Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Disneyland!

Oh Disneyland.  I love it so much.  I'm a Disney addict.  I admit it.  I have a problem...but I don't intend to change anything, so what phase of addiction-recovery does that put me in?  Growing up in my family Disneyland was our go-to vacation spot.  We probably went 4 or 5 times and I have so many memories of the rides, the hotels, the characters, souvenirs, the occasional splurge on room service.  It's one of my most favorite places because of all the memories we created there as a family, and now it's even more wonderful having added new memories of sharing this place I love with my little boys and nieces.  Glenn doesn't share my romantic draw to Disneyland.  He has a hard time with theme parks in general.  Lines and crowds are not his thing and he doesn't buy into the whole "magic" thing.  But he did a pretty darn good job of indulging me on this trip and buying into the fun for the sake of our kiddos.  There are a few things I know that he genuinely enjoyed, however: the giant turkey legs, the Buzz Lightyear ride, setting our group up with fast passes, and giving away our unused fast passes to other lucky park visitors.
There were a lot of firsts for me in this park too.  We'd never ridden on the Disneyland railroad, Casey Jr. Train, Gadget's go-coaster, the Tiki Room, or Nemo's submarine ride before, and they were all so fun and perfect for little Tate's age.  I think the trains were some of Tate's favorites, for obvious reasons.  Another favorite was Tom Sawyer Island.  This place was built for little busy kiddos and Tate was in heaven exploring caves, climbing rocks, crossing bouncy bridges, and other such pirate antics.
We even found the pirate treasure.  Sadie was most concerned that all these chests had locks but we didn't find the keys to open them.
But those piles of treasure still made for some good climbing while the parentals had a much-needed sit down.
Little Finn was a dream on this trip.  So content and didn't let the messed up nap schedule slow him down much.  
Sometimes we liked to taunt Finny with his bottle.  It makes him laugh...until he gets mad that he doesn't have the milk in his mouth already!  He was really content on the rides we took him on.  He seemed to like It's a Small World best.  I think we all actually really liked it this time.  It's very festive all changed up for Christmas time.  Finn did get pretty nervous on Pirates and Haunted Mansion, however.  I'd forgotten how dark those rides are.  I guess any kid would be nervous with loud noises in pitch black darkness.  
Tate, Glenn, and Mya running along on the island.
While we were waiting for the Christmas parade to start Tate and Sadie had a hug-fest.  Tate kept wanting the hugs to end in a tackle but we kept trying to avoid that as the results would have been unpleasant for teensy Miss Sadie.
Tate, on Glenn's shoulders taking in the parade.  
And Miss Mya on her Daddy's shoulders.  
I was impressed this trip how openly Disney embraces the celebration of Christmas.  They were Christmas decorations.  Christmas trees.  A Christmas parade.  The cast members wished us Merry Christmas instead of just Happy Holidays.  The first few nights we were there they even held a candle-light vigil where celebrities read the story of Christ's birth while an enormous choir sang Christmas songs.  Seriously?  Stories of Christ's birth in a theme park?  There are so few places where people even dare mention Christmas anymore.  At both of the retail stores I used to work at we were told we were not allowed to wish anyone Merry Christmas unless the customer said it first.  I don't understand offense being taken, honestly I don't.  And it makes me sad that it's become kind of taboo to plainly talk about Christmas.  So I appreciated the openness about the subject of Christmas at Disneyland.  
Another favorite place for the littles was toon town.  There was just so much for the kids to climb on, touch, push, and play with.  Tate could have climbed on this big, plastic fire truck all afternoon if we let him. 
We explored Goofy's house where there were pumpkins to hide in in the garden.
And a piano that made silly sounds when you played it.  It was a huge hit.
We explored Donald's boat.  
And then met Mickey at his house.  It was very sweet.
Fantasyland was lovely as well.  I'm so glad, once again, that we went at this time of year.  I forget how small certain lands are and how crowded they can get.  I'm so glad we never had to wait in too long of lines for these really short rides. 
Cody and Mya with her magic flying feather.
Aubry and little Sadie.
Me and Tate.
During our trip planning we had discussed swapping baby-sitting for an evening so we could have a date-night in Disneyland.  That first night that Mom arrived, she insisted that she was tired and wanted to just take the kids back to the hotel for a sleep-over.  So we walked them back, got them set up with movies and pizza, and they had a fun night playing together and winding down after a busy day.  Cody, Aubry, Glenn, and I, had what was probably the most fun double date I've ever been on.  We rode space mountain, then split up while we waited for a table at a restaurant.  Aub and I wandered shops in New Orleans square, Cody and Glenn rode some rides.  Then we had a yummy dinner with some great conversation, and then headed to a couple rounds of Splash Mountain.  We walked right on and when our ride was over we asked to go again.  They just told us to stay in our seats and when the next people in line looked at us with confused expressions Glenn waved his hand and said, "This is not the log you are looking for."  And the man in line smiled and said, "Move along."  It was great.  Cody took one for the team and sat in front and was the only one who got very wet.  What a fantastic date night.  
I wish I had taken more pictures of Tate in front of his favorite rides.  For some reason the Haunted Mansion was right up at the top of his list.  He tried Splash Mountain, he even tried Tower of Terror (at California Adventure), but he didn't love the drops.  But for whatever reason, he thought the Haunted Mansion was so cool.  He walked around one afternoon pretending to be Jack Skellington.  Telling us how much he loved Christmas and introducing us to his dog Zero.  Mind you, he's never seen the movie.  He really got into certain rides and could be caught playing characters from them or humming their theme songs hours later.  
He tried Big Thunder Mountain once.  Didn't love it.  It was a little crazy for him.  For some reason half way through the ride he started yelling, "LEACH" over and over.  It was like his version of screaming. He was excited and nervous and the word that came out was "leach". He was smiling when it was over though, so we'll take that as a good sign.
Another favorite of Tate's, owing to his new discovery of Star Wars, was the Star Tours ride.  I think he rode it 3 or 4 times.  It's different from when I was little.  The ride is a little different every time and he was always excited to see which planet we would go to next.  Sometimes he would just jabber the whole time to C3PO, who was driving our star speeder.  Sometimes he would just say "weeeee" over and over.  It was darling.
The three daddy's on the trip couldn't get enough of the Buzz Lightyear ride.  The line was never too long and with the element of competition and skill involved, it was a no-brainer.  I have no idea how many times they rode it, sharing (or sometimes not) new tricks they discovered to get tons of points.  

Our last day at Disneyland was a Saturday.  We were all beat by that last day and the crowds were much worse.  Note to self: if possible, avoid Saturdays, even on the off-season.  Glenn and I made the mistake of getting into a Splash Mountain log with two very large gentlemen.  Glenn was in the front, then me, then these two guys.  We went down the first little slide and we had water come up over the front of the log and the sides.  We knew we were in trouble, and it only got worse from there.  I'd never had the log literally flood with water before, but apparently it's possible.  Wow were we wet.  
Glenn debated running back to the hotel to change but soon changed his mind and just pushed through the day drying very very slowly.
Nanna bought Tate the best souvenir ever.  His own Light Saber.  Which he, of course, calls a Light Saver.  He still plays with it almost every day.  It was a big hit and poor little Sadie couldn't get enough of it either.  
This is a very dark picture from inside the Nemo Submarine ride.  It was slow but long and relaxing after a long day on our feet.  They've done such a good job incorporating characters from their new movies into the park.  Our little kids were thrilled to see and hear Nemo, Marlin, and the gang right in front of them.
Once again, there are so many pictures I wish I had taken.  The Christmas decorations were so beautiful.  The castle all lit up at night with snow and icicles, the small world ride facade decked out with lights, the huge Christmas tree on main street.  Everything was so beautiful and festive.  What a perfect trip.  I'm so glad we did it, at this time of year, and with all the family who were able to come.  We missed Grandpa, Kenzie, and Mallo, but hopefully they can come next time.  It was magical.  In a while, once my sweet Glenn stops getting the rabid raccoon look in his eyes when we talk about it, we'll start planning another trip!  Waahaaahaahaaa

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Cars Land!

Definitely the most highly anticipated part of this trip was visiting the new Cars Land.  Tate, Mya, and Sadie are all very into the Cars movies and consequently the toys, and we could not wait to check out their re-creation of Radiator Springs.  As with all things Disney, it exceeded our expectations.  The details were incredible.  Everywhere you looked there were signs, quotes, or characters right out of the movies, and new added details that brought the Cars theme to life.  There are a few ways to enter Cars Land but I think we got our first view right.  We walked in this way:
 Through a huge arch which gave us a beautiful view of this canyon they created with massive rock formations and the Radiator Springs Racers ride winding through it.  It was beautiful.  This was Glenn's reaction:
He kept saying, "They must have consulted a geologist.  It's amazing how accurate it is."  The rest of us wouldn't have noticed, but I'm glad for Glenn's sake, that they accurately created their rock formations so he wouldn't be bugged by the inaccuracies the whole time. The kids' reactions were more akin to this:
It was absolute magic for our littles to see their favorite characters and the entire land from the movie brought to life.  They had characters available for visits all over the land.  We met up with Lightning first, of course.  
 Tate couldn't keep his hands off Lightning.  He was so intrigued.
 
The Cars characters were incredible.  They were real cars steered by some hidden remote control and they drove down the street calling out quotes and funny things as they passed.  A couple of times when they switched up the characters receiving visits, we'd follow them out just because it was cool to see them really driving down the street in Radiator Springs.

One morning Sadie, Tate and I paid a visit to Red the fire truck.  He was very sweet and "purred" (revved his engine) when we pet him.  And since it was Christmas time he honked deck the halls with his horn for us.  He was very cool.
The Hansen Fam with Mater in his Holiday attire.
 The rides were really well-done too.  Of course our favorite, and everyone's favorite, is Radiator Springs Racers.  It was so neat.  You drive in a race car through the canyon and then inside a building where you drive through Radiator Springs.  You go tractor tipping with Mator and drive down main street where they have all of the cars from the movies animated and moving around.  Then you get new tires at Luigi's or a paint job at Ramones and then Guido and Luigi set you off on a race against another car.  It was the perfect combo of Disney magic and a little speed at the end.  Tate was a little hesitant, but always said he enjoyed it.  Since it was such a new land and a favorite ride, you had to work to get fast passes for it.  Every day we wanted to spend in California Adventure, we had to arrive right when the park opened and send Glenn to the fast pass line for the ride, which was already easily a half an hour long, just to get fast passes to ride it at some point during the day.  One day they ran out of fast passes before we got them, but the other times, our return times were late in the afternoon.  I'd never seen a ride that busy before.  I'm glad we figured out the system though so we could ride it a few times.  It was not to be missed.
There are only two other rides in Cars Land.  This one is Luigi's flying tires:
 You ride in a huge tire on what looks like an air hockey table and you lean to steer and bump into other tires.  It was tame and the kids liked it.
 Glenn, Mya and Tate
Cody and Miss Sadie.
This is the crew in line for Mater's Junkyard Jambouree.  It was a fun one.  The little baby tractors do a square dance and they whip passengers around in their trailers.  
 I wish that I had taken more pictures of the details in the park.  Is was so cool how they made everything car-themed, even down to the flowers made of brake lights.
This is the main drag all lit up at night with it's neon signs.
 
 Seeing it all decked out for Christmas was pretty unique too.  They had garlands everywhere made of different sizes of air filters, wreaths made of crescent wrenches, christmas trees made of license plates.  They did such a good job creating this world and making it feel so much like the movie.  I wish I had a picture of the canyon lit up at night.  It looks like it's lit by a beautiful sunset all night long.  So glad we were able to see this new land.  It was perfect timing for our littles.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

San Diego and California Adventure

I was pregnant with Finn, last December, when I started to get the itch to go to Disneyland.  And wouldn't it be nice to go with the whole family?  So we started thinking about it and talking about it and planning it.  We gave ourselves a whole year to save and plan.  We knew we wanted to go when it wasn't very busy because we despise waiting in lines, and we knew we wanted to be there while it was decorated for Christmas, because it just makes the Disney magic even more magical when you add all things Christmas to it!  So we decided on the first week of December, which is one of the least busy weeks of the year.  It was perfect.  I think I'm going to use that word a lot while describing this trip, because that's how it turned out.  We planned and saved and talked about our upcoming trip for a whole year.  By the time we left, Tate knew which rides he wanted to try.  He asked to watch rides on youtube and look at pictures of Disneyland on the computer all the time.  He knew which of his favorite characters lived there and he was so excited to meet all of them.  So perfect.  
We decided that we couldn't go all the way to California without stopping to see Uncle Seth and Vincent, so we took off a couple of days early and spent 2 days with them.  We stayed at their amazing San Diego home, played with their dog, Ella (both Tate and Finn were enamored), went out to eat twice (these guys know their restaurants, the food was incredible), played a bit at Balboa park, walked around with Uncle Seth at a very fancy mall (I was so nervous that one of my boys would break something), and watched tons of movies.  It was a nice visit and I'm so glad we got to see them again.  It's been a while this time.
 Seth with Finny and Tate
 Tate with Miss Ella
 Finny and Vince
On Tuesday morning we took off early and drove to Anaheim, checked into our hotel, returned the rental car, then marched off in our double stroller around the block to Disneyland.  Our hotel was great.  We were about a 15 minute walk to the gate but there wasn't much closer and certainly wasn't anything nicer and closer.  We had a nice little kids' suite with one big bed and a separate room with bunk beds and a fold out couch.  We called Nana on our drive and convinced her to join us so she came on a flight that first night and stayed on the bunk beds with Tate-o.  It was the very best kind of sleepover...all week long and we are SO glad she decided to come play with us!
We had 5 days in the parks and we started off at California Adventure.  There went on several rides this time that we had never ridden before and, especially considering the shortish lines, were really fun to experience for the first time with our kids.  The Little Mermaid, Jumping Jellyfish, the Silly Symphony Swings, Goofy's Sky School, The Silver Zephyr, and most of Bugs land were first times for us, and Tate loved them all.
We met up with Cody and Aub and their sweet girls and after a quick little Mermaid ride, headed straight for Toy Story Mania, another first for us.  It was a new favorite, for sure.  If the line weren't so long we would have ridden it many more times.  Tate was a little worn out standing for so long during nap time but Uncle Cody was happy to oblige and give his legs a rest any time he asked.
 Finn was thrilled any time he could get out of his stroller or people's arms.  He just wanted to do his own thing.
It's hard to say what my favorite part of the trip was, but watching the little cousins play together is right at the top of the list.  Tate, Mya, Sadie, and Finn just adored each other and got along so well.  It was darling watching them discover all the Disney magic together.  
 
Another first: Mickey's Ferris Wheel
 Tate wasn't nervous at all around the characters.  He's been very excited to see A Bug's Land, as he's just discovered the movie, and was thrilled to meet Flik.
 Flik, Mya, Sadie, and Tate
 We'd read that there was one giant four-leaf clover in A Bug's Land.  Glenn searched until he found it. I think I need to look up more of these secret things because being the one who in the know or the one who figures things out makes Disney more fun for my brainy sweetheart.
 Tate and I on Flik's flyers.  Definitely my favorite of the Bug's Land rides.
 Glenn and Tate on King Triton's carousel.
 Sadie has a thing for Monster's Inc., and especially for Roz.  She could never tire of riding the Monster's Inc. ride (which she calls Mike Asowski) and will quote her favorite Roz line without much prodding.  It's so hilarious to hear this little gravely voice come out of teensy Miss Sadie.  I love it so much.
 On our final day in California Adventure, Adam, Cami, and our newest cousin Baby Abby joined us.  The older cousins loved sneaking peeks at their teensy new cous.
 The kiddos played on benches by the boardwalk while the big kids rode California Screamin'.  One of my absolute favorites.  Here are Adam, Cami, Mom, and Cody, taking a spin.
 Sweet Finny spent a lot of time in his stroller that week but he rarely got too ornery, even when he was way overdue for a nap.  He'd get grouchy on occasion but give the kid a bottle or give him a minute to work it out and he'd usually fall right to sleep and wake up happy again.  He was really a trooper.
 Here's the fam at one of our favorite lunch stops: the Pacific Wharf Cafe where they serve yummy salads and soups in enormous sourdough bread bowls.  Yes, please.
 Another first time for us was the wilderness explorer playground.  Even Finn got some playing in there.  It was a super fun area with tons of places to climb and slide.  There were caves to explore, a zip line, cabins and climbing walls.  Sort of California Adventure's answer to Tom Sawyer's Island and while it wasn't quite that amazing, it was just what we needed one afternoon to let the kids go crazy.
 Finny has a thing for Uncle Cody.  Cody could always cheer him up and get a grunty little laugh out of him.
 Glenn was our fast pass master of the trip and we were all so grateful.  He loves to strategize and hates to stand in line so he was constantly watching the clock, grabbing all our passes, and running around the park gathering fast passes for the rides with the longest wait times.  We never waited in a long line (except maybe Toy Story Mania which doesn't have fast passes) the entire trip because this guy was determined to make it so.  Thanks, Glenn. You're the master.
Our last night in California Adventure, we were parked next to Tower of Terror and all the "big kids" hopped on a few times as there was no wait when all of a sudden the Pixar parade started, right next to where the kids were sitting.  It was perfect.  No staking out a spot.  No one blocking our view.  We were right at the gate where all the characters came out for the parade so all the kids got plenty of personal attention.  They got high fives and head pats and got to see their favorite characters right up close.  It was very cool.
 
 Dude Crush
 Slim from A Bug's Life
 Who's more excited at this moment: Me or Tate?
Aub and her sweet girls.  After the parade that last night, the daddy's were spent so we sent them back to the hotel with the kids and Aub and I stayed and shopped until it was time for the World of Color show, which we did not want to miss.  We also kidnapped baby Abby for a couple of hours so Ad and Cami could have a little alone time.  It was a really fun night.  We wandered through shops we'd seen and wanted to stop at all day but there was no way we were dragging the kids and dads through shops when there were rides to ride, so this evening with Aubry, a kindred Disney-loving spirit, was just perfect.  We shopped, had dinner, then watched the World of Color show, which was wonderful, before heading back to the hotel to get some much-needed rest.  I'd forgotten how exhausting it is to be walking around all day long.  We were all absolutely beat every night and our alarm clock (also known as Finny), always sounded much too early.  I have no idea how Aubry, being 5 months along, and Cami, being 1 month post-partum, managed when I was so tired, but they were troopers.