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Enjoying Small World covered in Christmas lights... in 2003 AND 2012, Disneyland Trip 34.

Deep-fried, cinnamon-and-sugared churro. That's the smell. Music and the rattle of roller coasters and laughter and the murmur of the crowd. Those are the sounds. Disneyland is a theme park. I won't try to make it more than that for anyone else. Many adults I know find it gimmicky and childish. But some don't. Like me and my guy. Disneyland was our first trip away together. It's where we went when we got engaged and where we began our honeymoon the following year. We've celebrated birthdays and anniversaries in the park, and we've even completed two Disneyland half marathons! 

At Christmas, it's doubly special. In December of 2008 I blogged our 25th trip to Disneyland, detailing our list of park rituals. When the opportunity arose for Jonathan and I to hit the park for a day during our recent trip back to California, we jumped at the chance. Even just one day would ease our withdrawal. We hadn't been to Disneyland since December of 2010, just before we moved to Norway. Not only did we check off most of our old favorites on the ritual list, but we tried out the new Star Tours, lunched at the new Jolly Holiday Bakery, sang Under the Sea on the new Little Mermaid ride in California Adventure, and explored the recently-opened Cars Land.

The night ended with the annual Candlelight Processional and the holiday edition of the nightly fireworks spectacular. When the faux snow began to fall, backed by purplish-blue lights and a slow, sweet rendition of "White Christmas," we held each other close. Though our life now includes the chance for a real white Christmas in Oslo, we loved spending a December day the old way... and remembering all the twinkle-lighted Decembers that have come before for us.

Trip 34

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m&mwithmistletoe.jpg One May day in 2003, my then boyfriend Jonathan Camp suggested a spontaneous trip to Disneyland on a Friday morning.

According to him, I had only to say, "Yes!" and then pack a small bag before our drive down.

I  informed my parents (much to their initial chagrin... after all, I'd never gone away with a boy before), threw clothes and a toothbrush into a backpack, and ran out to the front porch to await Prince Charming in his red Jetta.

Jonathan and I had been dating about five months, though I think we'd both agree our love affair had begun prior to that, nurtured by debates at Bible study, flirting sessions after church, etc. 
 
I don't remember much about that drive, our first 6+ hour stint in a car together, except that we talked and talked and talked and then, when it didn't seem possible that two people could have more to say to one another... we talked some more.

When we arrived at the park, pulling into the giant Mickey & Friends Parking Structure which was brand new to both of us, Jon could hardly contain his excitement.  I have a slightly blurry photo of him hopping up and down, pointing toward the tram stop, making a goofy face.  It's a favorite photo of mine: my happy, excited little boy, about to share Disneyland with his true love for the first time.

That was more than five years ago.  And this weekend, we completed our 25th trip to Disneyland!
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5k.jpgOn Saturday, Jonathan and I woke early and ran 8 miles.

Yes, you heard me correctly.  We dragged ourselves out of bed at six in the morning on a Saturday, walked to PW Market for a Power Bar and a banana, waited an hour for the sake of digestion, and then began our run from the corner of Vasco and Scenic.  The first three miles took us to the base of Brushy Peak, beginning through residential neighborhoods and after that, winding between farms and ranches. 

I paused briefly after the second mile to say hello to a beautiful black horse, scratching his nose with one hand and wiping the sweat from my brow with the other.  Then I had to hurry to catch up with my sweetie.  Every couple of miles we would take a quick walking break, but only for a 100 yards or so before we were at the running again. 

Somewhere around mile six, I hit a zone like none I've ever experienced before.  My breathing and my heart rate and my stride all evened into a steady thrum.  I was gliding down the frontage road near 580 West, eyes on the next turn, about a third of a mile away.  I couldn't hear anything, couldn't think about anything.  The blankness was a welcome change for me.  As we rounded that turn, we slowed to a walk again so that we could refuel for the final mile and a half.

This must all sound very strange, especially those of you who know that I have stuck rigidly to the claim that I am not "a runner" and have never been one.  But, much like the way I claimed not to be "a math person" in school as a youngster, I have discovered that such claims are self-defeating.  In seventh grade, it wasn't that I wasn't a math person.  Rather, math was the one subject which actually challenged me.  So, as the easy out, I opted to let myself rely on the vague, deceptive comfort that some people just can't do math, no matter how hard they try (never mind that I wasn't trying terribly hard).  And my math struggles were compounded later on because of that early pessimism.  Even if I'd wanted to know and enjoy math later, missing the opportunity of building a foundation of mathematical knowledge at the same rate as my peers crippled me for life.  Today I still have issues with basic algebra.

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dland12.jpgOh, my. Time does fly. It feels like just yesterday we were frantically cleaning our house and packing our stuff for the long drive to Anaheim. But really, we left on Thursday morning... er... Thursday around lunch time. And, after enjoying the long weekend in our favorite place on earth, we drove home, refreshed. And no, we did not trade in the Audi for a tiny green car. We got the chance to enjoy Autopia for the first time in ages (I don't know why it always has such a long line... I mean... it's just... driving. In minature. Oh, okay, I get it. Hehe.)

I'd forgotten what vacation felt like. To really have no where to be, nothing due... to sleep in with a completely clear conscience. We revelled.

That is not to say that I caught up on my sleep quota entirely. I intend to sleep some tomorrow, too. School, after all, doesn't start until Wednesday. Perhaps I'll scrapbook, or paint my toenails, maybe take a bubble bath, or alphabatize our movie collection, or read a fun book at Starbucks, or count down the seconds until I turn 23.

Whatever the case, I will do it while remembering our most recent trip to Disneyland with a huge smile. We had a great time. Even though Pirates of the Caribbean was closed for renovations, and even though that meant the Blue Bayou was closed, too, Jon and I took our time going on the rides that we love the most. Along the way we had great food, and we met up with Teather several times.

(Quick explanation: Teather refers to Ted-and-Heather, my brother and sister-in-law. This was their first trip to the Magic Kingdom together. Together we had a great time!)

Trip highlights:

- Sleeping in.
- Getting the front seats on Space Mountain... without trying for 'em.
- Trying Splash Mountain for the first time in a LONG time, and getting very wet (here Jon would like to add that he was soaked... I was damp... whatever).
- Me winning TWICE at Astro Blasters! (No one believes me? Okay, the first time Jon's gun was broken. But the second time was legit, and I had to fight for it!)
- Watching Pluto sneak up on Jon and scare him. Hehe.
- Enjoying the fireworks show and dancing to the music at the end.
- Enjoying Fantasmic (our favorite).
- Listening to a swing band cut a rug at the Pavillion near the castle. Subsequently watching the old folks get their respective grooves on. One couple in particular, ancient, clad in matching pink and black eveningwear, got a tad risque. And yes, we got it on video!
- Dancing with Jon to some very slow swing music.
- Playing checkers near the pot belly stove in one of the shops on Main Street.
- Churro!
- Eating at the Rainforest Cafe with Teather. Ted ordered "Electric Lemonade" which came in a blinking glass! He was so excited about it that he ordered a second glass to take home. I think he would have cleaned the place out of colorful, blinking glasses if Heather hadn't reigned him in.
- Reading aloud to Jon out of a Disney trivia book on the drive home.
- Tower of Terror. Ted came on it with us, though I think he may have regretted that decision in the end. Oh well. The ride still ROCKS!
- Getting free Boudin sourdough bread samples at the mini-factory in California Adventure.

Okay, that's enough. There was so much to do. And we never felt rushed, not once. Perhaps that was the best part. The breathing that went along with all the having of the fun. I've missed that. Jon, too, with all his recent travels, has missed that.

This was Trip 12. A dozen times we've visited, and I'm sure we'll try for another dozen. Each time there are new things to do. And we don't look at everything the same way, either. Seasons change in the park, so do people. I notice new things on the rides.

Besides, it's a happy place. When we're there, the rest of the world does melt away. The fact that my grades for last quarter haven't posted yet, or that I didn't make it into the writing class, or that I'm oh-so-close to graduation... it fades. Suddenly I'm just a carefree girl standing next to a carefree boy, and we are wishing on the same shooting star. Idyllic? Sure. Necessary in this crazy world? Absolutely.

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tarzan_jane.jpgI love Disney's Tarzan. When it came out in the theater back in 1999, my friends and I saw it three times! There was something about the swinging, intense hero... searching for himself by finding others just like him.

After a series of less-than-Disney calliber flicks, it was refreshing to see a romance that had to do with two people separately seeking their own kind of truth, and then finding it in one another.

Besides the all-Phil Collins score, which I love, Tarzan is colorful and energetic. Sub-plots involve the bond between mother and son, father and son, reaching for your dreams, never letting people tell you "it" cannot be done, how to be a good friend, siezing the day... the list goes on.

My favorite part, of course, is the scene where Tarzan takes Jane up into the treetops to see dozens of beautiful birds... and it's also the moment that he realizes he never wants her to leave. Jane's voice is perfect...

honeymoon.jpgOh, and I'm writing about this because Jon and I just watched it while playing the worst game of Scrabble ever. In fact, we abandoned the game because it was soooooo boring! And the word choices we rotten! And there was nowhere to play! Anyway, we watched Tarzan. When the falling-in-love moment came, I got teary eyed. Not because the romance between two animated characters is overly emotional for me, but because that moment reminds me of our honeymoon.

"Go get the book, honey." Jon wisely thought to suggest that we look at the honeymoon scrapbook I made. As long as I was gonna cry, why not make it over something understandable. (And no, I didn't weep. Just happy, reminiscent tears... graceful, understated...)

We paged through the twelve lovely, loving, Disney-filled days and laughed to the tune of our memories there. Never has a trip been so much fun! And relaxing. We ate delicious meals, stayed at the best hotels, played and played and played, saw the sights, lazed in our room, drank ice-cold lemonade, took pictures with Minnie... we were newly married and loving every second of it!

Jon and I have been to Disneyland many times. In a month or so we'll be going back after my finals are over. No matter how many times we go, though, the magic and romance are still floating in the air. Music, lights, smiles, love. It truly is a land of fairy tales. Thank goodness the people at Disney have the good sense to make movies like Tarzan.

(On a side note, we went to see Chicken Little the other night. Aside from the many amusing references to other movies including Star Wars, Indiana Jones and King Kong, it didn't rate terribly high in my book. There's a dancing fish in a scuba helmet... worth seeing on DVD if you're trying to get in touch with your inner child. Do NOT spend more than $5.)

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disney_love.jpgWe did it! The first year was a huge success, we celebrated our luck and talent, toasted the upcoming 365 days, spent four romantic days in the happiest place on earth... we had our second honeymoon. It was perfect.

On Saturday Jon's dad picked us up at the crack of dawn and drove us to Oakland. The flight was on time. We shared a poppyseed muffin. Heaven should be so great. Jon rented us a convertible... wheeeeeee! And there, at the end of the street, rising from the overcrowded Southern California horizon, was our place.

Magic. Some do not share our enthusiasm for what they term to be a "theme park" or a "kids' place". Let me just say that nothing in this world is more romantic than a summer night stroll down Main Street with fireworks exploding brilliantly over the castle... with the one you love.

Jon and I took a tour on Monday afternoon, "A Walk in Walt's Footsteps". Learning about a man who had big dreams when the world had forgotten how to dream at all, about his wife who stood by his side long before there was any hint of success, we had a glimpse into the inspiration behind our favorite place in the world. Disneyland was built because of, by and for love.

Our anniversary dinner was at the Blue Bayou, we got all dressed up. And over the entree we remembered our wedding day. But then we remembered our first year together. That was the important part. Marriage, year one, amateurs take the cake!

Every day we did something new, riding the omnibus down Main Street, riding the carosel. Year two began on a high note... the note that begins "When You Wish Upon a Star".

The four day vacation was just what we needed. This summer has rushed by us in a flurry of boiling hot days, friends stopping by and staying for a while, work, play, games of Go at the coffee shop, movies, shopping trips, early wake-up calls, rock climbing, bills, trips to the grocery store, dinners with the folks, no cable, travel, reading in the evenings, being very happily married. Taking a break to breathe in the churro-scented air of Disneyland... that's what we got.

So we're back, up at 6:30 in the morning to get to work by 8:00, to work until 5:00, to have fun until 10:00, to sleep until 6:30. The grind. But there's something about the kiss on the nose that wakes me in the morning, or the darling emails we exchange while at work, or the long talks we have about our hours away from each other, that make the grind totally and completely worth it.

At home we learned that the first anniversary is the "Paper Anniversary". How do we know? Well, the Ya-Yas each sent a sweet card (Cindy's was pretty; Amy's was adorned with monkeys.), and enclosed in each was a piece of paper. Binder paper, one-ply toilet paper... both useful gifts. Thankfully my mom let the joke opportunities go by and, instead, gave us a beautiful set of stationary. So thank you to all for the gifts and the kind thoughts, the cards and the encouragement. We're better off because of you guys.

Next year it's cotton! Bring the Q-tips on.

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05-05-05

disneyland_red.jpgDisneyland is 50 years old! And, oh, how I wish Jon and I could be down there right now. No two people in the world love being in the "happiest place on earth" more than we do. But, instead of yearning for what simply cannot be, I think I'll celebrate my love affair with Disneyland... the one I've had since I fell in love with my Jon.

This month is the two-year-anniversary of our first trip together to Anaheim. Let the memories commence!

disneyland_01_015.jpgOn a whim we grabbed our stuff and drove down together in Jon's little red Jetta (I miss that car!). As we pulled into the parking garage that night, Jon's face lit up. He was so excited! So happy! I cannot describe our first tram ride into the park. But I'll try. The rain-heavy air cloaked us, swirled softly around our brand new love. This picture shows us on the only time we've ever done "It's A Small World". We were soaking wet, annoyed by the stupid little song, but ecstatic to simply be in our own private heaven.

dl 003.jpgWith a whopping success in May, it took very little coaxing for us to return the next month. June of 2003 brought us down with Jon's family and the Talbots. Hmmmmm, some of you wonder, how did Audrey talk Jon into being goofy and into wearing a hat?! (None of your business, nudge nudge, wink wink...) Indiana Jon and I had quite the time once again. This trip reinforced our love of the Rainforest Cafe in Downtown Disney. You gotta love a restaurant that has gorillas and elephants as entertainment! Sing it! "Jungle love is driving me mad, it's making me crazy, crazy!"

dsc02819-copy_edited.jpgIn September we had our own summer of the monkies. I was soon to be off to Davis, putting 80 miles between us where there had only been 3 miles at most before. We weren't looking forward to that. So, on a very hot September weekend we took our show on the road, adopted two cute spider monkies (Chloe and Jack Sparrow the Monkey... no, not letting Jon name our children). And yes, we did wear them around our necks, joined at their velcroed feet. And yes, we got plenty of "Awwwww, how adorable"s and "Aren't they sweet togethers" and "Man, get a room"s, too.

DSC03275.jpgThen I got a surprise. Two months after that trip we went on another. Our shortest to date. And I didn't know a thing about it. Jon proposed to me on a Saturday afternoon at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco. And, as if that wasn't fantastic enough, and as if the beautiful Tiffany diamond ring wasn't over-the-top fabulous, he then whisked me away on a surprise trip to Disneyland to celebrate our engagement. After dinner at the Rainforest Cafe (which serves the best bruschette on the planet!) we stopped at Sephora where I got my makeup done. That's why I'm practically unrecognizable in the photo. But our joy is definitely evident. We were in the park all of six hours and flew home in time for church in the morning.

dsc03654_edited.jpgChristmas just wouldn't be complete without a visit to Disneyland done up holiday style. I'd never seen it that way before. Romance could so easily be defined by the sight of Small World done up in thousands of brightly colored lights, the backdrop of this photo. We took it just after experiencing the snow on Main Street to the soft, creamy tune of Christmas carols. So beautiful. And lots of mistletoe everywhere! We all won.

disneyland_05_23_2004 003.jpgFor the next few months we were busy with school, work and all the wedding plans. Finally in May of 2004 we happened upon the perfect excuse to run off one more time. My journalism professor wanted a "travel story". Okie dokie! Thus we were off to cover the opening of the new "Tower of Terror" ride in California adventure. Crazy ride! We actually waited in line for that one (whereas we have become experts at "doing the park", utilizing the fast pass system and knowing which times of the day are best to see certain attractions... we're almost never in line for more than 20 minutes). Needless to say... I got an A on that assignment.

honeymoon 575.jpgIn August we were married. Yay! And the day after our wedding we flew down to Disneyland again to celebrate together as man and wife. But one day there on the way to Florida just didn't seem like enough. On our way back after being in Orlando for 10 days we stopped in at the park for an afternoon, doing all things we hadn't done yet. I know what you're thinking. After so many visits how could there possibly be one inch of the park we hadn't explored? On short trips we make sure to hit the classics (Pirates and the Haunted Mansion, Jungle Cruise). Our priorities might baffle some, for instance we always have hotdogs for lunch at the Carnation Cafe on the corner of Main Street while listening to a ragtime pianist burst out with musical joy! It's the best. So, what did we do on that day of firsts? The Golden Horseshoe saloon had a comedic floorshow. We rode the Mark Twain around the river, dropped in at Tom Sawyer's island and we went on several of the rides in the storybook area of the park (Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, etc.). Even now, though, we can't say we've done it all. There's still Club 33, and Space Mountain once it's reopened in June.

DSC08139.jpgAfter our first Christmas as newlyweds had come and gone without even a hint of Disney adventure, we knew something had to be done. We couldn't miss the Youds' infamous New Year's party... but we could drive down on the day before New Year's Eve and party for a bit in Mickeytown, USA. Another quick trip, always awesome! DSC08153.jpgAnd rainy. So we were ponchoed much of the time. Thus I have included two pictures from this trip. One of us together and... a personal favorite of my darling blue-eyed boy in his poncho. Meep meep! Sorry, this inside joke must be inserted here to make my husband smile when he reads this later.

disneyland_04_15_2005 036.jpgHow long could we stay away? Until Jon's birthday in April and not one second longer. I surprised him after work, picked him up and we were off once more. Perfect weather welcomed us to Anaheim. And, as Disneyland was preparing for its own birthday celebration, we got to see Cinderella's castle done up in all its pink, purple and gold glory. Here I am enjoying spring, our eighth month of marriage, my husband's birthday and, of course, my favorite place in the world.

So that is a catalog of our 9 Disney adventures as a couple. If and when I find old shots of us as kids at the park... wow, will you all be in for a treat! Me in stretch pants and big t-shirts tied at the hip with those cheap plastic buckles, Jon with his socks pulled up to his knees while wearing short shorts! Our folks in all their big-haired, eighties style glory! (And I'll even throw in a couple of my adorable little brothers, just for good measure.) But for now, that's the way our cookie crumbled.

And we lived happily every after.

THE END

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