Sunday, August 20, 2017

Top Ten Disney Memories: Memory #9: Eating Our Way Through Tuesday

Disneyland 2017 Memory #9
Eating Our Way Through Tuesday

Five days in Disneyland always involves lots of meals, drinks, and snacks, but because the park was so hot and crowded this year, our food and beverage consumption quickly grew borderline ridiculous.

Since I put on so much weight after Gideon was born, I made losing some of it a priority this year. In mid-January, I started a regimen of eating one fried egg, a piece of toast, and berries for breakfast. Then I take a long walk/play with Giddy. For lunch I enjoy either plain spinach or nothing. Then for dinner, I eat whatever my mother makes. On the weekends I'm allowed to cheat and eat basically anything as long as I'm mindful. The basic idea is to be in motion as much of the time as possible while denying myself food at the time that I am most hungry.

By the time we left for our trip in mid-July, I had lost 32 pounds. That's pretty good since up to that point I had been able to loose nothing and couldn't stop gaining weight no matter what I did. I think all the persistent motion kick-started my metabolism. (I also saved a lot of money this way because my mom buys the eggs (a food I actually dislike) and the dinner food, and spinach only costs like $1.80 a bag.)
The downside is, I became a little phobic about altering my routine, especially when it came to eating more than twice a day. I was sure the trip would make me gain the weight back.

"Sweetie!" Derrick kept saying. "We're going to be walking all over Disneyland."

"Yes," I'd remind him, "but first we'll be sitting in the car eating for two days." (You can't resist snacking when you're driving across country for eight to ten hours at a time. I mean, looking at mountains is exciting the first time you see them, but then that same mountain remains in view for the next twenty to thirty minutes. Slowly working your way through a bag of Garadettos is the only way to mark your progress across the Southwest.)

Although I did want to enjoy all the taste sensations our vacation had to offer, initially, I had a hard time feeling good about eating. Then the next thing you know, I was bingeing Disneyland, just guzzling up every magical calorie (through a metaphorical straw).

(As I write this out, it sounds totally unhealthy, but in practice, neither my regimen nor my deviation from it is as extreme as it feels in my mind. I'm just OCD about everything, including my melodramatic descriptions.)

Anyway, we didn't eat that much until we got to Disneyland Monday afternoon, so our snack and dinner in Cars Land felt totally reasonable to me.

But Tuesday was a different story.

We started with a 9:30 breakfast reservation at Carnation Cafe where I enjoyed a delicious ham and cheese omelet (and a Coke, of course, in Disneyland, always a Coke).

The little kids got Power Packs (with yogurt, Goldfish crackers, apple slices, and a banana, I think), but the rest of us only had drinks. I implemented my Disneyland policy of ordering the largest Coke available. (Yes, I know you should hydrate with water. At home I drink water almost exclusively, but at Disneyland I always crave Coke. And it never makes me feel gross. It's wonderfully refreshing every time. Maybe the rush of sugar and caffeine works well with my hyperactive approach to tackling the parks. I'm always buzzing around at light speed, and even a hummingbird needs fuel.)

Then we had a late lunch reservation at Cafe Orleans. But we were so worn down by heat and lines that we couldn't last until 3:00. We had to stop for a Coke break at Fantasyland's Red Rose Tavern (which is just Village Haus with an overlay in honor of the live action Beauty and the Beast).

Though most of us were just getting a drink, we
liked the look of the food at Red Rose Tavern and thought we might return for a late dinner of burgers and flat breads. (Grayson, after all, is a growing fourteen-year-old boy who is genuinely hungry for three meals a day. And Penelope is always hungry, too, because she rarely likes anything she's served.)

Meanwhile, our lunch at Cafe Orleans was amazing. While we were waiting for our table, Penelope fortuitously ran into Tiana who graciously posed for pictures with her on the fly.

I was immensely relieved when the Cafe chefs were able to prepare Mom and Dad gluten free Monte Cristos. Mom had her heart set on this treat, and I'd tried to arrange it months in advance. I can't describe how stressed I felt that this would fall through, especially because my mother kept saying multiple times a day how excited she was about it. When we first checked in, they didn't seem to know about this special request, but then by some miracle, they did make the gluten free Monte Cristos, after all.
Giddy got spaghetti, Penelope macaroni, both of them grapes. Gray tried the steak sandwich but seemed suspicious of most menu items.

Mint juleps were plentiful. In the past, they've been green. This time the liquid was practically clear. The waitress noticed how perplexed I looked and asked if everything tasted okay. Yes, they tasted the same as ever, but they're no longer such an impressive photo op (unless you add a glow cube and drink them in the dark).

As usual, I ordered a cup of gumbo, and then Derrick and I split a three cheese Monte Cristo and an order of pomme frites. This has become my favorite meal in Disneyland. The Monte Cristo is not even necessary, and I always seem to end up with more grapes than I can eat (but Penelope really puts away the grapes, thank goodness). I just can't get enough of whatever sauce it is they serve with the pomme frites. And for some reason I was also eating broccoli. (It must have been Gideon's.)

Why I did not take a picture of this beautiful meal is beyond me. (No doubt Gideon's rapacious appetite for grapes which I had to slice had something to do with it. Dirty looks from all my hungry family members who were tired of pictures probably also dissuaded me from photography.) For the first time ever, we ate inside the restaurant which turned out to be a good thing because in there the a/c flowed as freely as the mint juleps.

If we would have stopped eating after Cafe Orleans, I probably could have gone through the rest of the day feeling neither too hungry nor too full. But the lines and the heat being what they were, we ended up taking a Coke break at the Hungry Bear after riding only the Jungle Cruise and the Haunted Mansion. (Actually I think Gray needed to sit down because he had a stomach cramp.) Officially, we were just there for drinks, but then while I waited in line to order with Derrick, I saw this amazing dessert in the display case, the Milk and Hunny Funnel Cake, drizzled in some kind of fancy condensed milk honey sauce and topped with whipped cream and fresh edible flowers. Who could resist that? I had to have one! My plan was to take a bite or two and then feed it to the kids. To be honest, I just wanted to own one for a while so I could photograph its splendor (because it was so beautiful!)

To my dismay, this treat turned out to be totally delicious, so the one bite I intended to take fluidly morphed into one thousand bites. I don't even like funnel cake that much, but whatever they put in that condensed milk honey sauce (probably condensed milk and honey) tasted like liquid heaven. (The edible flowers were bitter, though.) To my unpleasant surprise, Derrick and Gray did not help us eat this addictive confection at all (leaving more for me!), although Nellie and Giddy did not have to be asked twice to pick up a fork and share my burden. (Giddy went straight for the whipped cream. Actually, Nellie did, too!)

Honestly at that point, I felt slightly guilty but still not overfull. The bad part comes later. At about nine-fifteen, Gray got hungry for dinner. I did not need to eat at that point, but I figured the flat breads at the Red Rose Tavern looked light and shareable.

Sadly though, we learned that almost all restaurants in the park close at 9:00. The Plaza Inn stayed open until 11:00, so we headed there. It has such fantastic food, but the portion sizes are immense. How could I go to the Plaza Inn, though, and not get the fried chicken? Two breasts, mashed potatoes, green beans, and a biscuit is really enough to feed two hungry adults. I wasn't even one hungry adult, but I still got it and managed to eat quite a bit. (In fairness, we did walk twelve miles that day, and we didn't leave the park to walk back to the hotel until midnight.)

 I felt like we were really rushing the meal, but I think we were trying to hit a Fastpass window. The fireworks were going on overhead just as we sat down, so I snagged us a table outside on the patio, but all of the table umbrellas made it impossible to see much of anything. Basically we'd just notice Penelope's face turn different colors from the ambient light as the air exploded with sound all around us.

For the rest of the trip, we didn't eat as much. (How could we have?)

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Top Ten Disney Memories: Memory #8: Glowing at Our Blue Bayou Tenth Anniversary Celebration

Disneyland 2017 Memory #8
Glowing at Our Blue Bayou Tenth Anniversary Celebration

As a child, I often heard how my Uncle Jim liked to eat in the Blue Bayou, the darkened restaurant that overlooks the opening scenes of Pirates of the Caribbean, but I never once ate there. I was left with the impression that you have to make reservations, and the food costs twenty-five million dollars a plate (which is pretty much the truth).

As an adult, The Blue Bayou was definitely on my bucket list. When we first ate there with the kids in 2011, we had the best time ever. We sat right on the water where we could watch the boats go past. I had a Monte Cristo. The kids raved about the mac and cheese. I discovered that the gumbo served as an appetizer is the most delicious thing that exists on earth. The children's menus doubled as paper pirate hats. Grayson and Penelope kept teasing each other about a giant spider hiding in the bushes next to the table. We all had a blast.

In 2012, we decided to go again and take Mom, Dad, and Merry along. It was a disaster. With a larger party, we did not get seated anywhere near the water. My parents and my sister were not impressed. Penelope fell out of her chair and spent most of the meal crying. In 2014, we skipped Blue Bayou in favor of the glitzy, newish Carthay Circle in California Adventure

Oddly enough, Penelope is the one who decided we should eat in the Blue Bayou again this time. She honestly remembered nothing but falling out of her chair, but, nevertheless, made the unflinching pronouncement that we had to eat at Blue Bayou because it was best restaurant in Disneyland.  She's right about that.  I prefer the food at Cafe Orleans, but when it comes to ambiance, dining inside Pirates of the Caribbean just can't be beat.  (It's funny.  This trip Grayson told us that Pirates is a Disneyland thing to him.  He prefers the Haunted Mansion at Disney World, but he considers the Anaheim Pirates of the Caribbean the real one.)

This is a fake kiss, but then the real kiss looked
even more fake!  It's pretty hard to take a good
picture while kissing even in selfie mode!
You don't have a tenth anniversary every day, so Derrick and I decided Blue Bayou sounded like a great place to celebrate. (Originally we scheduled the trip for the week of our anniversary, but that ended up conflicting with one of Grayson's band camps.) We made a reservation for five just in case, but we kind of knew only four of us would be going. (I thought it was only fair to give Gideon a chance, but after I spent Monday night running around Cars Land while eating macaroni and cheese, I decided to take Mom and Dad up on their offer to watch him. Just a hunch, but I don't think the restaurant staff would have let me swim after Giddy through the pirate ride while I drank a mint julep. It just wouldn't have worked.)

Mom, Dad, and Merry didn't want to eat at Blue Bayou anyway, so it all worked out nicely. The reservation was for Thursday morning at 11:30. (You're more likely to get seated on the water with the earliest reservation slot.) Plus when I scheduled sixty days out, I saw online that the lunch menu was marginally cheaper and still featured Monte Cristos (both the most inexpensive and least cultured entree on the menu).

It's pretty hard to muster the mortal fortitude necessary for eating a Monte Cristo, though, under the best of circumstances.  After we stuffed ourselves with so much fattening food the first few days in the park, I confided to Derrick late Wednesday night that I wasn't sure I could stomach a Monte Cristo. By Thursday morning, though, I had changed my mind. Unfortunately when I checked the menu online in bed that morning, I discovered that the restaurant now served the dinner menu all day, and the Monte Cristo was no longer an option.

This had us all (but Penelope) scrambling to choose an alternative entree. We were also scrambling desperately to get up and into the park by 11:30. That sounds really late, but we had literally closed Disneyland down (at midnight) the night before and then taken our sweet time winding down back in the room, so we were all pretty exhausted, and the kids are hard to motivate when they're tired.

Finally we pulled ourselves together through some miracle.  We were dressed and ready and walking toward the security checkpoint in Downtown Disney when Derrick remarked, "We timed that just right."  What a jinx!  Just then I realized I'd forgotten to bring along my morning pills. When said pills are to stave off insanity, you don't really want to skip a dose, so I told Derrick and the kids to go on ahead and that I would meet them in New Orleans Square in front of the restaurant where Mom, Dad, and Merry were already waiting.

Going back to the room, grabbing the pills, and returning to the spot where I'd turned around took me seven minutes. (And that is using the elevators at the Paradise Pier which are not nearly as bad as urban legends suggest). I actually caught up with Derrick and the kids in the line at the Disneyland gates. Those entrance lines were exceptionally long that day, but I had also walked at the speed of light and felt pretty proud of myself.

By the time we reached the Blue Bayou and handed off Giddy, the crowd around the front of the restaurant was ridiculous. When it was my turn to check in, the massive mob of people closing in made things so hectic that I didn't even ask for a table on the water (which supposedly increases your chances of getting one).
They sat us right on the water, anyway, a stunning and very welcome surprise. We actually had the perfect table, over in one corner by a moored ship under a tree, positioned so that we were all somehow kind of facing the water. (Of all of us, Gray faced the water least, but he was also closest to the water and positioned so that he still half faced it.)

Since it was our tenth anniversary, I ordered a mint julep with a glow cube. (Disneyland's mint juleps are so refreshing--basically non-alcohilic mint lemonade poured from a pitcher with unlimited refills. Previously, the liquid has been green, but this trip it was clear. The flavor, though, was unchanged.)

I spent like the next ten minutes taking flow selfies and photos of the lemon in my mint julep lit from below by my glow cube.

I knew this was very obnoxious behavior, but I just couldn't help it. In fact the glow cube was such a hit that we asked them to bring out another one for Penelope's Sprite. After our meal, Gideon somehow got the idea that the glow cubes were a present for him and refused to let go of them for the rest of the day. (He carried them until he fell asleep in the Haunted Mansion line at like 10:45.)

When the bus boy came around with refills, I noticed the green glow cube in the mint julep pitcher and he chattily explained to me their system of easily distinguishing drink pitchers in the dark.

Grayson discovered that he loved the Blue Bayou gumbo because, um yeah, it's the most delicious substance on earth. Penelope was excited to get her macaroni and cheese. The rest of us ordered the pork loin. (I had also considered the lamb--the steak cost like $60,000, and I don't like crab cakes--but the pork won out because it was served with a stone-fruit chutney. I had guessed that it would be made of cherries, but I'm pretty sure it was apricots.)

The pork was pretty good, I guess, but I had a hard time taking it seriously. No sooner had we taken a bite than Grayson declared with a laugh, "This tastes like McDonald's sausage biscuits."

 I laughed out loud because he was so right. That pork loin didn't just taste sort of like McDonald's sausage biscuits. It tasted exactly like McDonald's sausage biscuits. Fortunately all three of us really like McDonald's sausage biscuits, but it's hard to take a $40 menu item seriously when it tastes exactly like what Mickey D's serves on the breakfast extra value menu for sometimes less than a buck.

The similarity in taste was exactly somewhat bizarre because this was meat on the bone versus whatever that substance is McDonald's serves on a biscuit with Americanish cheese substance on request.

At least it tasted good, though, and actually filled us up (which does not always happen with fine dining).

After dinner, I made the mistake of suggesting using the restrooms inside the restaurant because it would be quicker. Long story short, I was ridiculously wrong and getting out of there took us half a millennium.  Of course, after watching the boats go by on the bayou, we were all extremely eager to ride Pirates of the Caribbean.

We couldn't, though, because we had to meet everyone else right away outside the Tikki Room where Gideon was impatiently waiting for us.  Somewhat ironically, Thursday was the one day we did not ride Pirates of the Caribbean!  (Here's another weird thing I just learned.  Although we Rayburns rode Pirates five times this trip, Mom and Dad only rode it once!  That seems impossible to me, but they did ride a bunch of Fantasyland attractions that we didn't get to visit at all!)

 Penelope is desperately eager to eat at the Blue Bayou again next time we go. Of course, almost certainly by then she'll be at least ten and forced to order from the adult menu. Since she is not a fan of sausage biscuits, we'll see how that plays out.

Honestly, though, what entree you order hardly matters as long as there are plentiful mint juleps, glow cubes, and gumbo.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Top Ten Disney Memories: Memory #7: Smokey Pirates and Grim (Not Grinning) Ghosts

Disneyland 2017 Memory #7

Smokey Pirates and Grim (Not Grinning) Ghosts

Reading Penelope's memories of the trip actually inspired me to include this post. In general, I've noticed that her bare-bones versions of certain events unleash a flood of more fleshed out anecdotes in my brain. (For example, she mentions that while she and Gray built their own light sabers, I bought an R2D2 shirt, and Giddy got some orange candy. 

 The way I remember it, while I was taking my turn (second) riding Star Tours with the big kids, my mother bought Gideon a bag of orange candy and let him open it. Later while I was juggling several potential shirts trying to get an opinion from Derrick who was helping the kids build light sabers, Gideon accidentally spilled his entire bag of little orange balls all over the floor of the Star Trader because he got all freaked out when we wouldn't let him steal infinite light saber connectors.)

This is the moment before Gideon grabbed all the connectors
and threw his candy all over the floor creating a big fiasco!
Now obviously random details like those aren't important, but I still have fun recollecting them.

Anyway, reading Penelope's blog post about Pirates of the Caribbean made me remember some stuff that I'd love to talk about, namely how repeat trips on Pirates and Haunted Mansion drove home the point that this trip, the rides kept changing the more times we rode them.

It was actually really weird. Obviously variations exist in every Disney ride experience, but this trip those usually tiny differences were extreme and pointedly obvious.

Maybe this happened because of the bigger than average crowds (probably drawn by the end of D23 and the return of Fantasmic). I mean, Disneyland is always crowded in July, but this time the park was more packed than I personally have ever seen it. Though Disneyland is always immaculately clean, I almost never see anyone cleaning it. In the past I've seen two or three members of janitorial staff per trip tops (if that). This time, white-gloved janitorial staff were everywhere. The park was crawling with them. I swear I saw like 600. Some are even in the backgrounds of my pictures. The park was still immaculately clean, but the visible presence of in-park mousekeeping is one way I know for sure that attendance really was unusually high that week. So maybe the people running the rides were just overwhelmed, or maybe park attendance was varying dramatically by day of the week and time of day. Whatever the cause, the experience on rides we repeated throughout the week was markedly different each time.

I always take a picture of this dude with the pigs.  He and the
dirty-footed guy are my favorite characters in the whole ride.
No ride offered more variation than Pirates of the Caribbean. We rode that five times. (Feels like more, but I went back over my records and counted.) It was like a completely different ride every single time.

On Monday, my mom kept complaining that something was wrong with the music during the early scenes of the dead pirates lying around in their treasure caves. She thought the music wasn't turned up loud enough or was even missing.

When she mentioned this after the ride, I initially thought she was confused. After all, they've changed the ride a lot in recent years. Since they added in all the movie related enhancements, they've taken out a lot of old elements (i.e., the skull on the flag doesn't do any extended narration over the early scenes. No more, "Properly warned ye be says I" and so forth.)

I did notice that the skull guy never told us, "Dead men tells no tales," but I wasn't as concerned because I was more preoccupied with Gideon's first time reactions to everything. (The second time we rode, he nestled into my side before each of the drops.)

Anyway, we rode twice Monday night, and I basically thought Mom was crazy. Then when we rode again Tuesday night (just the four older Rayburns and Merry), we realized that the guy did tell us "Dead men tells no tales" that time. Plus much louder music was piping into all the cave treasure scenes. Mom had been right. It was like part of the soundtrack had been missing on Monday.
Tuesday night's ride felt markedly different in general, maybe just because we were in the very front row the boat but maybe not.

Probably my most awesome memory of the ride was the first time Gideon passed through the misty face of Davy Jones. How I wish I'd had a video camera trained on his face! Oh his expression! It was like mind. blown. Sheer terror turned to amazement. He opened his mouth and eyes wide and afterwards looked up at me like, "What devilry is this?"

Every time we go through the mist of Davy Jones, it gunks up my glasses, so one night I closed my eyes to prevent that from happening; I remember that. (I'm such a moron.) One time, Penelope asked if the mist was made of cigarette smoke, and we all teased her a lot about that.

I think it was on Tuesday night that we sailed through the mist to discover that the cannonball room was a touch smokier than usual. Well more than a touch. Every last bit of the air in the room was basically smoke/mist. I got concerned about what I was breathing. For a minute there, we were all sure that the ride was malfunctioning horribly and that we would be killed. Had too much of a chemical been put in? Was something on fire? (Were the experienced ride operators on strike or something? Did they replace them with college ride operators like the NFL had to do with referees a few years back?)

Another time the "cannon balls" in that room were much splashier than usual. That was later in the week. The drops were also bigger and splashier then, so maybe they had to add more boats and more water to accommodate more guests.

Gray poses as we get stuck on Pirates.
(Also pictured: Nellie panicking.)
Then one time when we were going up the waterfall at the end, the ride stopped for several minutes. It was not a cool place to stop. I mean, we were tilted backwards, and it was the only part of the entire ride with no scenery at all. For some reason, Gideon (who had been asleep all through the line that time) and Penelope were terrified.

According to my records, we only rode Haunted Mansion four times. (It was broken down Monday night, but still, I feel like we road both of these rides like seventy million times.) One time we rode it was really late on Thursday night, and Gideon slept through the entire line and ride.

Again the ride experience was dramatically different every time. One time, whoever was running the ride must have been drunk or something. They let way, way, way too many people into the ride at once. We were walking down the haunted hallway/portrait gallery, and I think there were more people in there than there were lined up outside to see Fantasmic. I'm not sure how this happened. I know there are at least two different elevators, so maybe they are supposed to keep one running behind the other but didn't. It was a little crazy. We were like eighty-five abreast squeezing down that hallway.

 The weirdest thing that happened on Haunted Mansion occurred on Wednesday night when Mom and Dad had Giddy back at the hotel, and the rest of us had some dead time to fill before our Space Mountain window opened up. Merry, Nellie, and I were sharing a doom buggy when the ride stopped (as it often does. Darn those "pranky spirits!") Our car had almost reached the very end of the ride. We were in the cemetery scene just past the singing busts. After sitting there for a minute, Merry suddenly said, "Who is that? I've never noticed that before!" She pointed in the near distance at this eerie silhouette that looked like the outline of the grim reaper standing at the end of a long corridor. None of us had ever noticed it before. We were stopped in front of it for at least three minutes (maybe more). Don't ask me why exactly, but it was legitimately creepy. It didn't seem to go with anything else in there in tone, and the longer we were stuck there staring at it, the creepier and creepier it began to seem.

Most of us agree that Pirates and Haunted Mansion are our favorite rides, but I was worried Giddy didn't like them. He seemed a little reserved, possibly scared, while riding both of them. Then then other day, we were watching a video about New Orleans Square on YouTube, and he got super excited when footage of those rides came on, jabbering how he had ridden them in Disneyland and seeming just delighted. So that's a relief!

Monday, August 14, 2017

Top Ten Disney Memories: Memory #6: Screamin' Selfies & Light Speed Ovary Punch

Disneyland 2017 Memory #6
Screamin' Selfies & Light Speed Ovary Punch

I love Disneyland thrill rides. They're just the right amount of thrill for me. They provide an exhilarating rush, but no real scares and no significant whiplash (except for maybe the Matterhorn). I often tell my family I would gladly ride anything at Disneyland (though I realized during a discussion today that isn't quite true. Those submarines make me feel borderline claustrophobic. Yes, I would ride them again, but it would take the persuasion of a child desperate to experience the attraction. Being stuffed down in that tiny tube with all those other people is almost as bad as getting an MRI).

My point is, though, I'm not scared of the roller coasters and can't get enough of them. During our 2014 trip, I discovered that screaming on the thrill rides makes them even better, a release to go with the rush. I now scream on everything screamable and honestly feel let down in situations where screaming is not appropriate. (Not that I would scream my way through Peter Pan or anything, but indoor Fastpass attractions like Star Tours sometimes feel like a missed opportunity for screaming.)

The one Disney ride that does consistently scare me is Soarin'. I don't get panic attacks from the illusion of flying like my mom; I just worry because they force you to stow everything underneath your seat, so I'm not allowed to wear my camera around my neck like I do on every other ride. The whole time, I can't help worrying that the simulator will dump my camera right out of that tiny basket under the seat and send it crashing to the tile.

I realize the ride is designed not to drop your stuff, but still I always feel safer wearing and holding my camera. I'm the only one I truly trust to keep it safe because I'm highly motivated not to drop it. And now I've got my phone's safety to worry about, too. Ordinarily on roller coasters, I stuff it way down into my pocket.

But when Merry, Derrick, Gray, Penelope and I rode California Screamin' Wednesday afternoon, I happened to be wearing a pair of shorts without a secure pocket. The pockets were not cut for holding items fast. I mean, you go upside down on that ride. I was terrified my phone would fall out!

"Maybe it would be safer to hold it," I mused. As we approached the boarding area, I turned the problem over and over in my mind, never firmly certain which insecure option was safer.

Finally, despite the repeat warnings over the loudspeaker and from cast members to secure all loose articles, I chose to hold the phone in my hands as I rode the coaster. This provoked comment from my family.

Gray was sure it would fall.

"Not if I'm holding onto it," I declared. "And I have no intention of letting go." When your phone is in your hands, you're highly motivated to hold on tight.

At the last minute, I changed my mind and stuffed the phone into my pocket. Then I pulled the safety harness over my head and realized, "If I can stuff the phone into my pocket in this position, that means it can fall right out again, too!"

Now that the harness was down, I could see that I would have no problem holding onto it with my elbows instead of using the hand rails provided.

So then at the very last second I reversed my decision, grabbed my phone, and held it tightly in my hands, holding onto the safety harness with my elbows instead of my fingers.

Then I thought, "Well since I've got the phone out and all, I might as well make a video." Why waste an opportunity?

I turned on the camera and discovered it was in selfie mode. (It just autostarts that way when it's in the mood.) I was going to flip to the other lens, but the ride started, so I just hit record and went with it.

"Probably better in selfie mode, anyway," I decided, reasoning that I might not be able to manipulate the phone enough to get a good view of anything in regular mode.

So pretty much the video just shows a close up of my face screaming and yelling "I'm upside down right now!" as we go into the loop.

In other words, it's awesome.

It might be my favorite video I've ever taken. I'm so glad I did it. The footage is just so weird and hilarious. Gideon loves it. He laughs and laughs.

(I worried honestly that he would be upset when he saw the videos and realized we had been riding some stuff without him, but instead he reacted joyfully like he was experiencing the rides through the videos.)

Of course--camera happy freak that I am--my immediate thought was, "That wasn't so bad! They really warn you too much! It was easy to hold the phone! Next time I've got to try a front facing video" (which I was able to do on Friday, but the first one turned out better. Also during Friday's ride, as I was turning the phone for a better view, my arm got stuck in this really weird position because of its angle around the safety restraint, but I was able to remove it once the ride stopped.)

From then on out, I took video on all the open air thrill rides. I had so much fun taking these videos. Just the act of making them enhanced my experience immeasurably, and I love watching them.

Of course, tonight we watched a video about deaths at Disneyland that gives me pause. The vast majority of Disneyland deaths resulted from failure to follow instructions by guests. What if I had lost control of my phone in the loop and it had fallen at an angle and fatally hit another rider on the head? Good thing that didn't happen!

Now, of course, you can't record Star Tours because that's against the rules. (This seems like a really antiquated rule now that people record literally every other ride. Back in the day, people mainly only tried to record Star Tours to try to experience the ride at home.) Even though I didn't record it, I thought I would lump Star Tours into this post, too.

The first time we rode, it was late at night, and it was Merry and the four older Rayburns. We were all chatting in the line, including the cast members who weren't really paying attention. They already told some of us to go through the final turnstile before asking any of us how many were in our party. This caused a lot of confusion at the gate. Finally they decided just to put all of us in row 6, the back row. It seemed like a rushed attempt to fix someone else's mistake.

I had never ridden in the very back before but didn't think much of it--until I fastened my seat belt and realized that my feet didn't touch the floor.

"Is something different about this ride?" Merry and I were asking each other.

"It seems normal to me," said Penelope (whose feet had apparently never touched the floor when she had last ridden at age five).

We speculated that the back row was for really tall people--either that or they'd made big changes to the ride since 2014.

This did not seem like a big deal until the ride started. Here's the thing. Until the ride started, I didn't realize how much I usually press my feet against the floor to brace myself. I couldn't really brace with my arms, because I needed one hand to hold the heavy camera that was around my neck. So basically I couldn't brace at all.

In the past, I've always complained that pregnant women and little kids can't ride Star Tours. I mean, why on earth not? You're not actually going anywhere right?

Yeah, well, when your feet don't touch the floor, suddenly tilting forward for light speed is not at all pleasurable. In fact, none of it is pleasurable. All the tilting and jerking and sudden stopping was excruciatingly painful.

"I feel like I got punched in the ovaries over and over again," my sister said as we exited the ride.
"Good thing you don't want children," I joked inappropriately because you can always count on me to say something that strikes me as cringe worthy in retrospect.

Seriously, she was grimacing through the whole ride, and it was pretty painful and scary for me (as I tried to anticipate which way we'd be shifting next) until I got the idea to wrap my left fist around the seat belt and pull slightly away from my body as needed, keeping kind of a buffer between the belt and my uterus. Basically the ride was just throwing us into the seat belt again and again, and we were forced to lean against it in midair. It was like being thrown off the top of a building at high speed, then being caught in mid air by a thin belt with no give that whammed into your lower abdomen and upper pelvis. Many times, we were not touching anything but the belt since the speed and angle threw us out of the seat into the belt.

On Thursday we rode again as a large group (using rider swap). We sat in a normal row. My feet touched the floor. It was like a completely different ride.

Take their warnings seriously, though. If you are a pregnant woman, do not ride Star Tours. If they put you in the back row, literally any other ride at the park would be safer and more comfortable for you and your unborn child.