Monday, November 30, 2015

Disneyland, at Age Ten

We took a long-deferred vacation to LA a few weeks back. James was excited to go back and ride Small World, Alice, and the Nemo subs. He was so excited that he had trouble finishing his waffle breakfast at the "Letter Q Hotel" (James' name for Quality Inn and Suites).

We like staying at the Letter Q because we know what to expect and have good vacation trip memories. The price is good for the quality, and they have free breakfast, with make-your-own waffles, which the kids have loved.

Even though this local was right next to a construction zone (and had lost about a third of their property to the new development) the noise was not the issue I'd feared. We enjoyed a quiet room and filling breakfast every morning.

At Disneyland, James humoured me and went on the teacups. I tried to keep the spinning to a minimum, because he does not enjoy it very much any more. Yes, we rode It's a Small World every morning. I do enjoy the holiday version, though, and we usually end up singing carols on the ride.

Two new favourite rides emerged from our trip: James became a fan of the Buzz Lightyear Astroblasters, and especially the Star Tours rides. Wow! I guess all the repeated YouTube viewings of Star Tours and ep. 7's buzz overcame his dislike of sudden shifts and drops. It was so neat watching James enjoy the more immersive rides. The newer system that replaced the old Guest Assistance card helped us out with the crowds too. More on that later.

We also got James on Soarin' Over California once, which was a huge thing. We celebrated with a few rounds of Monster's Inc. Ride. Olaf was at home next door, so we played in the snow and went sledding. Seriously! Unfortunately Elsa was at the end of her meet and greet. James would have liked to say hello. We had a great race in a red race car in Radiator Springs  It is nice that Disneyland and California Adventure are places where he can do things, like other kids.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Movie Review: Peanuts Movie

Wrapping up a long holiday weekend after a super-stressful couple of weeks. We wanted a family movie, and considered The Good Dinosaur. When I looked up the movie times, I saw a reminder ad for the monthly Sensory Sensitive Films. For November, it was the Peanuts Movie. Sold!

What is a sensory sensitive movie showing? It's:
  • Leaving the lights partially up ...
  • Turning the soundtrack much lower than regular showings ...
  • Creating a welcome environment for families with members who cannot tolerate loud noises, sit still through a movie, or have verbal stims to help get them through something exciting like a movie out in public.
Our local theatre provides this on the last Saturday of each month at 10:00 am, and I salute the heck out of them for this!
Back to the movie ... James knows the Peanuts gang. He may not have grown up reading them in the newspapers the way I did, and we don't have TV, so he's missed the TV specials on holidays, but the Vince Guaraldi soundtrack is a perennial favourite at home and on car trips. Every week on our shopping trip, James looks for Peanuts character dolls in our local Trader Joe's -- James has friends among the crew members, who "help"him look -- he loves his lollipop reward for finding their hideout in the store. We've visited Snoopy's Ice Arena, toured the Charles Schultz Museum (which also sponsors traveling Science Exhibits for our schools), and cursed the Red Barron in the skies overhead during our annual air show at the Charles M. Schultz airport -- of course we wanted to see this movie!

Two thumbs up for a well-done tribute to the series and characters. I was not sold on the 3D-ish animated treatment until I saw it onscreen -- it's a simple (to look at), charming mix of old and new that I think works very well. The characters look, sound, and feel very true to what I grew up with. Snoopy, who I feel became much larger and complicated than originally intended, was, to me, very recognizable. All his personae were there: good dog/Charlie Brown's ally, WWI Flying Ace, Joe Cool, Dark & Stormy Night writer, and Woodstock's friend. Charlie Brown's honesty, compassion, and staying true to himself despite all his bad luck shines through in a very refreshing way that I think has been missing from recent Peanuts animations.

The plot is simple, like Peanuts was written/drawn for the newspapers, and the kids are refreshingly kid-like and timeless, without being cloying or too mature. A lot of familiar and well-loved themes are woven into the simple story in a way that feels like snuggling down in a familiar patchwork quit that visually cues happy memories. If you like the Peanuts gang, you should definitely see this movie. If you are looking for modern re-imaginings classics, like Cat In the Hat, The Grinch, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, or the Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland, this is probably not for you.

Speaking as a parent of sensory-overloaded kids, having the soundtrack down low was a big help. I really liked the way the dogfights were not too loud or chaotic and the planes sounded realistic, but reproduced on a muted level. While James squirmed and started asking if the movie was going to be over before we hit the 2/3 way through mark, the vignettes were short and attention-getting. I enjoyed being able to redirect James by connecting his local experiences with the Peanuts characters to the characters onscreen, without feeling like I was detracting from the movie experience of the rest of the audience. Twice, James had to use the bathroom, and because the lights were partially up, this was not a big deal. A couple times we heard verbal stims from other audience members, and felt right at home.

Definitely, I give the movie, theatre, and film series two big Thumbs Up. We plan to return for next month's movie: The Good Dinosaur.

Saturday, November 07, 2015

Testing, Testing ... Marin County Calling

Saturday morning. An hour car ride, for a morning's worth of testing. Hitting a wall, but persevering.

It was sunny, clear, and cold at home as we got into the car at 7 and headed south on 101. Over the Petaluma Hill, a cold greyish mauve fog bank lurked over the hilltops. Ghostly, white-translucent  scarves of ground fog shrouded dells, grapevines, and leafless trees. We wondered if we would see fog over the ocean, and hear, as James calls it, the "Foggy Horn."

By Novato, however, we were back into sunshine. James decided he wanted to listed to the Disneyland CD. We had fun listening to soundtracks for rides the rest of the way in. Star Tours won, with 4 repeats. He has watched the YouTube videos of the original ride so many times that we can recite the script in time to the sound track. He does a pretty decent R2 verbalization.

The testing office has a beautiful view of Mt Tam. The trees along Fourth St. are flaming autumnal colours. All this is some nice quiet time. There is plenty of work waiting for me at home.

Enjoying being in the moment.

Still looking for answers. James is worth it.