Sep 18, 2015

Mirror Mirror on the Wall, Who's the Fastest of Them All?

After months and months of waiting, my sister and I were finally able to participate in one of the Disneyland races over Labor Day weekend. And yes, it was everything we expected and more!

It was a whirlwind of a weekend.  Thursday night we drove to Albuquerque and stayed with my godparents. Thanks Ray and Anita for letting us crash with you guys!  Friday morning found Steph, Marlena, Noah, and myself waking up at a ridiculously early 5:30, ready to hit the road and drive the remaining 11 hours to Anaheim.  Luckily the drive went pretty quickly, and we made it in one piece.  And we definitely appreciate Noah driving in the California rush hour traffic!

By the time we checked into our hotel, it was bedtime, because our day was starting early on Saturday.  My alarm shook me none-too-gently out of sleep at a whopping 3:40 A.M.  I was the only one running the 10k race that morning, but my sister was kind enough to wake up early and hang out with me until I had to head toward my corral to start the race.

Disney characters getting us pumped for the race!

The crowd was huge!  I had never seen so many people lined up for a race. The positive energy was incredible!  It's always amazes me just how insane runners seem - waking up at all hours of the morning (or night) to run who knows how many miles. Not only that, but being excited about it! It must be all those endorphins.  And I love that I'm one of the crazies who is a part of this awesome and spectacular community! 

I was jittery as we prepared for the start.  I had tweaked my knee a few months earlier and hadn't been training all that much.  For weeks, I had to mentally prepare myself to not overdo it, and to not be upset with myself if I didn't do as well as I hoped.  And with the help of the positive atmosphere, I knew it would still be a blast no matter what the outcome.

The race started and all my nerves disappeared, and immediately I felt the exhilaration that only running brings.  As I ran, the crowd disappeared, and I felt happier than I had in ages.  The bliss that accompanies running is the true feeling of freedom.

I finished the race with a personal best time, and later found out that I came in 19th out of 389 individuals in my age division.  Time to start training for the next race to improve my time and standing!

After the race, we spent the day at California Adventure, riding roller coasters and watching parades.  Marlena, who worked at Disney World, was pro at getting us in the fastest lines, using fast passes, and making sure we made the best out of our experience!

Enjoying Radiator Springs

Steph and I got the exact same score.
It happened on the Buzz Lightyear ride, too.
We must be sisters!

The Mad Hatter knows how to throw a Tea Party!

Steph and I woke up at 3:40 again on Sunday morning, ready for our half marathon.  If I thought the crowd was huge for the 10k, it was nothing compared to the mass of people we joined for the half.

The race started, and, if possible, the energy was even more alive and exciting than the day before.  Swarms of spectators lined the course, complete with high school bands and cheerleaders, girl scouts, small business employees, groups handing out water and quick energy foods, and friends and families of race participants.  Just when we would feel so tired that we wanted to stop and walk, the crowds would grow, and the encouragement was enough to keep us going, to push through that mental barrier holding us back.

Ran the first 6 miles non-stop!

At about mile 9, we came across a group of runners wearing green T-shirts.  A woman and man were each holding onto the end of a small bungee cord.  The man yelled, "If you're having a good time, let me hear you!" The group of runners nearest, including us, cheered.  The man then said, "I can't see you, but I can hear your energy!"  The man was blind, and the woman and his fellow runners were ensuring a clear path for his safety while he ran.  He was an inspiration, and Steph and I were invigorated by his stamina, and his energy kept us moving.

Probably the best part of the entire race, in my opinion, was running through Angel Stadium.  When we ran into the stadium, we were greeted with loud, upbeat music, and shouts from spectators sitting in the stands.  We had just hit about mile 10. We were tired, sweaty, and hurting, but that extra support pushed us, reminding us that we would finish strong.  And finish strong we did!  As we ran the last mile, it was as if all the aches in our feet, knees, and legs disappeared.  Our energy was renewed as we sprinted, excitedly, across that finish line!

We did it!  And you know what? I think our next endeavor will be the Dopey Challenge at Walt Disney World 2017, which includes the 5k, 10k, half marathon, and full marathon races, for one exciting, tiring, and fun-filled weekend!

The four of us spent the rest of the day at Disneyland, going to shows, riding Thunder Mountain and Indiana Jones, convincing Steph to ride Splash Mountain, watching the 60th anniversary light parade, and doing everything else Disney.  We also went to the animation academy where they offered a fifteen minute drawing session to teach us to draw Piglet. Probably the best part of the entire trip, though, was the Frozen sing along. Yes, it really happened, and it was AWESOME!  It really was a spectacular day with amazing fun and wonderful people! Though leaving Monday to go back to reality was not near as exciting as heading toward Disney, I'm grateful for the opportunity to have had a fantastic trip with my sister and friends.  Can't wait to go back soon!

Animation Academy

Frozen sing along!

Aug 2, 2013

Happiest Place on Earth

The other day I was reading the blog posts I had written in Vienna, and that's when I realized how many details and experiences I had forgotten!  Though I probably won't be very good at it, I decided to keep my blog going, so I can record all the wonderful adventures and experiences in my life.  It doesn't matter to me how many people read it or follow it, I just want to make sure I remember how absolutely fantastic my life is!

I can't even describe how excited I was to come home this summer!  Sure, I was leaving some great friends back in Provo, but my excitement to be with my family and once again work for the YMCA after school and summer programs surpassed any negative feelings I had about leaving.

Maddie drove to Los Alamos with Cora and I on her way home to Arkansas, which was a fabulous way to begin the summer.  Though Maddie was only here for a few days, we showed her all the sights, and had a great time! And though I miss that girl since she's now graduated and has left me on my own at BYU, I know she's having a great time in Prague this summer and will have a great time being an adult in the real world!

After Maddie left, I wasted no time.  I was back at work the Monday I got home!  Working at Chamisa with Andrea and the other staff, and especially the kids is so much fun.  But even though I was having fun there, I couldn't wait to begin summer camp.  I am the Drama Director at summer camp and every summer I get to work with kids ages kindergarten to sixth grade.  We laugh, dance, play games, and enjoy all kinds of activities and it is the best!

This summer, however, began with an unexpected and heartbreaking event.  Our Camp Director, Olivia, passed away a few days after camp had begun.  She was like a second mom to both me and my sister, as well as many others.  When I worked my first summer camp in 2009, she was the Cooking Director, and was the most pleasant, hilarious, and awesome person to work with.  Since I am friends with her daughters, I got to know Olivia even better.  The next few years that I worked summer camp, she was the greatest mentor, support, and listener I could ask for.  When I was stressed, she was there to listen and to tell me everything would be fine.  When there were other people telling me how I should do things or what I could do better, she would tell me to just shut them out and do my own thing.  She had confidence in me that I for sure didn't have!  My sister and I were over at her house often, hanging out with her and her family.  She treated us like family and we always felt welcomed and loved.  Losing her this year was a big blow, not just because she was a coworker, but because she was, and still is, such an important person in my life.  It was hard to deal with the fact that her laughter wouldn't fill her house when we visited the family.  It was hard not having her to share our ideas and stories with.  It was also hard at work because everyone had been so close to her, including so many of the children.  I miss her every single day and though summer camp was not the same without her, I know Olivia was with all of us the entire way, encouraging us and just being her usual happy, loving, and amazing self!

Besides work, I've mostly been hanging out at the Hinojosa's house.  Ashley and Amber are basically the coolest people ever.  And Gabby, Zack and Kaelyn.  We just hang out and sometimes go to Santa Fe for some much needed Panda Express!

But pretty much work has been the only thing I've been focusing on this summer.  I always forget how exhausting it is to work with children, but it's also incredibly rewarding.  Our theme for camp this year was "mystical creatures" or something like that, but I had already been planning a Disney performance for the end of the summer, so the theme kind of turned into "Disney."  This worked for me! We also had different themed weeks, which included Superhero week, Pirate week, Space week, and many others.  Every Friday, the whole camp would dress up according to the theme that week.  It was so much fun! 

My focus this summer was the performance.  Every year, at the end of the summer, the kids put on a performance for their parents.  Last year was a Back to the Future program with dances from different decades.  This year, as I mentioned before, was Disney.  All summer both the kids and the staff worked incredibly hard to pull this end-of-summer performance off.  I choreographed dances for each of the different grades.  Kindergartener and 1st Grade danced to "Heigh Ho" from Snow White, 2nd Grade danced to "I Just Can't Wait to Be King" from the Lion King, 3rd Grade's dance was "Under the Sea" from the Little Mermaid, 4th Grade's dance was "Why Should I Worry" from Oliver & Company, 5th Grade danced to "I'll Make a Man Out of You" from Mulan, the LITs (6th and 7th Graders) danced to "Dig a Little Deeper" from Princess and the Frog, and the counselors and other staff danced to "Determinate" from Lemonademouth.  It was an absolute blast.

However, the dances were just the beginning.  We still had to worry about costumes, stage setup, props, speaking parts, and backstage help!  Luckily for me, our staff is super supportive and is always willing to help.  Andrea and Anna were an incredible asset in designing and making costumes, props, and the stage set.  The kids had a great time helping us with the costumes and props as well.  It was really great getting the kids involved in more than just the dancing!  I am also incredibly grateful to the other directors, counselors, and staff in their willingness to help, they are truly fantastic!

The finished product was spectacular, and we never would have been able to pull it off without everyone.  The turnout was even better than I expected.  Most of the kids showed up and the gym was packed with the kids' family and friends, as well as others from the community.  I had a blast, and (I hope) the kids did too, because they did an absolutely amazing job and I'm so proud of all they did this summer!  Here's a link to their performance if you feel so inclined to watch it!!

Y Summer Camp "Happiest Place on Earth"

Though camp has now ended and I'm sad I won't see the kids and my coworkers everyday, I'm so grateful for the many wonderful experiences I had and the amazing memories I made.  This year I became more aware of how short life is and how important it is to recognize the amazing experiences and the wonderful people in my life.  Because of this, I'd like to write down some of the memories and stories I have with so many of my coworkers.  And they're not just my coworkers, but my friends!!

Stephanie:  My sister and one of my very best friends.  Even though she woke me up early every morning to go work out, I still think she's great!  I could say so much about her, but suffice it to say we have a great time together.  We're hysterical (at least we think we are) and we pretty much read each other's minds.  I love her!

Ashley: Oh what to say about Ashley, besides that she's so awesome?? For starters, she makes a great Snow White.  Second, she's always there if you need someone to talk to. Besides that, she was on of the most willing to help whenever I needed it, and that was fantastic.  I have been incredibly blessed to know Ashley the last few years, and to get to know her even better this summer!

Jeremy: Basically, the best Shang ever.  Besides loving peanut butter, he loves to laugh.  At least, I think he does.  Well, he made me laugh anyway!  It was great getting to know him and seeing his interactions with the kids, especially the first graders.  They adore him!

Isaac: Poor Isaac has never been to Disney World or Disneyland.  We tried to change that this year, hopefully the performance will quench his Disney thirst.  But seriously, he was great and it was awesome watching him with the kids and learning their dance.  Good times!

Ashvini:  Hard to believe Ashvini was only an LIT when I first started at the YMCA.  Dang, she's grown!  But it's been awesome working with her this summer and watching her enjoy working with the kids as we enjoyed working with her when she was one of them!

Maria: Our royalty of the summer.  Seriously, she's queen of the rodeo! I don't actually know her real title, but she's pretty cool.  I'm also grateful for the time she let me use her special stuffed animal so I could take a nap at lunch one time.  Isn't she awesome?

Jake: If I called him a coworker, he'd cringe.  We're co-friends! Probably the best Zazu this side of the United States has ever seen.  I also owe him for every time he'd give me a ride to work when I didn't want to work out with my sister.  Definitely had a great time working with him this summer!

Paul: He enjoyed playing all of my drama games with the kids.  A good thing, too, otherwise I don't think the kids would have thought they were that cool.  Pro at graveyard, freeze dance, as well as the dances for the performance!

Kimberly: Story time. Kimberly and I both go to BYU, small world huh? It was awesome getting to know Kimberly this year and watching her work with those crazy third graders.  They loved her, especially the boys.  Poor kids, she's already married! Haha, but she was great and fantastic with the kids!

Mr. Felton:  No, we cannot call him Matt, that would be ridiculous.  Our awesome Science Director, Mr. Felton is always prepared with an answer to our questions.  He even set me on fire once.  Well, not really, but he used me in a fire experiment.  Totally awesome!

Hannah: Loves the Little Mermaid.  Good thing, because her group was the one that danced to "Under the Sea." And even though she couldn't make the performance, she was there in spirit!  Oh and we can't forget the time she actually pushed the security button on her car so it wouldn't start and she was stranded at work. All the fun times we have at summer camp!

John: Always willing to help, especially when I was kicked out of the drama room and the gym.  Hopefully we didn't blow out his truck speakers when we did Rah-Rah time outside and all the kids and staff danced outside on the lawn!  I also have to thank him for providing some of the lights for our fireworks on the set.  Our stage wouldn't have been the same!

Sarah:  Medieval week was her week.  She brought us all kinds of armor, shields and other medieval props to show the kids, and they loved it!! I loved that she always participated and made activities fun for the kids!

Andrea: The most creative, caring and wonderful woman I know!  She's the reason the performance turns out as well as it does.  Her creative ideas and execution of those ideas make for incredible stage sets and costumes.  And I can't forget that she's always there to listen and encourage art therapy.  She's the greatest!

Dakota: I've known her since she was a CIT.  Crazy how time flies.  But it's been great working with her, and seeing her interact with the kids.  My favorite memory of Dakota is when we were playing a game in drama.  She was supposed to pretend she was on a horse, while the kids were picturing her on a toilet.  It was pretty hilarious!

Tyler:  He's pretty much my favorite person ever.  Hardest worker I've ever met, and a fantastic friend!  I'm rooting for him to run for president because he'd be awesome! And one day, Tyler, we'll convince you to go to lunch with all of us!

Marlie:  The best Mulan I think I'll ever meet.  She was awesome with her group, and even when she'd try to be stern, the kids would just laugh at her.  That's okay though, because she's naturally good natured and being stern just doesn't suit her!

Michelle: She is the best!  Super helpful when I needed to get stuff done with the LITs, she was always willing to help and ask what I needed her to do.  The speaking parts of the performance and the LIT costumes wouldn't have gotten done without her.  She also always went all out for the theme weeks and it was great!

Bobby: Absolutely amazing with the kids, especially the LITs.  And possibly the best fairy princess in the world.  Always willing to participate with the kids and got them excited for activities that they were unsure about at first.  Love it!

Michael: Also great with the LITs and always trying to keep them on track.  Too bad him and Dwight didn't get to do their Blue Group (I don't know the actual name...) routine for Rah-Rah.  It would have been hilarious!

Anna: The go-to woman when I have a problem or don't know what I'm doing.  Anna is a great listener and super creative, just like Andrea.  She's pro at drawing and painting Disney characters!  She's also the one who is prepared with ideas when I'm totally clueless. Thank goodness!

Dwight: Our Build-It Director.  He was super helpful in getting costumes ready for the performance.  Who else would have gotten the kids to make such awesome pickaxes and lion's manes?

Brittany: Especially excited about superhero week and dressed up as Batman.  I didn't work with her as much as I did with other staff, but she had a great time with the kids and was especially good with the kinders!

Carrie: The kinders loved her!  And her little baby bird she had in her room for a little bit.  It was so cute!  Carrie loves animals and it was always great hearing her talk about them.

Alex: She painted the best Mushu ever for our set.  She was always great in dressing up for the themed weeks and had a great time with the kinders.  One time she even found a little scorpion in one of the kinders blankets.  Crazy stuff!

Maddie: She just got a super cute haircut! But besides that, she was super flexible and always willing to transition to different groups throughout the day, which was definitely helpful!

Esteban: Also super flexible, and always willing to help out with whichever grade needed it.  He was our popcorn master, and was pro at making the popcorn for the performance!

Jocelyn: So glad to have her around at camp, especially when I had questions or needed help!  Also, she was awesome in supporting the performance and getting the word out about it for everyone!

Janine: "Yours was easy, I gave you all 1s!" Haha, just kidding!  She was great and super supportive this entire summer.  Her superhero costume was the best.  What was it? You guessed it, Xena, of course!  She's pretty much the best boss eva!