Disneyland–Tips, anyone?

Disneyland LogoWe’re going to Disneyland.  I’ve already gotten some great tips,  but I would like to hear even more.  Please share your  wisdom born of experience.  What would you do differently?  What did you do that worked out really well?  I  am especially interested in advice from people who took both younger and older children to Disneyland.  Did you split up and have one adult go with the older child(ren) and another stay with the younger children?  Did you do lots of switching off?  How did you prepare younger children for the potentially frightening rides?  Also, what did you carry with you into Disneyland and how did you carry it?  Water, chapstick, ponchos?  In  a purse, a backpack, a waistpack?

Great New Blog: Late Enough

I spent too much time today reading the blog archives of a person I don’t know and haven’t met.* A newly discovered really good blog is a pleasure. After a few posts convince you that you want to read more, the excitement of clicking on “archive” and seeing the months unfurl waiting to be read is like looking at a field of snow no one has touched yet: it’s waiting for you. 

Late Enough has only a smallish archive, but I’ve read enough to be excited to see more.  The genre is classic mommy blog: a daily life answer to what it’s like in the trenches.  I found this blog by clicking something over at Every Day I Write the Book.  So, not only does Kacy have a great blog of her own (she was already on my blogroll), she also has some really interesting people following her blog.    

* “A person I don’t know and haven’t met” is redundant, but I like how it sounds.

Inside a Utah Caucus

I was surprised by the degree to which attendance felt like a statement of belief or even a commitment. It was a bit intimidating. As I approached the door someone (a friend, actually) challenged me and said, “Are you here because you are really a Republican or because you just wanted to come to our caucus?” Good question. I told him that if I belonged at either caucus it was more the Republican one. But on reflection, I don’t know. I would love to run for public office someday, but one of the things holding me back (besides not enjoying the appropriate type of extroversion in group settings) will be my inability to say, “As a lifelong Democrat . . .” or “As a lifelong Republican. . .” The truth is, the labels don’t fit that well. Also, I have been surprised by how much they vary from location to location. When I lived in Texas, I attended a Republican caucus and discovered that I was not a Republican. In California, I discovered that I was not a Democrat. Now in Utah . . . can’t I just be a person who thinks carefully about the issues and strives to be well-informed? Can’t I just be someone who thinks Bob Bennett has done a pretty good (not great) job and that seniority is an important issue? No–not if I want to have a voice.

One thing that bothered me in the caucus I attended tonight was that the precinct chair suggested that it would be unethical to run as a county or state delegate unless one accepted the county Republican platform in its entirety. [Is this true? I hope not. Please someone tell me chapter and verse of why it's not]. I am curious as to whether he made liars out of those candidates. Did all of them accept every point in the platform? I couldn’t have. Among other issues, I am not a fan of “consumer choice in education.” The platform seemed to be clearly pro-voucher [I didn't study the platform carefully though, it was read aloud to us] and while I believe that parents should be able to choose where they send their children, I believe the government has a proper interest in directing its limited resources towards public schools and education for citizenship. I suspect I wouldn’t be able to endorse every point in the Democratic platform either.

The turnout tonight was fabulous. Apparently people were riled up by healthcare and channeled their feelings into caucus attendance. Two years ago there were 25, tonight there were 75. One problem was that that meant there were a lot of newbies (including me–I can’t figure out where I was two years ago). For those of us rusty on Robert’s Rules of order, things started happening awfully fast. Before we knew it, the precinct chair and vice-chair had been chosen–running almost unopposed and having offered no explanation of their philosophy as delegates. That made sense because it had been explained that the chair and vice-chair were not automatically delegates. Then, after the vote it was discovered that the chairs automatically serve as delegates so suddenly rather than 5 county delegates to elect, we had only 3, and instead of 2 state delegates, we had only 1. That was a big disappointment.

I enjoyed hearing from the candidates for county delegate. I asked a lot of questions. I hope this was not too annoying to my neighbors, but as I saw that I did not have a future as a delegate, I thought a good use of my time was determining who would be a good delegate to vote for. Only 2 or 3 candidates out of 8 were informed about anything going on in the state legislature. When pressed on issues, 4 candidates mentioned that they were for stricter immigration controls. It was another moment that made me wonder whether I had caucused in the right place. Is there room in the big tent for me? I liked the part of the Republican platform that mentioned the word “humane” in connection with immigration reform.

I was disappointed in the run-up to the vote for state delegates. Someone made a motion to limit the candidate statements for state delegate to two minutes. [It was getting late!] It was promptly seconded and passed. Before I attend the next caucus, I am going to figure out how to delay a vote on a motion in order to have a discussion on it. It made no sense that we heard from our county delegate candidates at length and were able to ask them questions but only heard two minutes from our state delegate candidates. It was the hope of electing good state delegates that brought me to the caucus so this was a real disappointment. Next time, I think I would like to make a motion that state delegates be elected before county delegates. If we are going to run out of time for debate, let’s skimp on the county delegates, not the state delegates.

On Bob Bennett: of the seven candidates for state delegate, only one suggested that he would likely vote for Bennett. The others were committed to “new blood” to greater and lesser degrees. I assumed that this meant that the sole pro-Bennett candidate would survive to run in the run-off election we held, because the other six would split the anti-Bennett vote. However, he did not; he was defeated. If my precinct is representative (and I don’t know that it is) Bennett should be very, very concerned about his prospects at the May convention.

Added later:  Here is a NYTimes article that describes Senator Bennett’s situation well.  I fear getting a senator more conservative than Bennett.  What would that mean?

Like: Urban Spoon

I want to recommend  the website Urban Spoon.  Just like Amazon, TripAdvisor, and Yelp, it features user reviews.  Urban Spoon focuses exclusively on restaurants.  I like that  Urban Spoon is an aggregator–not only does it have user reviews that people type in when they visit the site, but it also gathers critics’ reviews from major newspapers and magazines.  For bloggers, they offer “spoonbacks.”  If you put the Urban Spoon image in a review on your blog, they will publish your post on Urban Spoon with a link back to your blog.  It gives tiny audience bloggers like me a chance to feel famous (and I can’t help it, I love that!). 

Urban Spoon has a section for  many of the major cities in the United States.  I was pleased to see that they had one for Salt Lake.  I was even more pleased to realize that American Fork, Orem, and Provo (as well as several other small  Utah cities) are listed as neighborhoods of greater Salt Lake.  I was surprised to find how much information they  had about  restaurants in Orem and Provo.  

Urban Spoon also features a very simple thumbs up/thumbs down rating system for restaurants.  I admire the simplicity of “like/don’t like,”, but I wish they also offered an “it’s okay” option.  Also, of course there is no way to tell whether my vote of “like it” for Golden Corral is because it makes my children so happy or if it is because I am under the impression that it is incredible gourmet fare!  But I figure that is what the review section is for.  The simple rating system does have some utility.  If you sort a city or neighborhood by popularity, the consistently people pleasing restaurants do rise to the top.  This is especially valuable if you are looking for a restaurant to take a diverse group of people to.

Other features I appreciate are the wishlist (when you read a great review you can add the restaurant to your wishlist so that you remember to try it in the future), the maps (showing restaurants you’ve reviewed, or restaurants on your wishlist, or Chinese restaurants in a given neighorhood)  and the ability to compare reviews and wishlists with friends.  Give it a try;  see what you think! 

 Have you already tried Urban Spoon?  Do you use another dining review site like Yelp?  Why do you like it?  I was a fan of  TripAdvisor’s reviews, but TripAdvisor has less information about each restaurant, lacks the critics reviews, doesn’t offer a spoonback type feature, and the majority of the reviews are written from the perspective of the tourist rather than the townie.  Urban Spoon has won my allegiance.

Blue Lemon

blue lemon pictureI visited the Blue Lemon restaurant with high expectations.   The good thing about going to a place that has received a lot of hype is that even if you are disappointed, you might still have a pretty good experience.  That describes how I felt about the Blue Lemon. 

To enjoy Blue Lemon, you need to go knowing what to expect.  I hadn’t read the reviews carefully enough. 

What Blue Lemon is:  Blue Lemon is  upscale.  The place has a San Francisco vibe, the decor is trendy and pleasing.  They serve gourmet-ish food, locally sourced and seasonal food.  [Um, how seasonal & locally-sourced can you be around here?  Pdad ordered the fruit salad, and I'll just say, I want to see the local farmer who manages cantaloupe in March!].  Healthy food (not fried–except for the sweet potato fries?, not microwaved).  Blue Lemon offers beautiful presentation.  There will be artful splashes of sauce surrounding something lovely.  The food looks good.  Rest assured, your Blue Lemon food will taste good. 

What Blue Lemon is not:  Blue Lemon is not fine dining.  It is not the place for a romantic date.  (It _is_ child friendly if you are willing to spend $$ for children’s food).  Blue Lemon is large  and also noisy.  You will stand in line and walk down the counter to order–almost a cafeteria type ordering experience–although they do bring the food to your table.  The good news about it not being a fine dining experience is that your food will arrive quickly.  The bad news is that these are not cafeteria portions.  You will get a moderate, Europeanish portion of food.  You will not pay cafeteria prices.  Fortunately, you would probably not expect to, given the quality and character of the food.  If Blue Lemon were a full  fine dining experience, the prices would be a bargain. 

The service at Blue Lemon is not top notch.  Perhaps they are victims of their own popularity.  However, it doesn’t matter why; poor service is still not as good as good service.  They were completely disorganized.  We ordered a fancy drink and had trouble getting anyone to tell us where to find it or when it was coming.  (Aside: Do not order a coffee-less fancy coffee drink.  BAD IDEA.  I don’t know if it is because the coffee makes the drink or if Blue Lemon just isn’t good at drinks in general, but the one we tried was a very poor cousin to the Wendy’s Frosty at 4 times the price.)  We wanted to order one of the allegedly fabulous vanilla Nanaimo bars at the Blue Lemon Bistro next door and the counter help (who also help at Blue Lemon) had apparently gone on extended hiatus or forgotten about the Bistro.  It was very frustrating.  In the end, we had to leave without dessert.                       

All in all: I am glad that I experienced Blue Lemon.  I would probably go again, especially if I happened to be in the area or if someone invited me.  I am a fan of tasty and beautiful food.  I don’t mind the small portions or the higher than Fresh Mex prices.  However, the large and noisy ambience isn’t what I’m looking for.  Child-friendly dining can be  good, but most children would not be ready to appreciate this food.   Good service is a must–I hope for it at fast food places–I expect it at places where the prices are higher.  Blue Lemon has  room for improvement.      

 If you go: Blue Lemon 11073 N. Alpine Highway, Highland, UT 84003 (801) 756-7993.  Open from 11:00 a.m.-9 p.m. (they close early!) every day but Sunday.  

Others’ Reviews:

Daily Herald

Deseret News

Samantics

Utah Valley

Vanilla Joy

Blue Lemon on Urbanspoon

The Chocolate

The Chocolate LogoHow can a blog named  Chocolate & Garlic skip reviewing an establishment known as The Chocolate?  It won’t–here goes:   The Chocolate is located in Orem at 212 S. State St. in a historic house from the beginning of the last century.  The neat thing about The Chocolate is that it is a bakery, a place where food is made, wedding cakes are ordered, and catering orders are prepared, but it is also a place to eat and a place to spend time with others while eating–definitely not just a bakery. 

Eating there made me want to open my own business.  It made me sad that I hadn’t thought of The Chocolate first.  (Pdad said he thinks I’m better suited to teaching philosophy than to  running my own business.  I’m not sure he is right, but there is some evidence on his side).  I love their choice of building–bakeries are always these antiseptic places with tile, gleaming glass cases, and industrial kitchens.  A typical bakery might have a few tables so that you can indulge yourself if you’re not able to wait long enough to transport your guilty pleasure somewhere else, but the emphasis is always on the purchase, not the consumption.  The Chocolate is different.  The setting is important.  This is a place to hang out and have a conversation.  This is a place to go on a date.  This would be  a great place to bring an older child for some special attention and a treat.  The required glass cases and cash register are at the front, the bakery is hidden at the back, but much of the rest of the house is open.  You’re free to stroll through a few different rooms until you claim the seating nook  that speaks comfort to you. 

I think it would be tempting at a place like The Chocolate to go too sweet–to be too Victorian or to decorate in pastel pinks and make it too feminine.   Don’t fear.  If anything, the Chocolate goes a little too far in the other direction–lime green paint in once place, zebra stripe pillows in another–this is not your grandmother’s sitting room.  Also, they have music piped through the rooms that suggests youth and energy rather than — I don’t know — afternoon tea with the finger crook’d just so? 

As for the guilty pleasures themselves, they don’t  go too sweet there either.  I am a big fan of their frosting.  Not too sweet, but not like eating a stick of butter (yet still plenty buttery), just right.  Pdad and I enjoyed three confections there: a slice of Kitty Katrina cake, a mint fudge brownie, and a turtle tart (I think they called it a tart–it was definitely a turtle).  We paid $8.45.  Their prices seem quite reasonable, food+ setting considered.  I can’t imagine buying a full size cake there ($45!), but  perhaps that is because I am willing and able to make my own (could you watch my kids for the afternoon, though?).   What I easily can imagine though is sampling a slice and sharing it with someone else.  The cake slice and brownie were large, and although the turtle was smaller, three desserts was definitely more than two people post-dinner needed (but there were so many things we wanted to try!).     The caramel on the turtle was sublime, but I thought the crust was a bit too hard.  I wouldn’t order the turtle again.  The mint brownie was good–it was a muted mint–similar yet superior to  BYU’s famous mint brownies.  As I said, the frosting on the Kitty Katrina cake was wonderful.  Surprisingly, when we visited (and admittedly the selection was running low at the end of the evening on a Saturday) the majority of the desserts were not chocolate. 

All in all: I hope to make many return visits to the Chocolate.  I love the concept–desserts only, historic house, find your own table, no one rushes you, stay and talk.  The desserts are pretty good too!

If you go:  The Chocolate opens at 11 a.m. every day but Sunday.  Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday, they stay open until 10:00 p.m.  Wednesday, Friday and Saturday they stay open until 11 p.m.  Who ever heard of a bakery open until11 p.m.?  It’s The Chocolate!   (801) 224-7334.   212 S. State, Orem, UT.  See also  The Chocolate Website  and  The Chocolate Blog

Others’ Reviews:
Daily Herald

The Chocolate, a Dessert Cafe on Urbanspoon

Joe’s Cafe

Joe’s Cafe is located across State Street from the University Mall in Orem.  Joe is open until 4 p.m. and he serves breakfast and lunch all day.  The menu has waffles, pancakes, eggs, omelets, sandwiches, and hamburgers.  There are a few kid’s meals as well.  I thought the food was really good.  Reviews I’d read before visiting had led me to believe that portions would be huge, but that wasn’t the case on our visit.  The serving sizes were just average. We tried the Western  Omelet, the ABC (Avocado-Bacon-Cheese)  omelet, the pancake combo, the Belgian waffle, and a corndog.  Everyone liked their order; my Western omelet was really good.  I enjoyed the feeling of eating real homestyle food, freshly prepared.  It was caloric yes, but the ingredients were honest ones, the ones I would put in at home, not something concocted to tempt my metabolism in a laboratory.  Prices were not cheap, but reasonable. 

Although Joe’s is relatively new, I noticed multiple regulars stop by during our visit. 

The restaurant is  narrow, but by going all the way to the back we did manage to find a table that seated the five of us and found room for our stroller.  (There is parking in back of the restaurant). Unfortunately, this isn’t a comfy booth type of place: just little tables and chairs.   I like the way Joe’s is decorated with vibrant yellow paint on top, and black (is it called wainscoting or beadboard?) on the bottom.  The walls are covered with snapshots.  Every photograph includes Joe, the chef and owner, along with a group of first time visitors.  The photo-taking is an ongoing process; we had our picture taken today.  Joe is extremely outgoing; he checked several times to make sure we were happy.  He noticed that our 6 year old had finished his Belgian Waffle kid’s meal while the rest of us were still eating and offered to bring him another half on the house.  He counseled us to buy the lad “a big boy meal” the next time we stop by. 

All in all: I wouldn’t say that Joe’s was amazing, but I will definitely eat there again.  I am eager to try the hamburgers on my next visit. 

If you go: 1126 S. State St., Orem, UT 84097, (801) 607-5377, open every day but Sunday until 4 p.m. Breakfast and Lunch served all day.

Others’ Reviews:

Samantics 
Daily Herald

Joe's Café on Urbanspoon

Normal

It’s been a good, tough week here at Pfamily Headquarters.  Very tough, very good.  The  good news is that Kate’s spinal tap results came back and everything was normal as was her bloodwork.  So, after more than $10,000 in medical tests–not hyperbole–we know that 1) She hasn’t had a stroke, 2) she doesn’t have a brain tumor, 3) there isn’t a hole in her heart, 4) she doesn’t have multiple sclerosis, and 4) she probably doesn’t have a neurotransmitter deficiency.  This is very, very, very good news because I didn’t want Kate to have any of those things.  The only problem is that she still has the tremor and we still don’t know why.  This may be no big deal– an “idiopathic” or unexplained tremor may simply continue–odd, worrisome even, but no ultimate harm done.  However, it is too early to tell if/how the tremor will affect her handwriting and other fine motor abilities.   

Since November I’ve been intellectually and emotionally consumed with worrying about Kate and the upcoming test or appointment or whatever.  Now the tests and appointments are at an end.  My anxiety has not yet met it’s end, but I hope it soon will.  It would help if Kate’s tremor would lessen or disappear the way a person’s sore throat pain starts to ease as soon as they hear that it’s not strep.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like that is going to happen–I guess Kate didn’t get the memo. 

Aside from my continuing anxiety about Kate, another tough thing about this week was  the consecutive  504 appointments I attended at Duncan and Amelia’s schools.  (A 504 appointment is a meeting with your child’s school in which you make a plan for dealing with the child’s disability).  Duncan’s appointment was for speech therapy.  Although I’ve been through the 504 process before, I was disturbed anew when I received the letter to schedule the meeting.  I don’t feel like a parent who needs to meet with a special education liaison!  I don’t recognize my child as being in the disabled category: someone who “has a mental or physical impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.”  Nonetheless,  Duncan can’t make a few of the sounds six year olds should be able to make.  More significantly, he has a whole word stutter.  (Have you ever heard of a whole word stutter?  Rather than repeating the initial sound, a child with this type of stutter repeats an entire word over and over.   Before Duncan, I had never heard of it).   

Of course, lots of kids are sent to speech therapy.  It’s no big deal.  I went to speech therapy as a child, and I say “lllll” very well now, thank you very much.  I guess it’s just a little tricky in that I am used to academic tests in which one hopes to be in the 90th or 95th or even 99th percentile, so to hear that Duncan tests at the 12th percentile–it seems so  low!  But then I remember that this is just his ability to make the “k” sound–not a measure of  his abilities as a whole.  However,  then I remember the stutter and that seems like it might be a bit bigger of a deal.  Will he ever be easy to listen to?  The speech therapist says that they will teach him to take a breath and slow down before he speaks.  Could that solve it?  Waves of worry wash over me and then recede.  The tide comes in, it goes out, it comes in again.   

The fact that I find receiving these 504 letters, with their mentions of “special education,” disturbing doubtless suggests that I need to adjust my thinking regarding special education.  However, recognizing this doesn’t make it so.   

Amelia has had a 504 plan for years.  Her 504 specifies that she be “accommodated” by being allowed to use a keyboard in class.  She types everything because fine motor tasks are a challenge.  Her  504 meeting this morning was a bucket of fun.  Her good teacher was pressing the district to offer Amelia more “services” because although typing resolves many of her academic-related fine motor issues, the teacher worries that Amelia will have trouble accomplishing  important basic life tasks (cutting meat, tieing a shoe, cutting her own fingernails).  I understand this concern well, as it mirrors my own,  but the notion that playing with putty (my cynical description of occupational therapy) twice a week for twenty minutes will help—-I’m painfully skeptical. 

The whole meeting felt like a wound being reopened, poked at, examined.  It reminded me that Amelia has real problems that do and will affect her life.  They aren’t going to go away.  I had wanted to forget that.  Just as I’d like for Kate to wake up tomorrow without the tremor and for Duncan to be able to spit out his story on the first telling, I would like to see Amelia’s fine motor problems vanish.  I know, I know, if wishes were horses . . . , but couldn’t my kids just be “normal” kids without the issues?  Sometimes the unusualness of their respective problems bothers me– as though, if I could somehow meet another three year old with a tremor, or 6 year old with a whole word stutter, or 10 year old who struggled to tie her shoes, everything would be  so much better.     

What is normality and when does the moniker apply?  Are most of us disabled?  Do almost all of us face some sort of deficit that leaves us at a level less than the norm?  Some issues are bigger than others.  I recognize that parents whose children have cerebral palsy or Down syndrome, for example, face difficulties far more daunting than the minor frustrations and disappointments I  have faced with my children thus far.  Also, from the outside looking in, it appears that some families have it all: they appear smart, athletic, healthy, etc.  But I know that none of us will truly escape challenges in this life.  And although there are many other sorts of challenges, the challenges we face often arise internally:  social deficits, medical problems, mental problems, learning disabilities, etc. 

It is likely that to be normal, one must be abnormal in some way.   Can we take comfort in the normality of our abnormalities?