. This trailer has a side pop out. That’s new for us. We learned that you have to place the trailer carefully so the pop-out doesn’t pop into the water spicket or the power pole.

In our case, it took two tries to learn that lesson.

The next morning we were up and off pretty early. It was the Day of a Thousand Stops. In our hurry to leave Bakersfield, we forgot to send the kids to the bathroom one more time, but we did make sure they had full water bottles.

Why can’t everyone have to pee at the same time?

We were trying to get to Merced by 1 pm, since there was a very important football game that needed watching and I had picked a campground with cable hook-ups for this very reason.

There is no shame in this game. Every new trailer comes with this kind of outdoor tv hookup.
Even Lizzy likes the Tide!

It was a little slice of river heaven.

The Merced River
The Merced River

The next day was our long day, 250 miles to Redding. It was colder, and the landscape was changing from the flat farmland of California’s Central Valley to the rolling ranchland of Northern California. We started to see more water, although I can tell you that California’s drought is real. The lakes and rivers were disturbingly below their normal levels, with sometimes hundreds of feet of exposed bottom. At Lake Shasta, we drove past a houseboat marina that had dropped more than a football field below the dock, left dangling on the hillside.

Redding looks more like Southern Oregon, and it was the first time we were cold during the day. We huddled up in the trailer with the TV on and had a movie night with Maleficent.



We arrived home the next day, ahead of the furniture. We slept on the floor in the master, all seven of us, and woke up to frosted sidewalks.

In the first week, we unpacked all the boxes that came into the house. Which doesn’t mean that we found all our things, only that we unpacked all the boxes that came into the house.

I don’t want to sugar coat something that was hard for us. The sound of Gabe wailing as we drove away from the best friends he has ever known left a wound on my heart. Sometimes when Kate feels lonely, she says “Mom, remember the day we left California and all my classmates gave me a hug and a goodbye card?” Overall, I think they were a great age to make a move like this, and they have adjusted well in Oregon. But Shea and I knew that we needed to get the trip part–in-between the old life and the new–right. It had to be a fun adventure, a special time for us to be together as a family. The kids needed to know that while lots of things were changing, this part, the family part, was not. It was still the same mom and dad, same way of doing things, same crazy dogs.

Things they can count on, things that don’t ever change.

Friday: Oregon Trail Part 2: The First Six Weeks