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Sunday, October 26, 2014

Disneyland's Mickey's Halloween Party

One of the biggest highlights of our recent vacation to Disneyland, was attending Mickey's Halloween Party.  I have been wanting to attend this event since I first read about it nearly 4 years ago.  So we planned our family vacation around Halloween Time at Disneyland.
The event is heavily advertised in Southern California.  We saw multiple boards that announced the Halloween Party.  We found this one in Hunnington Beach, California.

Mickey's Halloween Party is a "special event ticket", meaning that it requires an additional ticket to attend the party and not included with regular admission.  The party is offered on 14 selected nights during September and October.  The closer the dates are to Halloween the more expensive the tickets are with Halloween night being the most expensive party ticket.  Our date in September was one of the least expensive nights.  Our tickets also came with free parking (which is a $17 value).  Also, if you happen to be an annual passholder you qualify for additional discounts on the Mickey's Halloween Party tickets (sadly we are not annual passholders).  Even with the tickets being expensive we purchased ours the first day they went on sale.  All of the Mickey's Halloween Parties for the 2014 season sold out.
When entering Disneyland on Mickey's Halloween Party night, you enter through a separate entrance labeled "Special Event Tickets". Uncle D and Aunt Katie met us there  as they had purchased their tickets to join us.  I knew it was going to be a special night and experience! The cast members at the gate took our printed computer tickets and transferred them to a "hard" ticket so we would be able to use the Fastpass system if we chose too.  For anyone wondering the cost of Mickey's Halloween Party, it was $62 per person.  No discount given to for children's tickets, but this did include a small advanced purchase discount.
We were allowed to enter the park 3 hours prior to the beginning of Mickey's Halloween Party.  Since the party was scheduled to begin at 7pm, we were able to enter at 4pm.  After we had our tickets scanned, each of us was given a special event bracelet with the date of the party on it.  I assume each additional night of the parties would be a different color with a different date printed on them.  Even Bella got her bracelet put on.  The Cast Members were dressed in festive outfits for the party!
After the bracelets were securely in place, we all picked out a trick-or-treat bag for collecting all our candy. Our party night bag focused on Maleficent.  A special park map was issued for the party night outlining all the trick or treat paths and the nights events.
This is what our bracelets looked like on Friday, September 26th.  The were sparkly green and had the party and date listed on them.  This was also the first Halloween Party of the 2014 season at Disneyland.
Since we had time before the party officially began we decided to head over to the French Market for dinner.  We enjoyed chicken, mashed potatoes, salad and even a special Halloween dessert.  We were so happy to be with Aunt Katie and Uncle D.  The kiddos were talking a mile a minute and it was so, so, so good to be in their company!
After dinner we headed over to the attraction Haunted Mansion Holiday.  It is amazing how they transform the ride into a spectacular Nightmare before Christmas extravaganza.  It is a delicate perfect balance of what it would truly look like if Halloween and Christmas collided into one holiday.  
The kids were decked out in their costumes and we also saw some amazing costumes too as this is the one time adults are allowed to wear costumes into the park. Rest assured that there are guidelines that must be followed regarding scary costumes and masks.  We saw a pretty amazing Mary Poppins and Bert.  Several wicked stepsisters and the mother, an Incredible's family and not as many Anna's as Elsa's.  As you can see, we had two Elsa's representing from the Dahl Family.  
The inside is amazing and while this picture doesn't do it justice, you can see how different the loading area is during the holiday season.
More fun can spy the jack-o-lantern wearing a Santa Claus hat. :)
My kiddos were in heaven with Uncle D and Aunt Katie in tow.  There was much discussion about who was going to get to ride with whom?  We took advantage of some ride time before the party began.
The closer it became to 7pm, the Cast Members began setting up wristband check points.  If you had a wristband you were good, if not they pointed you in the direction of Main Street and the exit.  The crowds began to thin down at this point.  There were 10 trick-or-treating paths all throughout Disneyland park.  You were greeted by a ghost Mickey at the entrance to each trick-or-treat path.  You would walk through specially designed "paths" and along the way the Cast members were set up with candy stations.  There were 5-7 candy stations on each path.
Disney handed out great candy.  M+M's, Reeces, Kit-Kats. Skittles,etc.  I also thought it was awesome that they had non-candy and non sugar items at each path (potato chips, craisins, dried fruit). 
Our bags were filled full after just a couple of paths.  In fact we did about 4 paths, and decided to enjoy some rides (with NO lines), the small parade and some shopping.
There were many great photo opportunities.  There were also MANY characters out and about and some that were in designated areas (outlined on the park map).
This little one was VERY happy with her chocolate!
The attention to detail at Disneyland is amazing.  Nothing is too small.  The pumpkin carving is amazing and the painting was beautiful.
This was an amazing pumpkin carving!
The one request of my 4 year old was to ride Dumbo with Auntie Katie.  She got her wish!
Luke as Captain Jack Sparrow!
Gracie as Queen Elsa!
We had fun watching the cute cavalcade.  A cavalcade is a mini parade.  There were only three floats and most of the characters walked.
Cute cowboy Mickey.
Uncle D trying out a Yoda backpack in the Star Trader where we "hid" from the fireworks.  Bella rode everything and loved it, but the fireworks caused her to freak out!
Overall, Mickey's Halloween Party was amazing!  I would highly recommend it.  We enjoyed all the events, received tons of candy, and celebrated in style.  The kids are still talking about it. If you ever find yourself going to Disneyland in the fall be sure to check out Mickey's Halloween Party.
Great fun was had by all...including us big kids!

Happy Halloween!!!
The Dahl Kids

Saturday, October 25, 2014

When You Lose Your Father...

*NOTE: I wrote this post in August on my dad's birthday, but it has taken me a while to finally share.
When you lose your father, everything changes.  A wound is forever etched on your heart.  It doesn't matter if you are 23 years old or 63 years old, your world is forever altered.  The man who was a constant in your life since birth is gone.  The one that you looked to for advice no longer available.  The man who saw you for everything you could be and become, and believed in you when others did not.  Gone.

It was in that moment, when my dad died, that all of sudden my world became a place of daughters who have fathers and daughters without fathers.  Almost 11 years after his death, and I still feel pains of jealousy when I watch a father hug his daughter.  October 2003 was the last time I hugged mine. 
Today my father would have celebrated his 63rd birthday, except time froze for him at 52.  These last few months have been incredibly painful and emotional.  Grief is an ever-changing emotion.  I can best relate grief to ocean waves.  Sometimes they are rough and loud and all encompassing, and other times gentle, quiet and subdued.  Either way...the waves never leave you.  The same is true of grief.  It becomes part of who you are... a sort of emotional tattoo that is never to be removed. 
It is not a secret that I have been in therapy since May.  Life, day-to-day stress, job, anxiety, depression...I've been struggling, but I've also been fighting and processing.  In the midst of processing and therapy I have discovered I have an underlying "theme" so to speak.  My last decade could have been appropriately named, "Loss".   So much loss in such a short period of time.  Two miscarriages exactly one year apart to the day.  September 29.  Two precious babies, two lives gone.  A dream realized at the turning of two pink lines, and a dream destroyed by death of children unheld by human arms.  Girl and boy.  Pink and blue.  Lucy and Zachary.  Never to breathe, never to cry, never to enter this world. 
Then five weeks after the loss of my second baby, the loss of my father.   So young, so much life left.  Cancer.  It came and took.  It robbed me of years with him.  It cheated me of conversations, advice and holidays.  Cancer stole the meeting of his grandchildren.  It took the very breath within him.  Depleted him of the light that shined to so many.  Cancer gripped and took a man from earth that loved people, who wasn’t afraid to touch the lives of others and to love.  Cancer ripped him from my closed fisted grasp.  I clung onto his life but cancer didn’t care.  
There was barley time for anything… barely time to make arrangements, barely time to embrace… to say last words.  “I love you” whispered through tears running down his sunken cheeks.  Barely time for warm October sun to shine long enough to brush his face through ICU windows, to make last requests…promises. And then to unwillingly release him…to let go...finally to open my hand....gone.

As with anger there are stages of grief.  And unfortunately you don't cycle through them all one time and then your done.  I have learned you can cycle through many different times and move from one stage to the next and then back to another.  An ongoing process that continues to mark the years.

Milestones pass for my children...first steps, first words, first days of school, holidays, Christmas programs, baseball games.  Sometimes I find myself looking for him...sometimes I am not looking for him and another person reminds me of him.  It grieves my heart that he never met Luke, Grace and Bella.  That he never met David's wife Katie.  Life continues on...but the pain remains.  Quiet sometimes and fierce at other times, and it makes me angry that they are missing out on him.  His generosity, his sense of humor, his funny adventures, his unconventional problem solving, his heart. 
I have such wonderful memories of my father.  He would drive David and I to school several mornings of the week while my mom worked at the law firm.  He would fire up the big Chevy green van.  It would roar to life and he would ever so delicately balance his hot mug of coffee the entire way.  How he didn't spill it is beyond me? 

In Fremont, CA he owned a mobile home wash and wax business.  There were a few times I got to go to work with him in the little red truck.  It was fun to help him wash the homes and eat out of the white and red igloo.  I especially enjoyed when he would let me shift gears in the truck. 

Sometimes Dad would get so irritated with David at times with all his requests and ideas.  But David knew his soft spots and Dad would relent.  It was a fun sort of show to watch :)  David is gifted with my dad's people skills.  Today David is an extremely successful business man.  I know dad would be beaming with pride for David. 

Another memory that I think on often is September 11, 2001.  Dad and I spent September 11 together in matching blue recliners.  He woke me up that day and we sat glued to the TV for hours.  Just him and me. 

I never doubted my dad's love and acceptance.  Yes, he was human and made mistakes and was definitely not perfect.  But the things that mattered...that really mattered...he made sure David and I were paying attention.  My dad loved people!  He could talk to anyone.  He loved being a pastor of a church even though at times it was a difficult job.  He cared about the poor, hurting and hungry. He gave generously.

When you lose your father, you lose part of your identity.  You lose someone that you look up to, a friend, confidant, and one of your biggest supporters.  In losing my father, I have taken up his gauntlet of loving and caring about others, and about investing in my children and family.  And perhaps when you really think about it he continues to live on in lives of my brother and I.  A sort of extension of the man he was through our actions and lives.  Happy Birthday Dad!  Will always miss and love you! 

Friday, October 24, 2014

Breaking the Silence

Welcome back!  I have been silent for several months.  I took a break.  The summer had been crazy, and I have been processing things, and the routine of school starting up happened, and then it seems as though time flew by.
The end of our summer was jam packed with so many things.  From the fair, to camping, back to school preparations, meetings, buying a new truck, meet the teacher, motorbike riding, classroom decorating etc.  It was a lot for this mama.
I had a rough summer...though I enjoyed so much of it with the kids and our activities, but I struggled with me, my role, my goals, my career, the direction life was taking me (or pulling me it seemed).  I suffered some scary vertigo this summer.  One such episode scared me so badly I ended up seeking medical care.  But as it turned out only to be benign positional vertigo.  Stress as I was told can plan a role in what I experienced, and I was very stressed over the summer.
After two very stressful back-to-back teaching experiences, I was ready to throw in the towel on my teaching career.  In fact, at one point decided I was not going back to teaching for the 2014-2015 school year.  But, I had a very vivid dream one night (which I believe to be spiritual) that confirmed within my heart my calling to teach, my passion to teach and my ministry to teach.  So, I jumped back in faith that God was going to do something new and exciting.  I wish I could tell you that I was positive and didn't worry, but I was really kind of a mess in the beginning (nervous and anxious).  But this year has been incredible so far!  I am so filled with joy and LOVE my students, their families and enjoy being on the early childhood teaching team!  My aide is amazing and I enjoy our friendship so much.  I really feel supported.
In a mission to reclaim my mental and physical health I visited both my doctor and naturopathic doctor.  They both ran tests and have helped me feel physically better than I have in a long, long time. I am grateful for access to medical providers and their knowledge.  It was a big step for me to go and ask for help.  My only regret is that I didn't go six months ago.
How are my kiddos doing you might ask?  I know most everything thus far has been about me.  The kids are really doing excellent.  They are all three attending CCA.  And the most wonderful thing is they are all in the same classrooms that they were in last year (different teachers) but they same rooms. It has provided a level of comfort and security for them.  Luke is doing well. He is getting very tall.  We have another Casey Eye appointment coming up this Tuesday.  These make me nervous but the last one was good, so I continue to expect good things.  Bella has lost her bottom two teeth already at four and half years!  My baby!! I guess it is genetic because I lost my bottom teeth at four also.
My Gracie girl is doing very well.  She is beautiful and talented and spirited!  She read a poem in front of the entire school for grandparents day.  She also started the year off reading at grade level!  I am so proud of her.  

Mark is busy with his projects, helping his dad with his projects and working.  He just celebrated 10 years at BNSF Railway!  Crazy it's been 10 years.  

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