Saturday, July 13, 2019

Day 3: DL and CA mix up

Today is our last day in California so we are hitting both parks to ride what we missed.  First up was the early morning Magic Hours at Disneyland and by early I mean we were at the ticket scanner before 7am!  I do like to crack the whip and go early at least one day.  I had promised those in our group that we could ride all the rides in Fantasyland in less than an hour without all the crying little rugrats or strollers!  They didn't believe me but we did.  One key was to be there before the park opened and make a mad dash to Fantasyland!  No, we did not run but I will admit I have before.
Someone was not so impressed!
As you can see the rides were empty and we loved it!  We even had some time to venture over to the new Star Wars area . . . I mean how cool is this photo?  Look at the Storm Troopers behind us!
The themeing was really cool!  This section hasn't been open very long so not all the rides are open.  We enjoyed just walking around looking.  Will have to go back in a year or so when the hype dies down.  It was not super crowded but the line to ride the only ride open was over 2 hours!
We left and headed back to the hotel for our tea reservation.  I was looking forward to the tea party and some tasty treats!
Never mind the less than thrilled boy in the background . . . look at the tray of treats . . .
The current theme was Alice in Wonderland and the treats were all so cute . . .
. . . but we left hungry!  I must admit they did not taste as good as they looked, but I enjoyed the experience.  Next time I will leave Colin in the room and enjoy without him as he did cause me some stress . . . how you ask?  Well look at his plate . . .
He acted as if he had never been to a restaurant and played with his food.  I was not happy with him!  I know it was not food he liked but doing this is not acceptable.  I will say the variety of teas were all good!  We took a little break in the room for a nap before we hit the parks again.  We headed over to California Adventure to ride some of our favorite rides again and can you believe this is our only character photo . . .
Yes, today we all wore matching green shirts . . . notice Colin's shirt is plain but same color.  We then park hopped over to Disneyland!  I know we can't get enough.  Just a few rides we had missed so we checked the blocks and a couple repeats too.  The lines were short so we could just hop right back in line and ride over and over.  We ended our list of rides with Splash Mountain.  I love all the critters in Splash Mountain, but I don't like getting soaking wet so we saved it for the end . . .
. . . and we all got soaked . . . like our shoes were dripping wet and squishy.  We were all so hungry so made a quick stop at my favorite quick service meal joint, Bengal Barbecue . . .
. . . because we were starving!  We called it a day and headed back to the hotel to enjoy fireworks and desserts from the lounge!  It was much easier to see the fireworks from the top floor than on ground level plus all the yummy desserts were sweet too.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Day 2: Disneyland

Today we are off to Disneyland but first we change hotels!  Our room wasn't ready so we dropped our bags and headed out!  Apparently we were having so much fun I hardly took any photos.  One of my favorite escapes at Disneyland is Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room.  It is absolutely nothing fancy or new age technology but I just love it!  I mean grab a Dole Whip float (or in Colin's case a churro) . . .
. . . and head inside to escape the heat or crowds for some chirping good fun!
We took a mid afternoon break and checked into our new hotel which I had me so excited since I have never stayed at the Disneyland Hotel!
Our room was in the Adventure Tower . . .
. . . and I decided to kick the trip up a notch and booked a concierge level room.  Which really only means we have access to the lounge for food and drinks all day!  I have never done this as usually it is just the two of us and didn't seem worth the cost but with four decided to give it a try to see if it is worth it.  Oh my goodness the room was nothing special but was larger than expected and the headboards had me at first twinkle . . .
Y'all the headboard had lights to do fireworks and play a song too.  We have our own fireworks show above our bed.  It was adorable!  We saw the pool from our room and decided to take a break from the parks and go for a nice relaxing swim!
It was back to the park we went to ride a few more before calling it a day.  Colin's favorite ride is HyperSpace Mountain . . .
We caught the fireworks show and jumped on the monorail back to the hotel because we were tired!  Tomorrow we are starting super early!

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Day 1: California Adventure

It is no secret I love Disneyland!  I mean California weather is usually perfect no matter what time of year.  I have visited Disneyland solo, with Colin, and now with a small group.  Our group is me, Colin, Lisa (aunt), and Katie (cousin).  We start our Disney Adventure at the California Adventure park . . . our start was a bit delayed because I had to wait in a super long line to get our tickets but we were good since the military tickets save so much money.  The gang is all here and ready to go!
Oh the matching shirts?  I used to think they were silly but let me tell you they have been nice!  You never have to remember what everyone was wearing and I don't know how many times it made it so much easier to locate our group so I guess I have become one of those Disney people!  Oh and Colin wanted no part of the matching shirts but agreed to same color but plain.  It is a very warm day for California but nothing compared to what we left behind in Texas!  So here is one of my Disney hacks . . . MaxPass . . . it isn't free but cost (I think) $15 per person but saves so much time!  You link your tickets on the app and schedule your FastPass rides!  No time wasted you just show up to the ride at your scheduled time, scan the app, and on the ride you walk!  So no more walking to each ride to get a ticket you just scan the app and done!  I also love that the fee includes the PhotoPass which are a lot of the photos from our trip.  There are photographers around the park and will take your photo for free!  If you have MaxPass they are linked to your account and automatically show up in the app to download.  Many would say it is too expensive, but I think it is worth it!  My favorite area in California Adventure is Carsland . . .
And my absolute favorite ride is Radiator Springs Racers . . .
The line for this is always long . . . usually at least 75-90 minutes long which I would never ever stand and wait but there is a trick to cut that wait time to less than 15 minutes.  The single rider line is awesome even if you are a group and don't mind splitting up on the ride!  You basically stand in the single rider line and they fill the empty seats with you!  Not all rides have this but the popular rides usually do!  If you can't bear to split up and ride solo then don't get in this line!  I just love this area and feel like I am in the movie . . .
We did explore the rest of the park too.  It was fun to have Katie along because she would ride the crazy rides that I would not!  Colin loved having her so he didn't have to ride alone.
It was a long hot day so we tried to find inside rides and activities to cool off.  There is tired and there is Disney tired . . .
What do you do to celebrate so many steps on a super hot California day?
You reward yourself with a super sugary milkshake at Black Tap Burgers & Shakes!  This is the Churro Choco Taco with was full of cinnamon greatness!
 PS  Calories don't count at Disneyland!

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Washington DC Review

There really are no words I can write on how I feel about the last few days. I was nervous.  I was hesitant. I was hopeful.  When I think about it I get teary eyed and just have so much love, respect and appreciation for everyone we saw.  The White House was unbelievable, witnessing a Medal of Honor placed around the neck of a very humble and deserving man was historic, and the Pentagon speech was touching and had me ready to sign up.  As all the official events were over we returned to our hotel room. I asked Colin what was the best part of the trip and without hesitation he said “the people” and I could not agree more.  I know the events of Fallujah have forever changed so many of those great men and women of Alpha Company 2-2IN 3BDE and their families.  I also know that seeing us is a reminder of a very painful loss.  I could feel the hesitation to approach us and completely understood. While we did not get to talk to everyone, just seeing them is all I needed.  I was amazed at how full my heart was just watching them all interact and reconnect.  It was great to hug, talk, and meet many of them.  Colin was only 5 weeks old when Sean left for Iraq so for Colin it was the first time to hear directly about his dad from those with him in Iraq.  The simplest stories were so good for him to hear.  While we haven’t talked about how it felt to him . . . I know it meant the world to him.  He has never smiled so much and the pride on his face was evident.  Colin did amazing in a tough situation, and I was so proud of him.  For me it was good too.  I managed to hold my emotions together until I sat down to write this on the plane home . . . a thought from the events will pop into my head and make me emotional but in a good way.  The tears might also have something to do with the fact that today 21 years ago Sean and I were married.  I really just lived in and enjoyed  the moment.  There really are no words!  I really just enjoyed the moment.  Being in the company of so many amazing people is what it was all about! I left with a full heart and so glad we went! It was healing and rewarding.  I can not thank David Bellavia enough for reaching out and inviting Colin to attend . . . thankfully I got to tag along! 

If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. 
1 Corinthians 12:26






Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Day 4: Washington DC

Today we head inside the Pentagon for the Hall of Heroes Ceremony.  Again we go through security at the hotel before boarding the bus.
Our bus drops us off in the back at a very generic entrance . . .
We walk down many long boring hallways and take a few elevators up or down as I don't remember since someone punched the buttons for us.  We arrive to the auditorium and spend a few minutes admiring the display boards.
It seems as if many of the people left yesterday as not many people.  We enter the auditorium and take our seat and wait for the ceremony and David's speech.
Now talk about an amazing speech!  We exit the auditorium and again review some of the display boards and immediately saw Sean in the middle photo.
And say our congratulations in the receiving line and snap a photo.
And that was that . . . we didn't get to see the actual Hall of Heroes which was disappointing.  All we did was walk some long hallways and sit in the auditorium before being escorted back to the bus.  It would have been nice to actually walk by the displays but guess that wasn't on our agenda.  It was a beautiful presentation and speech and glad we were there!

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Day 3: Washington DC

I was afraid I would have a difficult time sleeping last night but nope, no way, slept like a baby!  We are rested and ready for this most exciting day.  Of course I know it will be a lot of standing around and going through security but just the thought of what we are about to experience is beyond words.  I mean how often are you invited to attend an event in the East Wing of The White House?  We are both doing well . . . my emotions are contained and Colin is thrilled about going to the White House . . . and wearing his suit too!  We had to submit our life history to receive security clearance for the White House which we both passed.  We arrive at the meeting area at the hotel for our first round of security checks before boarding the bus.  Photo ID, metal detector, and board the bus . . . our police escort was ready to go . . .
Now the cool part was all the buses received an escort through the busy DC streets . . . the cooler part was there were literally hundreds of people stopped on the streets taking photos of the buses as they passed by.  We on the bus laughed but it was really cool!  So cool that all we could do is watch and laugh and forget to snap a photo!  We would soon arrive at the White House.  There were four buses and we were told there was additional security.  Well that was no joke!  I think we passed at least 4 additional screenings walking what seemed like at least a mile before we stepped foot into the White House.  It seemed so quick but in fact from the time we arrived at the meeting point in the hotel to the time we arrived inside the White House was over 2 hours and it was only a 5 mile drive!  I don't know how many times I thought I just needed to pinch myself.  We were given time to wander around before the ceremony would start.  We entered in what I am calling the basement but probably the first floor.  We just walked from room to room admiring it all.  This room was full of shelves of books . . . I didn't dare touch anything but was amazed that many people were pulling books of the shelves and thumbing through them.  It was okay said the aides but seriously wow, just wow . . .
. . . and the China Room with all the official White House patterns . . . even the boy was impressed!
It started to get more crowded as others cleared security so we took the massive marble stairs up to the waiting area and were greeted with yet more impressive military musicians . . .
I could not stop looking at everything . . . up, down, and all around!  It was so overwhelming and knew this would probably be my only visit to the White House in my lifetime!
Colin ran into his new friend from the Pentagon, Dr. Casey Wardynski . . .
And then we enjoyed all the photos of former Presidents . . . twins!
We are from Texas and his Presidential Library is on the campus of Texas A&M!
. . . and then the doors opened and we were seated.
The energy in the room was electric!  We were both just so amazed to be sitting here . . . we saw former Texas Governor (and Aggie) Rick Perry who is now the Secretary of Energy . . . we sat behind  Congressman Dan Crenshaw (that man has the presence of a rock star!) and Congresswoman Liz Chaney.  I mean I could barely contain myself.  I was constantly scanning the room and Colin well . . . he had the biggest smile the entire time and his phone was snapping and recording.
Then there was the press . . . so many!
Then it all started . . .
The moment . . . it was just so amazing to see it all live in person and so close! 
I can not imagine how David must have felt or how his mother must have felt either.  I mean come on I was feeling a proud moment for him and for all that were so closely involved too.
The applause was surreal . . . so loud and long . . . I can not describe it adequately!  It was so awesome!  And then it was over.  Our President left to deal with issues involving Iran, and we were invited to freely explore the Red Room, Green Room, Blue Room and any other area near by.  Oh and the food at the reception was amazing . . .
We sat on the furniture too!  I was like no way!  Can you imagine who else might have sat on this chair or ate at this table?
Then for almost 2 hours we explored . . . the view was amazing . . .
And we wandered . . .
The fresh flowers were amazing and everywhere . . .
Colin with SMA Dailey . . .
. . . and ate again . . . don't judge it was good and we had nothing else to do!
. . . and looked around some more . . . and wondered what was up these stairs!
A few days after Sean died our military post held a memorial service.  It had been an awful week of for our community.  This guy here was alongside Sean in Fallujah and injured pretty badly (he did earn two Purple Heart medals).  He was sent to Landstuhl Medical Center in Germany to treat his injuries.  He came to the memorial service just days after being shot in the shoulder.  He was in pain and he was hurting badly . . . from the injury and from the events in Fallujah.  While I was a bit out of it at the memorial, I will never forget his desire to be there in Vilseck for the memorial and meet with me privately before the memorial.  I had so many questions, and he was so kind to talk to me.  It does my heart so good to see him (especially smiling) because I know for him seeing me has the opposite effect.  I remind him of a very difficult time in Iraq and you know what I completely understand his feelings.  I wish he wouldn't feel that way, but we all experience these type of grief/events differently . . . I was so very happy to see him!
The White House Staff started slowly closing doors so we headed back downstairs to look around some more.  The aides were super cool at giving fun facts about artifacts in the rooms too.  This was Washington's sword . . .
I took a quick detour to the restroom . . .
I know seriously isn't this the nicest waiting area?  And since no one was in there I had a bit of fun with the huge mirror . . .
. . . and then we left . . .
My feet were killing me.
Not that my shoes were rubbing my feet but that I had been standing for most of 6 hours and well I don't really wear heels!  But so worth it.

What surprised me the most?

  • The sound of the press cameras constantly snapping; it was so loud!
  • The President is a large man and does not have orange skin like portrayed on the news.  His hair is a bit of a mess.
  • The teleprompter had a VERY large font!
  • I loved watching David Bellavia's oldest son.  His facial expressions and smiles were amazing.  You could tell he understood the magnitude of this award and his pride for his father was evident.
  • We were allowed to sit on the furniture!  Seriously can you imagine who else has sat here?
  • If these walls could talk . . . man the stories they would tell!
  • We will NEVER forget this experience!