Our Happiest Place on Earth

Back in February, I got a crazy idea. We were planning our last family trip to Disneyland before our passes expired and two weeks before our trip I thought, “how great would it be to have our family pictures taken AT Disneyland!?” This past year, we had gone quite a few times. For Valentine’s Day & my birthday (the day after Valentine’s Day), Dave and I even took a quick no-kids trip and stayed at the Grand Californian. It was one of my best birthdays yet, and I’m determined to make it happen every year! Ahem, Dave. Disneyland became my happy place (happier than normal) for me after my Mom died. It was the perfect place to escape real life/little bouts of depression with the California sunshine, palm trees, and Disneyland.

So, I know this amazing photographer, Cherie Mask, that I thought would be the perfect person to take our pictures. I emailed her immediately to see if it was even a possibility that she could come (she lives in Arizona), and miraculously, it worked! She flew out for the day to take our pictures and it was so much fun.

A little side note: Cherie and I first became online friends after I stumbled upon her blog a few years ago. After a few visits to her blog I realized that I knew her husband, Jeff. We had both served as missionaries in Buenos Aires, Argentina many, many years ago. Then last year, Cherie and I met in real life for the first time. We both attended the same lecture at Women’s Conference here at BYU and met in real life. Not only did we end up in the same class, but when Cherie came in a few minutes before the lecture started, the usher sat her in my row! Out of tens of thousands of women, we ended up in the same class, and sitting in the same row! I do not believe in coincidences. I know we were supposed to meet, I know we are meant to be friends, and I feel so blessed by the influence of her goodness in my life. She is gorgeous inside and out!

When I got our pictures, I cried! I was so happy that she perfectly captured us at our favorite place. I will forever treasure them. So without further ado…

Dave, his girls, and a castle

Our fam

I’ve got a crush on this guy

Making wishes at Snow White’s wishing well. My wish is for my double chin to disappear.

I almost puked on the teacups, which means I’m officially old.

I want to recreate this picture every year.

Our Nezzie Girl

One of our favorite treats that we get every time are (non-alcoholic) mint juleps. Inez enjoys the mint leaves.

Gwen, the heartbreaker…

…and daddy’s girl.

Our sweet Olive girl

She truly is our family’s biggest Disneyland fan. She would go every day if she could.

She wore her Minnie Mouse dress and HEELS every day on our trip. See? BIG fan.

Kisses from my Clara bug

The outfit on Clara is one that all my girls have worn and one of my favorites.

Dave LOVES kids on his shoulders at Disneyland

I can’t remember what she saw here, probably Small World.

It truly is our happy place.

Thank you, again, Cherie! Our whole family loves you and can’t wait for next year’s pictures!

*If you are in Arizona and need photography, you need to hire Cherie. She’s amazing and she didn’t even ask me to promote her, but I am because that’s how awesome she is. You’re welcome.

Counting Down

It is not a secret that we are big fans of Disneyland in our home. We really enjoy going with our girls at this stage in their lives because they love it so, so much.

We have been wanting to go for the Halloween celebrations that have there for the last number of years and finally this is our year to go! We are all pretty excited, especially Gwen who is a big Jack Skellington fan.

We always make a countdown chain for any trips that we take or events we are looking forward to. This time the girls and Dave drew pictures to go along with writing the names of the attractions that we enjoy.

This is for the Nemo Submarine ride. Obviously.

After Gwen’s first time riding the Tower of Terror, Dave asked her how she liked it and she told him, “my bum went up.”

We love our countdown chains. We are dorks. We know this and embrace it.

My Name is Holly

And I’m a Disneyland junkie. Also, I’ve shamelessly dragged my family into this addiction.

We had kind of a crazy summer. So a few weeks before school started I told Dave to take some time off work because we were going to be headed to Disneyland for a little R&R before school and schedules ruled our lives. It was a very short trip, but totally worth it (as always).

Here are some shots that I took just around the park.

Years of people passing by and unknowingly touching this knob has made the grain of the wood stand out. It’s weird, but Dave and I love this. Anyone recognize what/where this is located?









I love my baby’s cute legs and feet sticking out of the stroller. They go straight out like this when she’s excited about something.
(I like to think she’s just excited about being at Disneyland.)

The obligatory picture from Dumbo.

Gwen always asks to see Winnie the Pooh. Since it isn’t usually very long, that’s the one line we stand in for characters—especially since you get to see two-three characters after only one line. Plus, I just can’t say no to that face.
Well, I can say no and do say no to her quite often. But in this instance, I can’t.

I love the coy little smile she gets from seeing Tigger.

Inez and I happened upon Sulley at California Adventure. Inez was really sad that she was unable to get his autograph (his hands are hard plastic and huge) but settled for a hug where she nearly disappeared into his fur.

On our last day Gwen wanted to wear her Alice costume.

As we were leaving the park, the Disneyland Marching Band was out by the entrance/exit along with Alice and the Mad Hatter. They pulled Gwen out of the crowd to participate. It was really cute and I took about 5,000 pictures.

This was the Band Leader, the Mad Hatter, and Alice discussing what song to play/sing with Gwen.

Afterward I asked Gwen if she felt a little shy. She said, “Yes. I was a lot shy.”

‘I’ for Inez

‘G’ is for Gwen but since there is not a ‘G’ in California, we tried to get Gwen to make the ‘C’ look like a ‘G’. We weren’t very successful.

‘O’ is for Olive.

And a close-up on Miss Olive.

‘L’ for Lesue

We loved our hotel, which was a really good thing because this was our first trip in about five years where we actually went back to our room to rest. I was extra tired being in my first trimester during this trip.
Do you see the hidden mickey in the logo?

Until next time…

The Disneyland Post
(the one with people in it, anyway)

Well, we got into Anaheim Wednesday afternoon and spent Wednesday evening, Thursday, Friday, and most of Saturday at The Happiest Place on Earth. We met up with some good friends and family, always a highlight.

Inez went on Indiana Jones for the first time. She had been talking about how she was going to go on it the next time we went since she is finally tall enough. However, when we got there and she was faced with the reality of actually going on the ride, she freaked out. Being the wonderful mother that I am, I made her go on it anyway. Which meant that I had to carry a frightened and crying six-year-old child through the line. Even though we had fast-passes, it was still a loooong way to carry her. And for the record, she kept her head down, eyes closed and ears plugged through the whole ride. But don’t worry about her. She also cried on Haunted Mansion and Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. We like to make our children experience scary things. We feel it builds character.

Gwen was tall enough to ride on most of the “big” rides. She rode the three Mountains (Splash, Space, and Thunder), Star Tours, Soarin’ Over California (my favorite) and Tower of Terror. Dave and I were amazed at Gwen’s fearlessness. Especially considering the fact that Inez wouldn’t go on any of those besides Soarin’ and Space Mtn. Gwen not only wanted to try these rides for her first time, but she would ask to go on them again. All of them. Including Tower of Terror. I am even a little nervous to ride that one!

We also got into Vinylmation. They are three inch figurines that you buy to keep or trade. We each got one to bring home as a souvenir from this trip. We had a lot of fun trading them and trying to find the ones we really wanted. We really hope we don’t end up like those crazy pin trading people (no offense to the pin traders out there).

Look at this face. She is nearly bursting with excitement as we prepare to enter the gates for the first time, which is always a moment that I love too.

The morning of our first full day.  Excitement is in the air.

Inez was all about posing for pictures during this trip.

This was our mellow, happy, teething baby enjoying Disneyland for her first time.

We met up with our good friends, the Whites.

Our girls got along really well and were cute with one another.

I love how the girl’s hair looks at the end of a day, kind of waif-ish. (No offense Melissa)

One of Gwen’s meltdowns.

I had to bribe the girls to sit here so that I could take their pictures in this spot. This was Gwen’s pose.

Inez was a bit more cooperative. I love this spot in California Adventure, right in the entrance of A Bug’s Land. They always have great flowers and even fruit trees and vegetables growing. It’s pretty cool.

We took a break for a tigger’s tail…

…and a little ham.

Best friend sisters.

“My name is Tigger and I eat small children!”

That picture makes us laugh so hard.
This is a much better pose.

Inez claimed to be “too old” to take pictures with the Winnie the Pooh characters. While that may be true, I asked her to take a picture with them anyway and she obliged. She came around and even smiled.

Inez named her horse “Whinny.”

Gwen then felt the need to name her horse as well. There was a spot of brown on it, so she named it “Chocolate Milk.”

We had just exited Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride and Inez was not happy that we made her go on it. That is why she is not smiling here…

…and still had a sour look on her face at the next ride. Seriously, how can kids ever justify feeling anything but pure glee when they are at Disneyland? It baffles me. IT’S DISNEYLAND!

The Teacups are one of my favorite spots. I love the atmosphere around that ride. I love that it’s an open ride you can see right into and that the music flows throughout the area. It’s a very nostalgic spot for me.
I’m weird, I know.

It was such a fun trip. I love that as our girls get older, each trip to Disneyland is a little different. I just hope that they will never be too cool for Disneyland. I hope that they always love it, and that it will be a place where we can go to as a family to have fun and make great memories.

So, now it’s time to make the next count-down chain because I’m already ready to go back.

My Name is Holly

And I love Disneyland.

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More, Please.

Well, that vacation was either way too short, or it passed by really quickly. Probably both.

I want more.

More time with Dave. (I love having him all to myself)
More visiting with family and friends.
More of these cute and happy girls. (They fight a lot less when we are on vacation)

On the drive home, I kept thinking these three things:

1. I don’t want Dave to go back to work. Ever.
2. I don’t want to face all the laundry that awaits me.
3. I want to eat another tigger’s tail.

More pictures from our vacation to come after I come conquer the mountain of laundry that awaits me.

Be Back Soon

It’s a bit of a stretch, but sing (or say, or read) this to the tune of the Mickey Mouse Club song:

See ya real soon
Why? Because we like you


vacation, all i ever wanted.

Last week when I packed up and drove to California out of the blue, we spent three of our days at Disneyland. Our first day was without Dave but with my sister and her two girls. I’m guessing the reason I didn’t take any pictures that first day was because Dave wasn’t there to help me with the girls. It’s too hard for me to multitask at Disneyland! But I will have to learn to do so in the future if I want any pictures with my girls and their cousins they love so much! We didn’t even get our traditional Lesue family picture on the L.

They have made some additions to Small World by placing some Disney characters in their appropriate lands. I didn’t know how I would feel about Small World being changed at first since it is such a classic ride. But once I saw the changes, I changed my mind. I saw a picture of Alice and the White Rabbit in the newspaper the other day, so I thought I wouldn’t be spoiling anything for anyone if I posted this one that I took.

This was after fall #1 of 2 by Gwen. She was running around while we were sitting enjoying a Mint Julep in New Orleans Square, fell on her face and cut her lip.

Then she decided to look at Dave’s mouth and give him a kiss.

I found a hidden mickey, do you see it? Well, I actually found three during this trip. The second one was on Alice in Wonderland in the room where they are painting the roses red. There are paint sploches all over and one of them makes a Hidden Mickey. The third was in Haunted Mansion in the bride’s room. It’s on the face of a clock, but the light shifts, so you have to see it at the right moment. Needless to say, I was pretty proud of myself for finding three!

Gwen’s second fall was much worse. When we were coming out of the tunnel after Buzz Lightyear she was taking off her jacket while running when she bailed, face right to the floor. That fall was much harder, lots of blood and screams and required a trip to First Aid. She was really good and even though her face was swollen for the next day, she bounced right back.

Speaking of Buzz Lightyear though, I got my personal best during this trip. The ride may or may not have stopped three times though. Regardless, I beat Dave every single time we went on the ride. I think for the health of our marriage I need to let him win once or twice.

On our second day, after saying goodbye to the Cobbs, we met up with The Whites. The girls visited the White Rabbit where Inez was apparently having the time of her life (please note her rolled eyes).

Gwen wanted this hat. I don’t even think I’d want it if it were free, but it was $25! If I’m going to spend $25 at Disneyland, it will be on a bottle of water!

While waiting for the parade, the girls entertained themselves.

Day 3
We got to the park right as it opened at 8am and found Fantasyland pretty deserted. It was surprising considering the fact that they had Magic Morning at 7am. We hit most of the Fantasyland rides—we usually skip Snow White’s Scary Adventure because it’s scary, Pinocchio because it’s scary, and Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride because it’s scary.

There’s always something new that I notice when I’m at Disneyland. This time it was the carved wooden signs for the rides of Fantasyland.

Gwen thinks this door is just for her. She could play there all day and usually screams/cries when it’s time to move on.

I asked Inez to show me how excited she was, and this is what I got.

The girls got to ride in the caboose of Casey Jr. all by themselves. We were actually on the other side of their bench, but they thought it was so cool.

I don’t know why I love this ride so much. I just love all the miniature houses and villages.

This was the first time that Gwen saw Woody and Jessie. I think she was nervous with excitement!

Then Woody left right as we were getting near the front of the line. So we grabbed him for a quick picture, and this is what we got. Dave and I laugh so hard every time we see it. Could it be more awkward?

Gwen has much love for Jessie the yodelin’ cowgirl.

Then Inez was off with Dave to ride Splash Mountain for the second time. She liked it the first time the day before and kept asking to ride it again.

While they were on Splash, Gwen and I found Brer Fox and Brer Bear. Gwen was a little nervous, as evidenced by her hands.

When we met back up with Dave and Inez, post Splash Mountain, Inez had crocodile tears running down her cheeks. Seems like the second time was not as fun as the first. My theory is that she knew what to expect with big drop and freaked out a little bit. She has decided that she won’t go on that again until after she turns six.

Gwen being crazy as we waited in line to see Pooh Bear, Tigger and Eeyore.

Inez ran over to Eeyore as he came out, which was good since he left the line before we got to visit with him.

I love how excited Gwen is to see Pooh Bear.

Then came traumatic experience #3 for Gwen. It was finally her time to see Tigger so she was running up to him at the same time that he bounced and turned around. Well, he almost knocked her over because he didn’t see her. She got so scared and just cried and cried. “Tigger” felt really bad about it, so we got a little extra time with him. It was so sad, but she got over it by the time we finished our visit with him.

One thing that made me so happy while we were there—besides just being at Disneyland—were all the flowers. They were so cheery, it was just contagious.

While we were eating lunch and enjoying the sunshine, Cruella De Vil came out and stood right by us, so we grabbed a picture with her. She is a funny character to watch and listen to and is always making these dramatic faces for the pictures.

Fantasmic ran all three nights we were there, but we only saw it our last night. After watching the whole show with eyes the size of saucers, Gwen turned to Dave after it ended and said, “That’s a bad movie!”

Fantasmic image borrowed.
After three days, we were EXHAUSTED. It was so much fun though, and really what I needed. Warm, sunny California, away from the cold and snow, seeing and smelling the Pacific Ocean, and a few days at Dis with my little fam. It doesn’t get any better than that.

El fin.

happiest place on earth (and warm in december)

A partial summary of our trip to CA. And there are a lot of pictures, just to warn you.

Napping in the car on the way down. Why is it that our kids always fall asleep 30 minutes before we need to stop?

Upon our arrival to the hotel, we made our way over to Downtown Disney and the CA letters in front of California Adventure.

We also stopped in at the Lego store and thought this was pretty cool, among other creations.

Before entering the park on the first day, which is always such an exciting moment.

Our first look at the snowy Sleeping Beauty Castle as we walked down Main Street.

We hit Fantasyland the first day with Early Entry.

When we woke up for our second day, Dave wondered why his muscles were sore. I would say the above picture is a good reason.

Gwen sizing up the Dumbo attraction, it being our first ride. She had this expression for many of the rides—really unsure about them.

Still deciding…

I think she likes it.

We headed over to Peter Pan after Dumbo and Gwen kept her eye on the Queen the whole time we were in line. Every time she’d open the curtains, Gwen would point her out.

It’s a Small World with the holiday layover.

I love the Santa Tiki.

And we always make a quick stop at the White Rabbit’s door on our way out of Alice.

Then we visited the new Pixie Hollow. I think I loved it as much as the girls did.

The got to meet Silvermist Fairy

And Tinkerbell of course.

Gwenie was obsessed with her door.

We met up with the Cobbs, as usual, which we love to do since they know the ins and outs of the parks. Carol and the girls won us someDream Fast Passes and even though the crowds were manageable, they were nice to have. Inez had so much fun with Bridget and Caitlin. At one point they were doing the “cha-cha” (which was actually a conga line) while they were waiting for us adults. I’m so glad that my girls get along so well with their cousins!

Inez was so excited when we saw Jasmine, as she’s Nezzie’s favorite Princess. Gwen was more interested in her jewelry. And when I gave Inez the Jasmine crown she is wearing in this picture, she actually told me that she was worried that if Aladdin saw her he might think she was Jasmine, so she didn’t want to wear it around him.

Both days at the parks, we got really lucky and just kept running into different characters.
Chip and Dale

While it may appear that Goofy is checking Gwen’s diaper, it was just an awkward hug.

The Wicked Queen from Snow White. Gwen was especially nervous, just look at her hands.

Mary Poppins and Bert

Pooh Bear and Tigger

And Gwen seemed to want the attention instead of letting Nez have a turn.

Santa and Mrs. Claus

We went to the Princess Fantasy Faire for the first time, but did NOT wait in the hour line to see the princesses. The girls were satisfied with hearing Sleeping Beauty and Jasmine come out for storytelling, and so were we! Inez was ecstatic when Jasmine came out to tell her story during which Inez was sitting front and center. It got even better when Jasmine actually winked at her.

The holiday overlay that they do on Haunted Mansion. I think we prefer it to the normal Haunted Mansion.

One of our favorite rides is Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters. Dave and I are in constant competition to beat one another. The funny thing about it is that I always beat Dave. ALWAYS. Here’s an example of our scores (and my personal best).

More playtime on the letters.

Our traditional Lesue family picture on the L.

We also discovered a few helpers at the popcorn carts.
Oogie Boogie, near Haunted Mansion

The Abominable Snowman, near Matterhorn.
(Bonus points for whoever knows the name the cast members have given the abominable snowman in the ride.)

And Santa, near the Castle.

We also saw a few parades. This was the beginning of the Pixar Play Parade that they have going on at California Adventure. Being big Pixar fans, we loved that parade.

This was Gwen acting like a baby/crazy before the Parade started. She put on quite a show for everyone waiting.

The Cobb girls at the Christmas parade.

Inez watching the Christmas parade. I love that facial expression.

And on our way out, the Castle lights.

our anniversary

Even though our official anniversary is July 5th, we took advantage of being in Southern California where my sister was able to watch my girls so Dave and I could sneak off for an early celebration.

We grabbed some dessert at Blue Bayou and enjoyed the ambiance.

Our traditional picture.

And as usual, I beat Dave at Buzz every time we went on it. Sorry babe!

We really got into finding Hidden Mickeys while we were there. It was a lot of fun. These two were found on Pirates of the Caribean.

Disneyland with your kids is a lot of fun. But Disneyland without your kids is an entirely different experience. It was so much fun. It was like a date on steroids. We decided to try and go once a year without them. Maybe that makes us selfish. Ok.

Thanks so much Carol for making it possible for us! You are the best, and I totally owe you!!