Week 28: The Happiest Place on Earth

I have been to Disneyland many, many times. Come on…I grew up in Anaheim Hills. Everybody loved to come visit us, and after a while my parents would say, “here are the directions, have a nice time.” I remember my Grad Nite where we (yes me too) rented tuxedos to wear for the heck of it. As a teen, we would go to the theme parks to go dancing (Knott’s Berry Farm had a great teen club deal too). We even went to Disneyland in college. Afterwards, when dating my future husband, we both played hookie from work and had a day at Disneyland (don’t tell O’Melveny).

 

Later when we moved to San Diego and my boys were young, annual passes were a staple. It helped that one of my sisters lived in Orange – cheap accommodations. Then, who cared if you took a day off from preschool or elementary. In elementary school we even visited Disneyland and California Adventure with one of our favorite teachers (not on a school day).

grad nite bus before

So when the high school was asking for volunteers to chaperone the annual senior Grad Nite trip to Disneyland…well, ya — I’m raising my hand. It didn’t matter that I did not have a senior, all the better, no kids to embarass.

 

There was a nice group of parents that were chaperoning (Brook, Dawn, Lisa C., Claire, John, Scott, Mary, etc.), and I was paired up with my friend Lisa-Marie. Our plan was to eat our way through Disneyland. You see, I did have on my 50 Weeks list to visit Disneyland without kids, because I wanted to eat and shop without kids dragging me around…not that I think my kids are a drag, but you know what I mean.

 

Luckily, our bus had a nice and fairly quiet group of kids. But we did hit some traffic on the way to Disneyland, so by the time we got there, Lisa-Marie and I were both starving. We started off sitting down to a meal at the Carnation Cafe — chicken fried chicken, mashed potatoes and veggies. We were so hungry, by the time I remembered to take a picture, we were done eating. After sitting a while and people watching, we decided to do the same thing at another restaurant.

grad nite beignets

Yesss…I had been thinking about the Mickey shaped beignets at Cafe Orleans for weeks! Finally, the moment I had been waiting for, sitting down eating beignets, drinking hot chocolate, leisurely people watching. I love their beignets (reminds me of Cafe du Monde in New Orleans), so do my kids. Both Lisa-Marie and I had to buy extra beignets to go (note that by the time my kids had some the next day they were smushed, but were fine after heating in the toaster oven with a fresh sprinkling of powdered sugar). Lisa-Marie had a delicious plate of Bananas Foster crepes. We said hello to a few kids we knew walking by, and soon thereafter we were stuffed.

 

We figured we might as well enjoy some rides, so let’s see what was around that didn’t have too long of a line… oh yes, the Haunted Mansion. Love that ride, especially when they re-decorate for Halloween and the holidays. Then on to my most favorite ride ever — Pirates of the Caribbean! I was so happy when they made the Pirates movies, now they are my most favorite movies ever! While in line, we did what we hated seeing other people do, let a couple kids we knew cut in line. Hey, isn’t that what chaperones are for, to help the kids?

grad nite main street

The Indiana Jones ride was too long (we stayed in line for about a half hour and it was going no where), so we went on the Jungle Cruise instead. It could be ten years later and the jokes are still the same, gotta love consistency. But we all oblige and laugh anyway. Time flies when you’re having fun and it was soon time to head on over to California Adventure. People were lining the streets so looks like the fireworks show was about to start. Which meant that the shops were empty, so we took some time to browse the shops along Main Street. So many cute things. I would need my own Disney Playhouse in the backyard to decorate properly.

grad nite 2

The throngs of Grad Nite participants were all heading on over to California Adventure, because after they officially close at 10:00pm, it stays open until 2:00 am for Grad Nite kids and chaperones only. Woohoo! What to do, what to do? We head to the right and start off with Soarin’ Over California. Love the 4-D effect of smelling the orange blossoms. Then it’s over to the Grizzly River Run…wait, what it’s closed? Oh man, that’s one of my favorites (I love water rides). Ok, well let’s keep going, yes next is the Goofy’s Sky School ride for a nice dose of whiplash. My kids would go on this ride over and over and over again using the single ride line. For me, once is plenty. We do go on a ride I’ve never been on — the Toy Story Midway Mania. It’s like an arcade game as a ride and you rack up points shooting at targets. Anything that spells competition is considered fun in my household, so this was fun to me. The interactive rides are always our favorites (like the Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters at Disneyland, I got a million points once…no really).

 

We continue walking to the other side of the Boardwalk, but looks like some of the sidewalk food stalls are out many food items. So we head on over to the Chaperone’s Lounge in Ariel’s Grotto. Lots of people were charging up their phones, some were napping. Outside we see a few other parents we know, and sit for a spell, enjoying sodas and snacks – yummy chocolate chip cookies, and I’ll save that apple for later, thank you.

grad nite cars

Then what I’ve been waiting for all night (ok, besides the previously mentioned eating of beignets), and that is Cars Land. That area wasn’t built when I was there last, so this was really exciting for me. I love that movie. (I’m using the word love a lot aren’t I?) The Cars movie actually inspired us to take a mini-route 66 road trip, including staying overnight in the Wigwam Motel in San Bernardino. So even though the line was an hour long for the Radiator Springs Racers ride, we stuck it through. Apparently an hour wait is nothing for that ride. We kept occupied by listening to some of the high schoolers chant (I think we heard a UC, U Know in there somewhere), get appalled at the numbers of kids line cutting, and wondering if we were smelling alcohol on these minors breaths. Once on, the ride was so much fun, racing the car next to you was a blast. The cars actually went faster than what I had expected. Yes worth the wait.

grad nite cones

We watched the kids dancing to the DJ in that area, which was playing rap music. Then we noticed a girl passed out on the floor, but security was on it and an EMT was on the way. Her friends were gathered around, hmm exhaustion, alcohol, drugs? Even as chaperones, how do you really prevent kids from sneaking stuff in? Did you ever sneak such things into Disneyland, honestly? Actually, I don’t think I ever did. I was a good girl.

grad nite flos v8 kids

Next to that area we see the Luigi’s Flying Tires ride which neither of us had been on, so we go. It’s like an oversized tire bumper ride on air, and you move your body towards the direction you want to go. For me, it was somewhat hard to maneuver and I found myself jumping out of my seat, trying to bounce around. As we leave that area, we notice that the girl that was passed out was being attended to by the park medical team, and there was at least a dozen security guards encircling her. I hope she’s okay, you worry as a parent.

grad nite corn

We head on over to see what was happening at Hollywood Land, and that was were the action was…yes we found a street cart selling corn on the cob and chimichangas! So, of course, we were getting hungry again and had to split some. We take our snacks into the dance area where kids were head bopping with hands in the air to a DJ playing some techno dance music – is that what it’s called, I’m really out of it. As we eat, we watch the kids enjoy themselves. This is the area where I would tell  my son to go next year when he’s a senior. Some kids start break dancing, others splashing water on others heads. The joys of young adulthood. I had the urge to get into the middle of it all, but no, I stayed where we were, on the outskirts looking in, wishing we were young again. At least the drug dog didn’t sniff anyone out.

grad nite stage

    grad nite kids stage

Well, the close of the night was soon approaching, so now what. We stroll back towards the Boardwalk thinking we may have time for one more ride. We see a large group of the chaperones heading back, but most of the kids were staying to watch the “Last Kiss” World of Color show created for Grad Nites. We decide to stay and watch and it really was a spectacular show. We were standing towards the back of the group and could still really feel the heat from the fires. Disney really knows their special effects. It did bring me back to my own high school days when we would watch the Dancing Waters show at the Disneyland Hotel. Does anyone else remember those?

grad nite 1

Alas, time to go. The herds of kids quietly and orderly stream out the gates and to the lines for the trams back to the buses. We look at the lines and think, we’re chaperones, we can’t wait this long. We were about to walk back, but then we noticed a line where we can sneak up to the front. Okay, so we took cuts. The kids didn’t say anything. Shouldn’t there be a Fastpass for chaperones anyway? Luckily, the bus driver and the other bus chaperone got there ahead of us and let some of the kids in. All the kids slowly start meandering in, and looking at what they were carrying, many did not take the advice of shopping earlier in the day. Moms know best, take our advice.

grad nite bus home

Eventually, we checked in all the kids, and double-counted. We didn’t want to be the chaperones that left kids a county away from home. The kids were pooped out, and so were we, so it was a very quiet ride home. And before you knew it, we were in bed having our Disney dreams.

 

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I really can’t believe I wrote this much about Grad Nite, and if you’ve read this far, then you must love all things Disney too, or really like my writing. Come on, Disneyland is the Happiest Place on Earth! (Now, if they built one in Hawaii, whoa, I’m applying for my retirement job.) I think us adults design these outlandishly fun places for kids, because deep down we are all kids. And hey, there’s nothing wrong with that!

 

Yes, I went as a chaperone, but we all love Disneyland so it was fun for me too. And there’s nothing wrong with reliving some of your young adult memories. So I give you permission to go to Disneyland without the kids. Have fun…and bring me back a beignet or two!

 

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Disneyland and California Adventure, do I really need to tell you where it’s at? www.disneyland.disney.go.com

Prices: $96 for one-day, one park admission for age 10 and older, $150 for a park hopper; for a two-day $178/$217. You can get a Southern California Select Annual Passport for $289, but because of blackout dates, you can’t go most of summer, weekends, and holidays. The ultimate Premium Passport to go anytime with parking included is $699, yup, you read that correctly $699 for one year at the Happiest Place on Earth!

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P.S. I also helped with the UCHS Grad Nite at the school. I spent all night at the Food Court and let me tell you that serving kids all night was way harder than Disneyland. (My feet are still killing me.) But all the kids seemed to be having fun, they were well-behaved, and appreciated all the food provided. I love that they ate up all the fruit platters. Oh, sushi a big hit too. Making these childhood memories for all our kids is what makes volunteering worthwhile.

Week 10: I’m A Flasher

Okay get that picture out of your head I didn’t flash anyone my naked body, at least not to any strangers (insert wink emoji here). However, I did participate in a flash mob for the first time.

When flash mobs started, I remember thinking how cool is that! To think that you could be minding your own business at the mall and all of a sudden people come out of the crowd and perform some dance routine. I wanted to be in one of those. And this past Sunday I did just that.

How do you get to participate in a flash mob you ask? Well, you could belong to a dance group that is asked to perform one, or do what I did — search this thing called the Internet. My research led me to a company called Flash Mob America that organizes flash mobs all over the United States. You sign up for free and find flash mobs that fit into your schedule. There was one on the list that was a marriage proposal in Anaheim on a Sunday morning. Fits my schedule and it was romantic. That was my choice.

Since it was in Anaheim, my sisters were able to join me on this adventure. We’re each in a different county now: me, the oldest, in San Diego; Liza, the middle, in Orange; and Roselma, the youngest, in Los Angeles. All in SoCal, and meeting up in Anaheim where we grew up.

About a week before the event, we’re sent an email with rehearsal information and a YouTube link to show us the dance we will be performing to the song Buttercup. Then we’re sent another super secret email with details for a super secret rehearsal the night before and a YouTube link to dance steps for the song Marry Me. You see, the girl being proposed to is also participating in the flash mob. The first email was sent as a decoy to keep her from realizing she’s the one. All this super secret stuff, who would have thought it would be so secretive. I guess it has to be secret, that’s why it’s a flash mob, duh.

Well, I looked at the YouTube videos and the steps looked easy enough, so did I practice – maybe once or twice while holding my phone while trying to keep up on YouTube. Not the best dance practice methods. But I do have full-length closet mirrors in my bedroom, and I had some dance experience in high school and helped choreograph routines for our drill team half-time shows. Oh, and there was that time us moms did a dance routine for a school talent show and our choreographer and instructor was Cheyenne Kibblewhite, the new Executive Director at San Diego’s Culture Shock Dance Studio – that counts, right? Is Zumba considered dancing? Okay, so it’s been awhile since I’ve danced. You really don’t need to be a super dancer to participate. A willingness to learn and a desire to help is all it takes.

Ehh, we’re going to two rehearsals we’ll be fine. So after watching a baseball game for one son, and a basketball game for another, I head on up to Anaheim to meet my sisters for the Saturday super secret rehearsal. It seems none of us has really practiced. Of course we’re late, and the instructors have begun. We stand in back and try to catch on. There will be a dance group performing a routine in between our parts, so we really don’t have to dance as much as we thought. Well, that’s good. No problem, we got this.

Afterwards, us sisters have an excellent seafood dinner at a new restaurant in Old Town Orange called Ways & Means. (If you have Instagram, you can see all the food pictures I posted.) Later, for inspiration, we watch Step Up Revolution. It’s the 4th movie in the Step Up series and is based around a group performing flash mobs. And if you like those type of dance movies, bypass the acting and concentrate on the flash mob performances. Personally, I looked at the routines as art in motion – the choreography, set design, sense of purpose was masterful. Watch it, because it’s hard to describe the art gallery scene where art is transformed into dance. And I especially like how their timing and locations of their flash mobs were designed to send a political message. I consider that a peaceful protest.

In the wee hours of the morning, when it’s still dark outside, we have the not so secret rehearsal at 6:00am – yes am. We figure out who the bride to be is and we run through all the steps of the Buttercup routine, although everyone knows full well that we only dance through the first chorus. I practice that torso thrust S-curve like movement…my sisters laugh.

The instructors announce the official location and general timeframe of the flash mob (although we found out the secret location the night before at the super secret rehearsal) — the stage at the Tinker Bell Half-Marathon at Disneyland. Woohoo – we’re going to the happiest place on earth to help make a couple happy! Too bad free tickets weren’t included, that would have really made me happy – have you seen the price of Disneyland tickets these days!

flash mob military band

Now comes the hardest part…waiting. Once we get into the stage area, we end up waiting around for a good hour and a half until there’s a break in the stage entertainment, and when most of the runners have completed the race. We try to blend in, looking like the throngs of supporters cheering on family and friends. We should have grabbed a few of those thermal blankets and looked like we ran the race, or wore some green Tinker Bell outfits with wings (maybe the half-marathon will be a future week…or not). We walk around, and walk around, use the porta potties, witness three other marriage proposals, walk around some more, listen to the military rock band…and then we notice that many of the other flash mobbers are starting to come towards the stage.

Flash Mob Jemma during Buttercup  flash mob waiting for the answer

Okay first, the fake marriage proposal (to throw off the future bride even more) happens on stage, then Buttercup starts playing, our cue to head to the middle. So we go in and start the dance no problem…then the deception…the groom-to-be pulls aside the bride-to-be and dances to her along with the dance group to the song Treasure…then the whole group comes back in for the finale of Marry Me and opens up their hands to reveal Ring Pops (the groom-to-be had a real ring)…and it’s over…she says…wait, I can’t hear her…YES!

flash mob the ring pop  Flash Mob Jemma with the happy couple

Ohhhh, it’s all so romantic (although personally, guys listen up, I would prefer a romantic vacation on some tropical isle). Is that it? Are we done? What do we do now? It was hard to leave. You practice the steps over and over again and again, and all those logistics the organizers handled to keep it super secret. It was somewhat anti-climactic. Most of the flash mobbers hang around, take a group picture, and congratulated the happy couple.

flash mob group 2

Well, I guess we’ll go out to breakfast.

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Although the actual flash mob performance went by way too quick, the memory of it will last a lifetime. Primarily for the couple, who you wish will live happily ever after. It’s got to right? It started at the happiest place on earth. But also everyone who participated will be sharing a memory with each other — complete strangers, and who today wouldn’t recognize most of the other flash mobbers. The beauty of a flash mob is the fact that total strangers came together, volunteered their time, went to a super secret rehearsal and another one at the wee hours of the morning, to create such a lovely memory for this couple.

Although not at the same scale, it’s like when many San Francisco residents came out to help fulfil a Make-A-Wish dream come true for “Batkid.” Complete strangers coming together for the greater good. The greater good of bringing a smile to someone’s face and creating special memories. There is hope for all mankind afterall…and yes, I plan to continue to be a flasher…where are those Culture Shock gift certificates, I need to step up my dance moves.

Notebook:

http://www.FlashMobAmerica.com – no cost to get on their mailing list, flash mobs are organized all around the country – go be a flasher! (If the flash mob is posted on YouTube, I will update this post with a link.)