Friday, March 30, 2012

Disneyland! Part 1

Journal Day 1:

Our family has not taken a vacation, with just the four of us, in years! This year- we wanted to get away before the baby was born and celebrate our little family =) We decided to spend our happy time at (where else?) the "Happiest Place on Earth!" I am so excited to report that the drive went smoothly, the kids were well behaved, and when we pulled up to the Disneyland Hotel the cast members went above and beyond to make our experience amazing! (The kids loved being able to watch movies on the duel portable DVD player my brother let us borrow! I do not normally allow the kids to ever watch movies in the car, so it made the road trip *very* special and quiet- especially when we attached headphones to the DVD player so they didn't have to hear us chit chat, and we didn't have to hear kid movies! Kurt enjoyed driving while I played DJ. We did have to make stops, but the whole thing was around 9 hours- which would have matched the time spent in airports due to layover and baggage. I still felt pretty awful, but Kurt had the foresight to bring our bucket, and he made stops when necessary and without complaint.)

The hotel upgraded our room to their second highest floor, and our view was beautiful! When we booked our trip last month, we added their concierge service and we were nothing short of astounded at how well they cared for us- from the bell service to the special club room, we were overwhelmed with kind service. I kid you not, it felt like we were their only guests, even though we could *see* there were other guests- we felt so well taken care of! The details in the hotel design were so beautiful and magical- the kids enjoyed looking for finely hidden Mickey Mouse shapes hidden within our room- from the fine sheen of the sheets (hidden Mickey!) to the soft engraving of our tiled bath (more hidden Mickey!) to the lamps (are those Mickey hands holding pouter lights???) it was so fun! One of the neatest features of our room was the magical headboard- it sang "A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes" and beautiful little twinkling stars and fireworks above the carved Disney castle would glimmer. LOVE!

When we arrived the staff took care of our car and our luggage and we were able to go to our room. We settled in a bit and then went to the concierge club for snacks, desserts, and drinks. The boys asked to swim- so while Kurt took an hour to relax alone I went swimming with the boys in the heated pool. We had such a great time! While we were swimming the Disneyland fireworks started- and we could see fireworks peeking over the trees- what a neat experience!!!!

After everyone took turns enjoying a nice relaxing hot shower (I am a freak and couldn't stand the smell of chlorine), we all settled into pj's and snuggled into our beds. We were so thankful to be there!

Carter and Harrison enjoy hearing the singing headboard- ready for bed!

Journal Day 2

The boys had no idea of what to expect when we arrived at the park. We had brought them to Disney some years ago- but despite their amazing sharp memories, they literally remember nothing, so this whole experience is new. They happily tell everyone they have never been here, and were presented with "1st Visit" buttons.

I started the day at 5:30. Not kidding. Yeah, I had some morning sickness, but really I was too excited to sleep much more than that. I got up and got ready, then slowly roused Kurt, and then the kiddos. At 6:30 I went to the concierge "Club" and grabbed a few breakfast items to entice the children to get up. Seeing that trying to wake them was proving difficult I requested a wake up call from Mickey Mouse, to help motivate the boys. It worked. Harrison got to answer the phone our first morning and his shocked little squeals of, "MOM!!!! IT'S MICKEY MOUSE ON THE PHONE!" brought delight to us all. He even shared the phone with Carter so Carter could hear a few words from Mickey! They were up, sunblocked, and dressed, and I brought them to the Club for a proper breakfast. We finished breakfast by 7:45 and were at the park for opening time.

Disney, in the morning, is amazing. It is so quiet! There are no lines, there are no crowds. I am *so* thankful that I inherited my father's knack for vacation planning- it made things go so much more smoothly. If I had only ONE piece of "must to" advice- it would be to get your family to bed early in order to be at the park at opening- the lack of lines is worth it- but with every passing hour changes dramatically. The park at 8 is *vastly* different than the park at 10.

Before we came to Disneyland I showed the boys the Disneyland website. We looked at the different rides, and we even watched a video about Disney on Netflix. The kids had a vague idea of what to expect and knew that there was a Star Wars ride, and Harrison requested to do that first. So, our first day in the park started with Star Tours.

Star Tours has changed. A lot. There are now something like 54 different encounters that a rider may experience. The look and feel of the ride changed, and they request that expecting mothers not ride (I wanted to, and almost did, but my conscience got the better of me and the staff happily showed me to a sitting area outside of the ride. There are only something like 6 rides at Disneyland that expecting mothers should not ride, I can handle taking one for the team, lol). The kids rode with Kurt and they *loved* it! (I apologize for the less-than-great pictures of R2, and C3PO- the kids begged me to snap photos, but since there was no line I had to shoot while walking)

Harrison is thrilled about the ride, Carter is doubtful that it will end up being cool. Carter is 6 going on 82. By the end of the ride, they both realized the magic of Disney. They drank the Disney kool-aid and were shocked by how "real" everything was.

After the Star Tours we headed straight for Indiana Jones, which had been Carter's request to ride. Harrison was not tall enough to ride so he sat with me. There was a five minute line, and when Kurt and Carter emerged Carter raced over and couldn't stop talking about how scary the ride was- and how it is now his favorite thing in the world, lol.

We then rode Pirates of the Caribbean and The Haunted Mansion, and then took the kids to Splash Mountain (yet another ride Carter requested). Kurt and the kids piled into a log, and in under five minutes were on the ride in their very own log!

Hard to see, but this is Kurt waving back at me =)


This picture makes me laugh- I love Carter's face!

After the excitement of Splash Mountain we headed to the Jungle Cruise. I admit, I screamed when the piranha popped out of the water- they scared me!

We grabbed a fastpass to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, took a restroom break, listened to some live music played by a visiting high school band (I say listened, but Harrison and I were dancing while Kurt and Carter sat quietly to enjoy the music), and then had lunch. Disney has a large selection of foods, and we decided on a smaller Mexican restaurant. We were there at the restaurant's opening, so it was very quiet. We did not demand the boys eat much of anything- we knew that we would offer snacks often and they would eat when they got hungry, and Kurt knew not to try and push food on me at all. We did, however, force them to drink a great deal. I do not want kids dehydrated at the parks! It worked out, they needed restroom breaks as often as I did, lol!

The boys rode Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Carter *loved* it- "It is a train roller coaster!!!!!!!!!" We then were lucky to walk by just as they were loading one of the local boats- the boys loved that it resembled a pirate ship!!! (The kids have played Pirates of the Caribbean Lego Wii, have seen Pirates of the Caribbean Lego sets, and at this point experienced the Pirates of the Caribbean ride- they have never seen the movie- but they still seem to get the point.)

After the boat ride was finished we went back to Tomorrowland and the kids were shocked to find *real* Stormtroopers walking amongst the crowd! Carter was a bit leery and stayed back, but Harrison rushed up and tried to hug them. The Stormtroopers, being evil and such, did not have time to sit and take pictures with little children. Instead they would randomly snatch and analyze maps and papers, step in front of people in line, and otherwise annoy the general public (in-character). That did not stop our determined little Harrison from pushing through and being near them, and dragging Carter along with him.

 See that little boy who refuses to let go of the Stormtrooper's hand? Oh yeah, that would be Harrison. The Stormtroopers were not stopping for photos. As I said, they stayed in character and acted annoyed at the public in general, so I took what pictures I was able.

Kurt stands back as the boys cannot get over the "real" Stormtroopers.

Time for the Buzz Lightyear ride!

 Harrison was too excited to see Buzz Lightyear- he didn't want to look at the camera!

 This is as good a picture as I could manage- Harrison was too thrilled about being surrounded by Buzz decor!

We decided to take a break from the parks, go to the hotel, and have a rest. On our way there we saw a really neat bird from the Rainforest Cafe! Carter asked to stop and take a picture with the bird- he is such an animal lover!

We enjoyed a little snack, then we went down to swim. We all (every one of us!) went on the biggest water slide! Little Harrison's thoughts, "OH MY GOSH! I HATED THAT! I AM NEVER DOING THAT AGAIN!" There were three water slides and Harrison enjoyed the small and medium sized slides, but avoided the largest one for the rest of the trip. We played for hours!

After swimming we went to Downtown Disney, where we held reservations for dinner at The ESPN Zone restaurant. We originally planned on having dinner and playing there, but Harrison fell asleep right at the table! We took our time with dinner, and let the little guy sleep a bit. When he woke he ate a little, but was reluctant to be very active. We agreed to get him a stroller at the park, so he agreed not to be whiny.

 All absorbed with sports screens. Such men!

His yellow crayon is still in his hand!

We took the Monorail back into the park and arrived just in time to grab front row seats to the parade!

We then rode a ride or two and headed to Fantasmic! What an amazing show! It was really neat because we actually had a good view without waiting too long, and managed to see and hear another angle of the firework show too! It was magical and the children loved it! Kurt braved the dark and grabbed a few snacks (our kids did not eat a lot at dinner, which we expected. When the boys are excited they tend to desire to graze rather than sit and eat a big meal, and with all of the rides and action we didn't mind at all) and we all watched the fireworks and Fantasmic together =) Fantasmic is about 20 minutes long, and it is a water, fire, pyrotechnic, character, and special effects show. It was so amazing- the kids saw Mickey battle a dragon, and then watched all their favorite characters come to life and dance on boats! The boys favorite take-away were the "hut-huts" (green army men) from Toy Story dancing around on a boat!

We were all pretty tired, so at 9:30pm we found ourselves shuffling back to our beds. The kids fell asleep almost instantly. It was really nice to go back to freshly turned-down beds, little Mickey chocolates near the pillows, curtains closed, headboard lights on, and clean towels. I am not generally the type that needs turn-down service, but after destroying the room at our midday rest it was really nice to come back to order and have everything ready for bed. Kurt and I enjoyed some hot cocoa and soon slipped off to sleep.

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