Sunday, September 7, 2014

Enchanted Forest . . . Disneyland's Slightly Twisted Cousin

  A few weeks ago, my friend Shanti and I took our toddlers to the (in)famous Enchanted Forest. You may not have seen, the local gem that is Enchanted Forest recently made the prestigious list of "World's Creepiest Parks for Kids" (seen here). Note that it didn't say "in Oregon" or even "in America". This park made this list out of all the parks IN THE ENTIRE WORLD. And, boy, did it live up to the reputation! Within the first hour, I can't even count the number of times Shanti and I turned to one another to say, "I can't believe how creepy this is. I'm seriously a little frightened." And luckily for you, I took lots of photo and video to document it!

   A few weeks before we visited, this Humpty literally had a great fall. Hence the ladder and missing bricks.

   The witch animatronic inside here made me scream aloud. Her chin was bigger than my head. I tried to get a video, but it was so dark you couldn't see a thing on camera. I think they do that on purpose.

   Mary and her sheep-dog thing.

This looks way worse in person. Trust me. 

   This was kind of cool, in an I-don't-want-to-do-it way. You could crawl through this long, pitch dark tunnel that went under the walkway for about fifteen yards. Lincoln pronounced it "dark" and "scary", and would not enter. Couldn't blame him. Those words were repeated often that day. You can hear it in this video:
  This was for the seven dwarves, if I remember correctly. There was a whole tight tunnel (but adult-sized this time. But forget about it if you're obese, those things were really, really narrow) that showed said dwarves mining, surrounded by green glowing waterfalls that did not photograph well. It was very eerie.

Jack and Jill did not look like they were "tumbling" down the mountain. Unless "tumbling" is another word for "being chased by monster demons".

   Lincoln was very curious to see what might be up there. By the way, this led to a slide. Don't you love the fangs? Nice touch.

   I like how the Crooked Man looks like a peeping Tom for his own home. 
   I took one step inside and felt like I was going to puke. I'm getting old. Lincoln and Magnus kept falling down. Shanti noped out, but I went through the "dark", "scary" house with the kids. And got to see this face:
   This picture looks more blurry than it is. Know why? BECAUSE THIS WAS PAINTED WITH FOUR EYES. I don't know why, guys. I don't have any answers. I'm only here to document.

Honestly, I've never heard of The Crooked Man, so I don't blame you if you haven't either. But everyone knows the Three Bears of Startling Flexibility!

   This one Shanti and I were like, "Hey, this one isn't so bad! Nothing too freaky about it." Until you get to the other side, and . . . 
   This park didn't make you sign a waver (or maybe it did, I can't remember), but every attraction had signs like this one. 

  After the fairytale/nursery rhyme walk-through section there were the shops and rides. We braved this bobsled ride, which included exactly zero seatbelts. I screamed for a lot of it, but it was good fun, I must admit. It reminded me of the amusement park McKay and I went to in China, where you were seriously afraid for your life the whole time. Added adrenaline!
   This is Shanti, and you can just make out Magnus' head, in the bobsled behind us, going up, up, up!

  The shops are interspersed with more fairytale animatronics, these ones in better lighting so I could share them with you lucky folks! It really doesn't do it justice, though, which is too bad. The blue fairy from Pinocchio looked like she had hung herself after chopping off her feet:

  Really, though, as scary as Enchanted Forest is (Shanti and I were both too chicken to check out the haunted house because, really, I hate to see what they come up with when they're TRYING to be scary), one thing you can say for them is there is a lot to do. A restaurant we took a break in had a fun water show every seven minutes, though even that was terrifying from time to time when the music became more intense and the lights all turned red.

While we were looking through the shops, Shanti told me, "Julia. Turn around." Again, I literally screamed out loud, seeing these guys hanging outside the shop windows:

  The kiddie rides were a big hit, but unfortunately, they also hit your wallet pretty hard. In addition to entrance fees, you needed to buy tickets to go on the rides. These tickets are 95 cents each (so basically a dollar) and most of the rides are 2-4 tickets. The bobsleds were four, meaning it cost eight bucks for Lincoln and I to ride it. Once. Most of the kiddie rides were two tickets (I think), and the kids could go on those without us, so those were a bit cheaper at least. Lincoln's favorite was (unsurprisingly) the TRAIN! The train that looked like it was designed by a 12 year old girl using photoshop in the early 00's.

  Gooooood times. This train was like Enchanted Forest's version of the Casey Jr. train at Disneyland. This train led you through the sights of:

   Old McDonald's Farm! (Cows say: HELP ME)
And Cinderella's castle, surrounded by Pinocchio's village. Aaaand . . . that's it. Those were the three sights. Though, to be fair, there could have been zero sights and Lincoln still would've been thrilled.

  Lincoln also had a grand old time on these motor boats. The second time he went the guy let them go for like 5-10 minutes, which was pretty awesome of him.

  Really, though, we spent three hours at Enchanted Forest and the kids had a blast. Lincoln watches those animatronic videos on my phone over and over. And even with entrance fees and the ride tickets, we were out about twenty-five bucks. Compared to Disneyland, that's parking money. So, while it may not be Disneyland standard, for the fun the kids had and the "wow" factor (not exactly a good "wow", though), it was well worth the price. I think it was a good bonding experience with Shanti, too. We both survived Enchanted Forest with minimal emotional scarring. I think we're the stronger for it.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014


 Aside from my extended family reunion at Aspen Grove and more immediate family reunion in Canada, McKay and I also had a reunion for his side of the family in Colorado! Now that we have to pay for Lincoln's plane tickets, too, we did the math and realized that it would be considerably cheaper for us to road trip our merry little way to Colorado. Driving was about twenty-two hours ONE WAY, more with breaks. I was a teensy bit worried since Lincoln has not had the same road trip-heavy childhood as I experienced in my youth, and I fully expected to be pulling over every hour so he could run around. But THANK HEAVEN for portable DVD players! I think he was the best traveler of all of us with "Cars" there to entertain him. Over and over and over.

  We did have one mishap, though. McKay was spending his non-driving time sketching (how he did it--and so well!--in a moving car is beyond me), so he had some really, really sharp pencils lying around. At one rest stop, Lincoln was walking through the car, and started screaming, so I turned around to see the pencil sticking out of his heel. It was stuck in so far I had to physically pull it out, and Lincoln was (understandably) freaked out. Heck, I was freaked out. We put a band aid on his battle wound, but he kept trying to pull it off, so the rest of the trip was made with one sock on. It was too hot for both.

 Also, no pants. Screw that.

   Colorado is always fun because McKay's mom is excellent at planning. Every day there was something fun to do, including a repeat favorite from last year that I can't remember the name of. Mining Town? Something like that. Anyway, it's one of those magical places that makes every member of the party sign a waver, due to attractions like this:

  This jungle-gym type attraction goes up three stories. When I went on it last year, the workers were not aware that you could  cinch up the tether. Meaning, if I fell, I would likely break a leg, but probably avoid death. Which certainly gives added adrenaline to trying to make your way across a line of swinging ropes. I opted not to do it again this year, as I was jelly-legged the rest of the day after my experience last year.

  There are also hamster balls you can crawl in and play on a small water area. They're fun for about thirty seconds, and then you're exhausted. By the time they drag you back, you're light-headed from the built-up carbon dioxide in your bubble, not to mention the strong smell of feet. Because we're good parents (*snort*), we decided to see if Lincoln would enjoy this experience.

  He did not.

 Blowing up the bubble is extremely loud and startling when you're inside. They immediately deflated Lincoln's bubble after blowing it up. Poor guy.

  To make up for the trauma, Lincoln went on the train four or five times. Trains are good.

Ben photobombing.
The large blow-up slide was also a favorite.

  Crashing hard after playing hard. McKay's brother, Spencer, and his lovely wife, Nikki. And Lincoln.

   I didn't take any pictures while we were in their beautiful cabin in the mountains, unfortunately, but that's always a highlight. 

  We had such a good time visiting with McKay's family! Forty-four hours on the road well-spent.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Waterton 2014

  I love Waterton. I think it's the closest thing in the real world to Disneyland's Main Street, USA. Which is ironic since it's in Canada. It's not that the houses look like the ones that characterize Disneyland's idealistic small town (darn), but that same happy feeling that characterizes Main Street also pervades Waterton.

  Everything seems happier there. There are countless fun activities. The air even seems fresher there.

  This year one of my favorite things was the way Lincoln's cousins played so nicely with him. In the two weeks we were there his speaking ability got exponentially better with the other kids playing and talking with him all day. I was so grateful to them and how inclusive they were, it made my heart grow three sizes. Like the Grinch.

  McKay also took on the famous Crypt hike this year, which takes ALL DAY. I hear it's beautiful and it's got amazing varieties in its landscape . . . But I'm a wienie, and I'd rather do something that doesn't leave me with the inability to walk the next day (that sounds like an exaggeration. It's not). So I opted out.
 I love my dorky family.
 This is James' default facial expression.

 I did go on a couple hikes, but they we called them "nature walks" because "hiking" sounds hard.


  The only thing I dislike about Waterton is that my body has become conditioned to crave sugar there. Last year dad made cinnamon bread EVERY DAY. And I ate about half a loaf EVERY DAY, with liberal butter. Mmmmmm . . . I'm salivating just thinking of it. We also routinely go out for ice cream, and my mother and sister, Nicole, are both excellent bakers, so we routinely have irresistible desserts just BEGGING to be eaten as well. For a place where exercise is never more easy (or enjoyable!) I always gain a rather ridiculous amount of weight. C'est la vie. Hehe, I just wrote french! Like a fancy person!

   P.S. Did you see on facebook that I finished my book? I totally did. I'm editing it, and you know what? It's not that bad. It definitely could use some improvement, but I'm not depressed and thinking I was stupid to even attempt writing a book. I'm ridiculously excited by that.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

"Measure for Measure"

 When I was seven years old, my parents took me to see my first Shakespeare play, "Midsummer Night's Dream" at the Utah Shakespeare Festival. One play, that's all it took, and it was hooked. I wanted to be on that stage. I wanted to wear those beautiful costumes, say those beautiful, nonsensical words, and play pretend for hours on end.

  In June I got to fulfill this lifelong dream of mine. It wasn't in the Utah Shakespeare Festival--those guys are crazy talented, I could only dream of having half their ability--but it was satisfying nonetheless to know that I could memorize lots and lots of obscure lines written by the Bard. Lines such as, "This outward sainted deputy whose settled visage and deliberate word nips youth i' the head and follies doth emmew as falcon doth the fowl is yet a devil. His filth within being cast he would appear a pond as deep as Hell."

   I was so friggin' proud of myself when I could finally say that line verbatim. Even prouder when I figured out what the crap it meant.

  "Measure for Measure" is a . . . unique play. Even people who love Shakespeare (such as myself) are often unfamiliar with it. That is because "M4M" is one of the friggin' weirdest comedies ever.

  There are some weird tragedies I'll grant you ("Titus Andronicus", anyone?), but usually the comedies are a bit lighter. But technically the definition of "comedy" (in Shakespeare terms) is that it ends with marriages rather than deaths. And this play fits that bill in the strictest sense.

  In our "Measure for Measure", I played Isabella, a nun who is about to take her vows. Isabella's brother, Claudio, is thrown in jail for getting his common-law wife (not for realsies, though) pregnant. He is sentenced to death, because the judge in charge while the duke is "away" is . . . strict. To put it lightly.

  Isabella goes to plead his case to the very pious and upright judge, Angelo, . . . who promptly falls in love with her. He demands that she sleep with him if she wants her brother freed.


   The duke who is normally in charge is in disguise (it's Shakespeare, after all). Due to the clever disguise, he ("she" in our version) finds out about the creepiness going on and does a classic Shakespeare switcheroo. The girl that Angelo had been engaged to (but had the misfortune to lose her dowry, so he won't touch that) goes to him disguised as Isabella.
  Aaaaaand the judge still orders Isabella's brother executed--EVEN THOUGH HE TOTALLY THINKS HE JUST GOT IT ON WITH HER--because he thinks her brother will seek retribution.

ANOTHER Shakespeare switcheroo, the duke has the head of another man sent to the judge . . .

The only reason this play is considered a comedy for reals is because of this guy right here. Chuck is a master. He played Pompey, a tapster turned executioner's assistant.

  Isabella is distraught, and agrees to confront Angelo in front of a ginormous crowd.

  In the middle of all the confronting, the duke is revealed to be the duke. Then all the revelations and marrying take place, because THIS IS A COMEDY, DARN IT. Claudio's alive--HOORAY!--
This is pretty funny when you know the Duke was played by Claudio's real-life mother.
    Angelo is forced to marry Mariana (the girl he'd been engaged to before the ship-wrecked dowry disaster).
Forced marriage instead of execution. All the makings of a happy ending.
 And the duke proposes to Isabella because comedy, remember? The duke did not propose in our version, however, as the character was played by a woman and it was set in the fifties.

  If I could sum up my part in two words, they would be:

And crying.

  Often both at the same time.

  I LOVED the cast of "Measure for Measure". I had a lot of fun with them. I loved singing "We Are Siamese If You Please" with Javan, who played Claudio, in the makeup room. I loved talking Firefly, Doctor Who, and everything nerd with all the other geeks in the cast. We had interesting discussions on morality, marriage, and other serious topics that were kept respectful despite our many varied backgrounds. We really had some good times.

  That said, if asked to put on the show again, I would have to pause. This role took a lot out of me. On any given night of rehearsal, I would have to kneel and/or cry about fifteen times. Let me tell you, spontaneously sobbing and falling down in grief over and over and OVER is no day in the park. So the night of our last performance was a bit of a relief. If for no other reason than I would never have to say "Even for our [ow-er not "are", took me forever to say it right] kitchens we kill the fowl of season" again. Seriously, try saying that five times fast. 

  Despite this, I'm really, really proud of myself and my performances. I wasn't sure I could do such a heavy role justice, and I think I passed muster.

    I'd like to thank everyone involved with "Measure for Measure". To the director, for giving me a chance to live out my dream. To the cast, for being awesome. To all the crew who worked like crazy. And everyone else I'm forgetting because I'm a jerk. 

  Thank you. Really. Emotional exhaustion aside, it was great times.