We Are So Blessed!!!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

All About Homeschooling!

To homeschool or not to homeschool was rather an easy decision for us. We had been pretty open minded about homeschooling as an option since Maletch was born. We only really had a few questions that we wanted answered, to make that final decision.
With our pros/cons list for public school vs. homeschool, there was only one "plus" in the public school column and a bunch of "negatives," and on the homeschool column there were all "pluses" with two main questions we needed answered to decide if they were pluses or negatives.
The only plus in the public school column for us, was the socialization with other children (although that is not always a plus, anyway).. so we wanted to know what options there were for homeschooling kids in the socialization category (if any besides sports, church activities, etc)... AND we wondered if the graduates from homeschool would have any trouble transitioning their academic "credits" for entry to college.
It took all of one click on the internet for me to find several HUGE homeschool groups and organizations that are centered around socializing their children, arranging everything from DAILY play dates at the park to organized field trips- what a blessing! Second, I found several articles that explained that homeschooled children typically thrive more than public schooled children socially due to the fact that they get to experience many more social situations growing up AND from being around grown-up people more often, they tend to be more mature. So socialization went into the "plus" category... check!
Finally, and again quickly, we discovered that since homeschooling has been so popular for over 20 years, and with most homeschool students graduating and testing out- well above public school test scores, that most colleges, even ivy-league schools, happily welcome homeschooled students. There were several interesting articles on this as well- so that answered our other question.

Next, became the more challenging decision, how/where to set up homeschool? To my surprise there are 5 (yes FIVE) different ways to set up homeschool, AND within those choices, there are many sub-choices (such as types of curriculum to use), that decision took the most time and research.
The 5 main ways to set up homeschool are:
- through a public charter school (independent study program)
- through a private/Christian school (satellite program)
- create your own private school in your own home through legal means (filing an R-4)
- through a hybrid school (which is part public attendance and part online)
- through an online school

Within any of the above 5 choices, each has their own set of requirements/rules/legal responsibilities. I won't go into each one too specifically, since that would be way too much to type, but to give you an idea, in one instance, you would be required to meet with a teacher every 3 weeks to go over material, some you are responsible for everything yourself, some schools keep your child's cumulative file, some you are required to do it, some schools are free, some you pay all expenses/materials, etc.
Then, depending on which school type you choose, you face more choices such as which curriculums to use, etc.
So again this research took the most time, and this is where our pros/cons list needed to be applied again. Which of these methods would best suit our family and our children's future?
I am so glad that it is so popular and mainstream now- and that there are so many options. And now after all of my research, I feel like a "homeschool expert," hehe. It almost seems that homeschooling has become the mainstream choice among anyone that can do it (such as families with stay-at-home moms)- it is just unfortunate that in our society/economy the majority of families require 2 incomes. If it wasn't for that, I wonder if public schools would become extinct? Well, maybe not, since I am sure that nothing is for everybody. But with more and more parents being "called" to do it, public schools will probably find themselves less crowded, as they find ways to do it! One alternative for working parents is online schooling, since it is taught by a teacher online (everything from the lectures via video-cast to tests are administered online)
It's funny how many people we meet that homeschool EVERYWHERE-- so many kids at their dance school- doctors- Disneyland- Starbucks- just everywhere... but I knew I didn't want anyone to influence our choice on where/how to homeschool- I wanted that to come from prayer, and it did.
We are excited about our homeschooling decision, and excited about all of the opportunities it brings. I feel so blessed to be able to see that our children get the very best education possible, while also being free to teach them our religious beliefs and keeping them away from a secular school environment.
I want to encourage anyone to look into it if you are a bit curious or interested. I think you will find it to be one of the most worthwhile and rewarding things you can do. Challenging, yes, time consuming yes, but worth it, definitely!
From my own personal experience, growing up in public school, there were very few things if any that I liked about it, and nothing I feel my kids will be missing out on, if fact the opposite, they GET to miss a lot of the negatives! I am even willing to place a wager that-- had these homeschooling options been available "back then," that my parents would have homeschooled us as well!
I intentionally didn't mention which type of homeschooling we chose, so that anyone interested can look into the information for themselves. I don't believe anyone should have any influence over that decision, how/where to do it is a big part of the decision, and that should be between the individual parents and God (based on their beliefs, their financial situation, and their time schedule).
Of course, I am happy to answer any questions, if I can be of any help.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Our Club 33 Extravaganza!!! Secrets of Disneyland

What is Club 33? WHERE is Club 33?-- is also a good question about this secret and ultra exclusive club hidden inside of Disneyland. Most people walk right by it and don't even notice it- and that was by design! 
Walt wanted a secret place to be able to entertain his VIP guests without being disturbed. So he wanted it to have no sign and a secret door, painted a color that would be the least noticeable. Also, since you pass several "closed doors" throughout the park- which appear to just be for employee use only- there is really no obvious "mystique" about this particular door... except for those who have only heard about what is behind it!
After Walt passed away, they wanted to keep the exclusivity of the club, so they made it only open to a small number of people for a hefty membership fee. There are only 487 club members in the world- and they do not allow more than that. There is a wait list for "want-to-be" members that is currently 10 years long! I wondered if that was a myth, "Does it really take 10 years?" YES it does!! For people on the wait list, they receive a status letter every few years to re-confirm that they wish to continue. 
Nobody wants to give up their membership spot- so most often- spots only open by the death of a member. Many of the memberships are held by corporations (corporate accounts) as they wish to "wine and dine" their clients and really- what better place to do it than here? Many other memberships are held by famous celebrities, and the remainder by private people.
The club rules are so strict, the ONLY way to get in- is to be a member or be put on the "Guest List" by a member (they make reservations for you).
Club 33 members are given many perks, VIP status everywhere in the park, along with free admission anytime they want for themselves and their guests.
They are so strict that even Disneyland employees (cast members), even with friends that work in the club -CANNOT get inside.
You can't even get inside - even for them to tell you- you can't come inside. The secret door is locked and there is a buzzer with an intercom- you are only getting in if you are on the list!
Funny, there are many people that know what is behind that secret door, so they gather like the paparazzi outside trying to get a glimpse inside and taking pictures of who is going in and who is coming out.  
Well, aren't we the luckiest people in the world! A few weeks ago, we just so happened to be chatting it up with a nice man on the train, and that nice man happened to be one of the only 487 members! He volunteered to put us on "The List" and arrange for us to go... are you kidding me?? I have only heard so much and could only imagine what is behind that door... and my family and I get to buzz that buzzer and go in?? WOOT!
After hearing about (mostly reading about) so much of the club.. we were beyond excited to go! I wondered if it would live up to the hype and expectations I had... Well, it is obvious that it was designed to be fit for World Leaders, and designed to impress--- and it surely DID!! 
Our Night at Club 33!!!!
Yep, pressing the buzzer with people pointing at us, hehe! 
Woot! We're in! 
 Once you get inside, a gentleman is asking to take your coat and bags. Next the hostess asks you, "Stairs or Lift?" You've got to take the French Lift!!
The story behind this lift is that while Walt and his wife were on vacation, he spotted an elevator he immediately had to have. The hotel refused to sell the elevator, but since Walt rarely took no for an answer, Walt flew 2 Disney Imagineers back to Paris to study it, and had them build and exact replica.
This lift is so beautiful, I can see why he had to have it! This style is from the 1800's and are now very rare.
OMGOSH we had he BEST time ever!
I almost don't know where to begin.. the entire staff was so friendly, and our server was Luis and he was great! The food was amazing too.

The Food:
We took Luis' suggestion for the appetizer and ordered 2 carrot spaghettis- sounds weird- but very delicious! We had heard so many rave reviews about the chateaubriand so of course John HAD to try it and he said it was the best steak he had ever had! Since I am not much of a red meat eater, I enjoyed the Salmon.
Everything was great, including the kid's food! You should have seen their little faces when their desserts came- 2 mickey shaped chocolate cakes!
Since I have a sweet tooth, the desserts were especially my favorite part. Luis was so sweet, I ordered crème brulee since I can't hear of that option and not have it, hehe, and when John ordered the chocolate cake, I said jokingly to John, "I was hoping you would order the triple chocolate thing" hehe- well Luis "caught that" and decided to surprise me by bringing me that dessert too! Beyond great service! Gosh, if you hopped up for a second and tossed your used dinner napkin on the table- someone was there to re-fold it all pretty- for when you sat back down! Crazy good service!!

I should have taken photos of all the food- but were too busy digging in (yep, during all 4 or 5 courses)! We had to take a quick one of this though! They each got one- completely edible Mickey cake! 

Sariah covered in said Mickey cake!
She always wants to be clean!
Want a Drink?:
Club 33 is the only place in the park that serves adult beverages- so we enjoyed one of our favorite cocktails from the lounge!!
The Kids:
Some people would prefer to get a babysitter than take their children to Club 33, for a few reasons: the cost is crazy expensive with a food minimum and many feel it is not worth it for kids that won't each much or appreciate the cuisine anyway... and second, the risk of embarrassment should their children act out and cause a scene, and third, some just want a night of romance alone.
The decision for us was simple, we would never want to experience anything as special as this without the kids- so we were not going to concern ourselves with the cost as this was more than just a dinner it was an experience that we as a family would always remember.
Of course, we expect our kids to be well mannered and civilized in any restaurant, and for the duration of a typical meal we have never had any problems. However, we were a little concerned about how well they'd behave for Club 33's almost 3 hour long multi-course meal (a long time to sit still) COUPLED with the fact that they knew we were at Disneyland, we feared they might get rambunctious to "get out of there" and want to go on rides.
The icing on the cake for us was how unbelievably well behaved the kids were! They sat like perfect little angels, talked at the right volume level, NEVER complained, not only were we proud, but so many people throughout the restaurant stopped by to acknowledge these "perfect kids" that everyone wanted to take home! That really made our night completely relaxing and enjoyable.

Funny Kids:
Sariah made me laugh because she said, "Mommy, this is a FANCY restaurant." She's 2, how does she know these things? I don't know! But she's right!

Maletch and Sariah both enjoy watching a DVD called "The Secret Tour of Disneyland" Funny, although it is a long documentary, it is one of their favorite videos, and they ask to watch it everyday. They love the hostess (Lauren)- they actually call it the "Lauren DVD." One of the secrets Lauren talks about is the Secret of Club 33. Well having seen the DVD a million times, EVEN the kids understood the significance of where we were! Although Club 33 is not a "fun" place for kids, as far as "fun" goes, (especially not compared to being in the rest of Disneyland)-- Maletch especially appeared to really appreciate the experience (which I've heard all kids find quite boring- really what young kid would want to sit still and quiet for 3+ hours in Disneyland- I've heard it is almost torturous). Well, not Maletch, he acted like a total grown up! He enjoyed grown up conversation and exploring the "secret place" as much as we did! And Sariah followed right along by his example! It really made us extra happy that we brought them! Be sure to ask them both about their favorite parts of Club 33.

Every table has a view AND a DOOR--- yes your own door- that you can open- taking you onto the balcony! The balcony is really a wrap-around upper deck, that goes all the way around, so you can even change your view if you want to view New Orleans Square, or around the deck to view the Rivers of America to see Fantasmic and fireworks shows. You are free to go in or out whenever you want for as long as you want! We were sure to pop out onto the balcony to check it out.
We have heard you should take a cocktail onto the balcony and when passerby's see you- they want to know where they can get a drink. We did not do that- but that is kind of funny! We all enjoyed the view and the kids really loved the glimpses they were able to catch of the Fantasmic show from our balcony.
This is our table as we were leaving (all dirty, hehe)- but what almost appears to be a window directly behind it, is actually the door. You literally stand up from your table, pop it open, and you are on the balcony. 
That open brown door you see was the door from our table.

Looking down from our balcony!
The commode in the ladies room was also a surprise, haha, I thought it was a wicker chair and was completely confused at first, LOL- I just HAD to take a picture of that!
The Toilet!!!
OMGOSH, At first, I was wondering if you "go through" the holes in the wicker because I could see the toilet ring below- but the wood looked solid, and I was kind of freaking out, hahaha! I figured out that the lid did open- wheeeeew!!

 Love that face!
I thought this pic was neat because you can see he is standing just left of the shot (well you can see his hands holding cups)- but I caught him perfectly in the mirror

 Although, this is fine dining, they still offered Sariah a box of crayons and some Disney pages to color! Nice touch! She is proud of what she made and she is showing me here!
In "Lounge Alley" The Harpsichord!
This thing is beautiful, and it works. Funny, Maletch asked me if we could play the "piano," before I could tell him no.... a friendly staff member, answered him, "Absolutely, you can!" Oh boy, how fun!!!
The Trophy Room
This room has a lot of history. One of my favorite stories is how Walt was anti-hunting and he had a friend who was an avid hunter. They exchanged in many friendly debates regarding the subject of hunting. Well his friend got the last word because when he died, he left a bunch of trophies (stuffed animal heads) to Walt in his Will. Walt happened to be in the middle of decorating Club 33 at the time, so he decided to use them in one room of the club- that room is now the Trophy Room, and it has an animal motif throughout.
My favorite story from this room involves a "Spying Vulture" that can talk to you! Originally Walt had a pretty cool and crazy idea! He created a large chandelier and placed it above a large dining table that has hidden listening devices- yes it is bugged... and then he created an animatronic Vulture to go with it, which would be perched in the room, with built in microphone/speaker. Thinking it would be cool to listen in on dinner conversation, and THEN chime in (talk to the patrons) through the microphone/speaker on the bird- about their personal conversation!!! How crazy cool, but at the same time a little scary is that?? Well, the bugged Vulture and chandelier still remain, although, after more consideration, Walt thought it might not be such a good idea, so they say that he 'disconnected' the hidden listening device. I joked with the staff, that they probably still "eavesdrop" but just don't respond through the microphone, hehe!
I couldn't wait to find that little "Spy Guy" at the club... well, here he is...

He is above the door inside the Trophy Room (the vulture is on the right)
Although we have heard (mostly read) about much of the club, we learned several new "fun facts" from the nice staff, such as this bird in the "Trophy Room" being a completely "made up" breed (by Walt)- mixed with the head of an eagle and the body of an owl- never knew that!

The club is filled with famous Disney movie props and history, with a significance for everything, and a story. I should post pics of the amazing phone booth, and lots of the décor..... maybe I'll add that later to this post.
Artificial portrait of Walt. Since he died before the club officially opened, this "made up portrait" of him, serves to "imagine" that he is always there, and how he would have been.

It was such a pleasure finally experiencing the club, and it was even better than we expected! Knowing that it was Walt's dream to entertain his VIP's there, it feels nostalgic, and at the same time bittersweet that he died before it was ever open. Even though Walt never saw it finished, I am glad that Disney found a way to put it to good use. Truly a remarkable place!

Exclusive Souvenirs:
They have a china cabinet, filled with exclusive Club 33 logo merchandise and you can tell a staff member what you like, and they get it for you. We were thrilled to be able to purchase some exclusive Club 33 souvenirs! We each got a set of Club 33 Mickey Ears (of course), a really nice logo "camp shirt" for John, coffee mugs, and lapel pins. It was a great way to bring home a part of such a special night!
 --- insert photo of what we got----
We are totally looking forward to going back there again! We do realize how fortunate we are for this experience, as we have heard so many people talk about just wishing they could go once in their lives just to at least say, "they did it" - but unfortunately they have no connection and no way in. I hope everyone can go at least once if they wish to, because it is amazing.
I really wish I would have made like a video tour of the place, because there is just too much history, art, and details to post a million photos and type about it all. So I will do that for sure next time!!

As we were leaving, this is the only short video clip we took...
Exiting the French Lift, in the downstairs Lobby. 
Note: To see the pictures better you can click to enlarge (also if you are saving a photo, it is best to when they are large). You can also scroll through all of the photos enlarged at once by using your right/left arrows.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

We are Outta Here! Well almost!

Yep, we've officially been approved and just put the deposit down to hold the house... and we are moving in just over 2 weeks! I will be anxiously counting down the days till we get settled in the new HUGE place!! Yep, after 8 yrs of living in a place way too small, we are heading to almost 3,000 sq ft! WOOT!
In the new house, the kids will each have their own rooms, also going to have a separate playroom just for toys and large playsets with plenty of storage, and we'll have a separate living room for grown up furniture, a large room for my art studio, and even a separate classroom for homeschool (I can't wait to decorate the classroom).  It will be fun shopping for little school desks, and the teacher decorations, like the alphabet room border.
No double-duty rooms! YAY!!!! Really no more double-duty furniture either, like no more having to clear off the dining room table every time you want to sit down because it is full of paying bill stuff or homeschool stuff, or game pieces from a game we just played, etc... the dining room table will be for eating only!! Always clean and inviting. Wow this is going to allow us back that nice uncluttered, low-stress lifestyle that we have missed for years!
The master finally has ample closets (no more needing to compensate with freestanding ones) AND the new kitchen pantry is finally ample- so no more compensating with freestanding cabinets there either!
I am especially looking forward to - no more, "Honey, can you get..." lists. We have so many boxes stacked in the garage (stuff that just couldn't fit in the house) -like everyday household things- and since I can't lift the heavy boxes and bins to dig out what I need... everyday practically, I have to wait for John to come home to dig something out of the garage for me, then wait for him to be able to return it to the correct box a few days later... yeah, uggh! WELL, no more of THAT... now we will be able to use the garage for normal stuff... and everything I need will be finally in the HOUSE-- YIPEE!!
And the very best part, the kids will have a nice backyard to safely roam without having to worry about cars driving by.
The house is also in a community with an association too- so we will have full access to the pool, gym, and clubhouse too!! I think I hear an end of summer/ housewarming/ pool party coming on..... and you are all invited!
I better get packing...

Be sure to scroll down to see our 4th of July pics, and the first post of "Our Favorite Disneyland Insider Secrets"... I will be posting (part 2)- MORE of our Favorite Secrets next week....

That's Sticky!!

Last Sunday we got the kids some big lollipops as we were leaving Disneyland (it was late at night). As soon as we hopped in the car, Sariah fell asleep before we even left the parking lot, poor girl was pooped. She still had the lollipop in her hand, and as we went to collect the candy, we found her like this....

Yep it was stuck to her face!!!! (Click photo to enlarge)

Well, Maletch thought that was so funny, and since his lollipop was already put away, he improvised and said, "Mom take a picture of me" and did this....

Silly boy!