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!

Aloha! ~ Jen

The first time I went to Hawaii, I was 17 years old and it was a volleyball trip for my high school team. We spent a week in Honolulu before school started, playing in a tournament with teams from around the islands and the nation. I was hooked.

Five years later, after my first year of teaching, I went back. This time to Maui, where I felt an immediate soul connection. Maui was magic. I made the trip about every two years after that, with some of my best girlfriends. I couldn’t get enough of Maui.

Ten years later that all made sense when I met Shea. He grew up on Maui, in an honest-to-goodness sugar shack in the middle of a plantation. Our first trip together, he showed me kama’aina Maui, places tourists rarely go. And I showed him haole Maui on the Ka’anapali side.

Hawaii is important to us. The lifestyle and culture are an intrinsic part of who Shea is, and he wants to share it with our kids, who are natural water babies and fish eaters. They revel in the feeling of warm sun on their shoulders, so they take to Hawaii like they were born to it. Which, in a way, they were.

Gabriel body boarding at Hanalei Bay
Gabriel body boarding at Hanalei Bay

We just got back from a week in Kauai with my parents, where we snorkeled, body boarded, jumped waves, zip lined and ate fresh mango, coconut and fish. The Hawaiian people are enormously generous and kind, but even more so once they find out Shea is kama’aina. For Hawaiians, this makes us ohana.

Speaking of ohana (which means “family”), look at this sign we saw while shopping one day:

This was hanging outside a local souvenir shop in Koloa
This was hanging outside a local souvenir shop in Koloa

Wow, right? I just wrote about keeping the Sabbath and here was this sign, like a…well…sign. See how it doesn’t say CLOSED? CLOSED is a brusque, unfriendly word that conveys a feeling of nothing.

OHANA DAY is a whole other feeling. It says “We’re with our families. You go be with your families. It’s all good and love. We’ll see you here tomorrow.” Most of the non-super touristy places were closed on Sunday. And the parks and beaches were packed. How’s that for some Sabbath?

We had two highlight adventures. The first was suggested by a local guide on a snorkeling trip. “Salt Pond Beach is the best place to watch the sun go down” she said. “Build a fire, cook dinner, sit back and enjoy the view.”

So we did. We gathered driftwood, which the Eagle Scout (my dad) turned into a perfect beach fire. We swam in the dusk, roasted hot dogs and watched the sun set. Amazing.

Salt Pond Park, Bonfire dinner at sunset
Salt Pond Beach, bonfire dinner at sunset

Then on our last night, we went to Po’ipu Beach to watch the sunset. There’s this cool little cove that’s a natural kiddie pool—protected by rocks, only 18 inches deep. After dinner, Gabriel was out hunting crabs in the rocks with a bunch of boys when they started screaming.

You know I thought “Shark!” before my brain processed that they weren’t running away, but towards whatever it was. Then I heard TURTLE!

And sure enough, three huge honu had risen off the rocks right where the boys were playing. Scared the bejeezus out of them, since the smallest turtle was at least 4 feet long.

Hawaiian Honu, green sea turtle.This one was at least five feet long and two feet away from me!
Hawaiian Honu, green sea turtle.This one was at least five feet long and two feet away from me!

Hawaiian honu are special. For native Hawaiians, they represent longevity, peace, humility and the spirit within us all. I feel that when I see them. They seem divine in some way, like they know God. There’s also a legend that the first honu, Kauila, could change herself into a little girl, and that she watched over small children playing on the beach.

I love the honu.  I have three tattooed on my ankle to represent my babies. It was a special gift to see them that close on our last night.

The view from our balcony
The view from our balcony
My mom and dad, still loving life and each other after 45 years!
My mom and dad, still loving life and each other after 45 years!
Waimea Canyon, smack in the middle of Kauai.
Waimea Canyon, smack in the middle of Kauai.

I really can’t say enough about Hawaii. I know that it seems a world away and very expensive, but for us, it is no different than traveling to Mexico or Portugal or Croatia to take the kids back to the motherland. And it might not be as expensive as you think. Check it out!


God Made the Giants ~ Jen


Last weekend, on a family trip to the Kern River in Central California, we went to the Trail of a Hundred Giants in Sequoia National park.

Giant Sequoia trees are some of the largest and longest living creatures on earth, and can only be found on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada range in California. They are massive glorious beautiful trees, so tall that you can’t see the tops of them when you stand beneath them. You have to back way, way up to get one whole tree in a picture.

The air was cool. The chickarees called from the tall branches. My dad and I were standing together on the path and he looked at the nearest Sequoia and said “That tree was here when Christ walked the earth.”

And before. The oldest known Giant Sequoia is 3,500 years old.

When I go to places of natural beauty, I always feel small, young and insignificant. I comprehend the enormity of time that has been and will be. I know my footsteps join countless others over thousands of years. And that we have all looked at the same thing. That blows my mind. It reminds me of my space. Just a small space in the Grand Scheme.

It never makes me feel sad or futile, though.

It makes me feel loved. God is always there to meet me at the foot of El Capitan or on the edge of the ocean or in a grove of ancient sequoias. He is there in the massive rock formations and the crashing waves, in the breezes blowing through the tree tops hundreds of feet off the ground. He says “Look at this world, this thing of beauty and grace. I made it for you, for this very moment. So you could know that I love you and I am your God.”

It was Divine Inspiration that we preserved these places in a nation where we are usually so quick to claim and conquer. That was the hand of God staying the ambition of man.

I always come back from the beach, or a trip to a national park, with a better sense of my priorities and a renewed commitment to simplicity. I feel more connected to God and what’s important. I feel good as a mom, bringing my kids to places where God can be found.

(Even if Kate hasn’t quite caught on and thanked God for s’mores in her evening prayers)

I want them to feel what I feel in these places: small, young and insignificant. I want them to be humbled in the face of something so much bigger and stronger and wiser than they are. Then they’ll know what I know, what anyone with an open heart can know in these places.

God made the waves. God made the rocks.

And God made the Giants.