Friday, April 17, 2009

My Birthday at Disneyland

DisneylandXmas 001 I just got home from Disneyland! For 2009, Disneyland lets you visit free on your birthday. The waves were "going off" this morning so Surfer Guy was compelled to "paddle out". Once he returned from the "awesome" waves, we loaded up into the minivan and pointed it towards Anaheim. I was somewhat anticipating crowds because it is Spring Break week for many parts of the country. Although it was crowded, it wasn't really that bad. I had pre-registered on the Disney website so all I needed to do was bring the print out from the e-mail Disneyland sends you just before your birthday. They confirm your ID and that it is your birthday. [For kids, bring a birth certificate or passport] I passed. The cast member at the ticket booth also gave me a "Happy Birthday" pin to wear in the park. I was interested to see what would happen if I wore it.

I had made reservations for "Character Dining" for breakfast and dinner. For breakfast, we ate at Minnie and Friends which is just at the end of Main St. It's a breakfast buffet and was excellent. The food was tasty and there was a wide variety of choices. Under age 3 eats free so Chip and Lulu were cheap dates. The best part was all the characters who visited our table. You are guaranteed five characters, but we got many more than that: Chip & Dale (my favorites), Captain Hook, Minnie Mouse, Max (who I didn't recognize but I guess is Goofy's son), Gepetto, Eeyore and at least a couple more I can't remember! Next we headed to Chip's favorite ride, Autopia, which is cars that you can drive around a really cool course. Then we headed to Toon Town which is geared more to the toddler set. Chip is on a huge Mickey Mouse kick right now, so he and I stood in line to meet Mickey. Mickey hangs out in his house and is the only place in Disneyland where you can meet him. The line wasn't that bad and was also not boring because it worked its way through his house, so there was lots to look at.

DisneyBalloons We next headed over to Frontierland and jumped on the sailing ship Columbia, which is an old fashioned sailing ship. It sails around Tom Sawyer's Island and there is a lot to see on shore including Indians and animals. We weren't setting any land records and it was nice to not feel pressured. We live close enough and the two babies were free (under 3 receives free park admission) as was I. So we knew we were just there to have fun and do what we could. We had to do Pirates of the Caribbean, which is 6 really fun and one of Chip's favorites. It was here that I really saw the benefit of wearing my birthday pin, they sat us in the front of the boat! Also, throughout the park, cast members were constantly greeting me with a "Happy Birthday!" which was very fun. Time was marching on so we decided to walk over to the Disneyland Hotel for our dinner reservations at Goofy's Kitchen. It was about a 15 minute walk through Downtown Disney.

When we arrived at Goofy's Kitchen, they took a family photo of us at the entrance with Pluto. I guess Goofy was busy cooking. We were escorted to our table and given the goody bag that I had pre-ordered (you do not have to pre-order). It included a coloring book, crayons, character cards, and a crown. The little girl at the table next to me was celebrating her 8th birthday so I forked the crown over to her as she didn't have a goody bag. Chip had fun with the crayons and cards. Goofy's Kitchen is a buffet and was really good. They had several stations with a variety of vegetables, salad bar, kid's food station, meat carving, breads, and a big dessert station. Chip really loved the kid's macaroni and cheese. As at all Disney Character dining locations, kids under 3 eat free. Lulu was very involved in the mashed potatoes. As any good blogger does, I sampled everything so I could report back to you. My favorites were the popcorn shrimp, salad bar and cupcakes. Tip: the character dining restaurants offer a 10% discount if you are a AAA Goofy member.

Of course, the most fun was the characters coming to the table, we were visited by Goofy, Minnie Mouse, Princess Jasmine, Alice in Wonderland, Pluto and a couple of others I'm not remembering. Chip got most of them to sign his coloring book which was really fun. The other fun thing they do is periodically stop everything and have an activity. One was Goofy running out with a cart and baking supplies. All the kids run up and gather around and a song is playing and the kids all bang utensils and bowls and Goofy "makes a cake" on his cart, everyone dances around. A total blast for the kids. As it was my birthday, I decided to pre-order an individual birthday cake. This is something you can get at any Disney Dining establishment and do not have to pre-order. There is a choice of a Princess Jewelry Box or a Pirate Treasure Chest. Each one comes with a toy and an individual cake. Of course, this is mostly for kids, but I'm rather immature (see my Peter Pan Mom post) and I had a Lover of All Things Pirate with me, Chip. So I ordered the Pirate's Chest. When they brought it to my table, several characters, servers and busboys gathered around and sang to me. It was such a hoot. Surfer Guy would have rather hid under the table--he's a low key guy. He and Chip polished off most of the cake and I grabbed a bite. To be honest, it wasn't that amazing. Fairly dry. Surfer Guy agreed. But the Treasure Chest was totally worth it, Chip was so excited about it and it came with a cool hologram magnet that now sits on our fridge.

It was a long day with two toddlers so we decided to head home. We walked to the Mickey & Friends parking structure to work off some of the dinner. All in all, it was a good day and I'm so glad I got to go to Disneyland for my birthday!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Madeline Alice Spohr November 11, 2007-April 7, 2009

madeline We lost one of our LA Moms Blog babies.  Today I am attending Maddie's funeral.  Wearing purple, her favorite color.  I don't even know what to type here.  I met Maddie for the first time about three weeks ago.  I was totally smitten with her.  Such a cutie pie!  She was crashed out when I arrived and I couldn't take my eyes off her.  The best eyebrows I've ever seen on a baby!  She lit up the room when she woke up.  I told her mom, Heather, that we needed to get Maddie and Lulu together for a playdate--they are so close in age!  Yes, yes, she agreed.  I'm heartbroken.  I can't believe I'm heading to her funeral.  I'm not even able to breathe normally.  My head is spinning.  I will be there to throw whatever support I can at everyone who needs it and to say goodbye to that little cutie pie.

Please visit Heather's website to see how much Maddie was loved: Remembering Maddie

On April 25, we will walk for Maddie at the March of Dimes Walk, please consider making a donation in support of Maddie and all the preemie babies born everyday.  You can find the donation info on Heather's site above.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Basket Case: Easter Is On Its Way

Easter always has a special vibe for me. My birthday sometimes falls on Easter and growing up in New England, it was usually the sign of Spring and warm weather. This year my birthday is four days after Easter and I live in Southern California where the weather is always the same. One of my favorite things to find in my Easter basket as a kid was a small chocolate and coconut nest with jelly bean eggs, made by Russell Stover. I haven't seen one in years and wish I could find them somewhere to give to Chip and Lulu. To help get me in the holiday spirit, Playskool and Play-Doh were kind enough to send me a couple of products from their Easter lines to check out.

Easter Play Doh Play-Doh Character 2-pack features egg shaped chicks and a bunnies with 2 ounces of Play-Doh inside. These were huge hits with Chip and Lulu. In fact, they kept walking off with them and I needed them on my desk to write this! They come as shown in a yellow chick and lavender bunny combo or a blue chick and white bunny combo. We got the latter. So Chip has claimed the blue bunny (blue Play-Doh) and Lulu gets the white bunny (orange Play-Doh). The eggs have stamps on the bottom, the bunny has a carrot and the chick has a chick. Very fun and easy activity, stamping the Play-Doh is fascinating to them. Beyond Easter, I think these would make really good party favors for any Spring party. I really like giving items that I know kids will use. I've never known a kid who didn't play with Play-Doh! So two tiny thumbs up from Chip and Lulu for these.Easter T-Rex

Kota & Pals Hatchlings from Playskool are the cutest! They include newborn T-Rex, Pterodactyl, Stegosaurus and Triceratops in their offering. [Random side note: ever since I was a little kid, the Stegosaurus has been my favorite dinosaur.] We received the T-Rex and again, just perfect for my toddlers and just the right size for an Easter basket. Chip and Lulu were both a bit nervous at first, because it moves and makes noise like a real newborn T-Rex! But then they warmed right up to it and were squealing and giggling. When you touch his tongue, he makes cute noises and moves his mouth, head and arms. He also came with a fun Dino Fact Card. The noises and sequences vary. I'm cracking up because he's sitting right next to my keyboard and keeps randomly moving and making cute prehistoric sounds. [I'm just wondering how the designers at Playskool know what a dinosaur sounds like?] Our 3 year old boy/girl twin neighbors stopped by this afternoon. They both went nuts over it. So the Kota & Pals Hatchlings get 4 tiny thumbs up!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Win Cranium Family Edition for Family Game Night!

Congratulations to CynthiaO of CA!!! has chosen #3 as the winner.

Thank you to all for entering. More giveaways are on the way!!!

The recession is in full swing and everyone, including my family, is embracing frugal fun. Queue Family Game Night! Let's be realistic, it's pretty tough to eat dinner together every night and some weeks, it just doesn't happen. Family Game Night is one way to make sure the whole family comes together 'round the table at least once a week. At our house, game night is Sunday evening. Chip and Lulu are still a bit young for board games, so we invite different neighbors and friends over who also have small kids. The kids stay busy and the adults get to have some fun. Chip likes to "play" so we pull up a chair and let him take a "turn".

The good folks at Hasbro were kind enough to send over Cranium Family Edition for us to play. Let me start off by saying that the best thing about Cranium is that you can play a whole game in 40 minutes! In my youth, all I had was leisure time and a 6 hour game of Monopoly was no problem. To know what you are up against time-wise with a bunch of toddlers is so awesome! Cranium Family Edition has something for everyone: perform wacky stunts, act, sketch, guess, sculpt with Cranium Clay, and more! This is easy to play and definitely not boring. The really cool aspect of this game for Family Game Night is that many of the challenges are just as difficult for an adult or a kid, so it levels the playing field. I can remember playing games as a kid where it was really tough to compete with the adults. Not the case with Cranium Family Edition.Cranium

There is a nifty family entertainment website, where they review toys, games and video games. Toy industry expert and Time To Play editor in chief Jim Silver is making it his mission to bring back Family Game Night, and this week he revealed his list of top games at definitely check out his fun list.

I want to do my part to bring back Family Game Night and to that end, I am giving away a Cranium Family Edition (Hasbro Games/Ages 8+/$19.99) to one of my readers. How to enter: Simply leave a comment, any comment and make sure you include your e-mail address so I can contact you when you win. One entry per person. Entries limited to addresses within the United States. I will utilize the services of to select the winner. Contest period runs from Wednesday, April 1 until Midnight Wednesday, April 8, 2009. Winner to be notified via e-mail. Winner has 72 hours to respond. If winner does not respond within designated time frame, prize will be awarded via a new draw among remaining entries. You might be the lucky winner!