Thursday, June 6, 2013

Our California Adventure

Originally we planned our Disneyland vacation for February but because Brandon was struggling in school we didn't feel like it would be a very good time to pull him out for a week.  So we changed our plans to leave the day after school got out!  It really made school getting out more exciting for our family and even though, in May, Disneyland was more crowded than we like, the beach was warmer and we were actually able to get into the water and play.  It was a perfect vacation.  We loved every second.  Even the bad ones.

We left Saturday, May 25 and drove all the way to Mesquite NV.  The first few hours in our car were absolutely miserable.  The kids were fighting, it seemed like we had to stop every 10 minutes because someone had to go to the bathroom.  "Why didn't you go when we stopped a half hour ago???"  "Because I didn't have to go poo then!!! Now I'm going to poo my pants!!!"  You get the idea.  After lunch we finally seemed to get into our groove and were able to drive for hours at a time instead of minutes.

Upon arrival, we were disappointed to discover that the awesome deal we got on our hotel, didn't turn out to be so awesome.  I had found a condo that was advertised $100 a night.  It was three bedrooms, two bathrooms, full kitchen, dining and living room.  The lesson that if something seems to be too good to be true,  it probably is was definitely realized when we got there and found that in addition to the $100 we already paid we had to pay an additional $125 "resort fee".  "What if we don't use the pool or anything?" we asked. We were informed it was non-negotiable.  So we reluctantly paid.  Thankfully we loved our stay there.  The kids ran around the house screaming how much they loved it.  Exclamations of  "It's my dream house!!!"  "I love it here!!!"  alleviated our resentments.  And to be quite honest, it was absolutely relaxing not worrying about being too noisy, fixing our own dinner and breakfast, swimming, and watching movies.

We got back in the car the next morning at 11 and headed to Shane's sister's house.  We were going to stay with her adorable family Sunday night and go to the beach on Monday with her.  When we got there she had a delicious dinner waiting for us and after eating we had enough time to walk on the beach.  It was really a lot of fun. The kids were so excited, trying to keep them out of the water was REALLY difficult.  They obeyed the best they could under the circumstances. They dug for crabs and even found a jellyfish.  

The kids watched a movie when we got home (just to try to keep them QUIET!) and after putting them all to bed the adults stayed up way too late, laughing way too hard.  This was the first time Brandon stayed up with us and it felt very unusual, but for him it was heaven.

We got up really early the next morning to go see some tide pools nearby.  What an amazing experience!  At first Sophie, Peter and even Logan were scared and didn't want to be there.  The ocean was really loud that morning and I think it made them feel nervous.  They found a spot they felt safe and played in the sand for a while.  There were starfish, sea anemones, urchins, crabs, and disgusting sea slugs all over.  More rare and exciting finds were little fish and sea stars.  My nephew was the first to discover the most exciting thing though... an octopus! Watching all the cousins work together to catch him was thrilling.  They finally did with a Lego sand toy.  The octopus buried himself as best he could in the hole so they tried making a habitat he would feel safer in by filling a bucket with sand and some small rocks.  But he would not come out.  Suddenly screams from Lindsay were heard, "OCTOPUS!!! OCTOPUS!!!! OCTOPUS!!!"  Everyone ran over and sure enough she found another bigger octopus.  This one was harder to catch.  Screams of delight, apprehension and excitement came from everyone - even the mature adults.  Eventually our second octopus was caught and carefully watched over all morning by everyone as we continued our search for clams, mussels, sea shells and other small sea creatures.  It was truly a memorable morning and I'm grateful that my SIL and her family were troopers by getting up so early with us and taking us to the tide pools.

 It doesn't look like it, but that's the octopus.  He smushed himself into the little hole of the lego toy.

We were trying to put this little guy back in the ocean and he was trying to escape.  It was so cool to watch him feel around with his tentacles and once he discovered he could go up over the top to get out, he was gone.  It was really awesome.

playing safely away from the unknown.

cousin explorers.

The kids loved catching the living things. Especially the crabs.  I was boring, I was perfectly happy just looking for sea shells.

 These sea slugs are completely disgusting.  They made me gag.  I hate them.

All this excitement before 10 in the morning!! When we were done, we went back to the house and rewarded our explorers with a big pancake breakfast. Gramma Cracker joined us and after resting for a bit we headed right back out to the beach.  My kids ran straight for the ocean and if you know me at all you know that I am really nervous around water so I was very grateful that Gramma was willing to watch my little ones so I could go help my older kids get used to the water safely (especially Logan).  We had fun jumping over waves and getting plenty wet and soon Brandon, Lindsay and Logan were feeling confident enough to leave the safety of holding hands and arms and have some real fun! Uncle J taught Brandon, Lindsay and Shane how to boogie board which they couldn't get enough of.  Peter and Sophie stayed well away from the water choosing to have their fun in the sand.

Gramma was a trooper, filling up buckets and bringing the ocean to her sand loving grandkids.

Mama!  I can boogie board too, watch me!

Brandon got some sand in some uncomfortable places.  He walked like that the next day too.  Poor dude.

As if tide pools and  day at the beach wasn't enough, we decided to have dinner on the pier.  After getting everyone cleaned up we went to a seafood restaurant.  This was a personal highlight and I'm totally disappointed that in my wonder and awe and confusion and happiness I didn't get any pictures.  The restaurant - I think it's just called Quality Seafood - was such  fun experience.  You get to choose your fish, clams, lobsters, octopus, whatever you want to eat.  Some of it is alive in front of you.  All of it is fresh.  They clean and cook your choices however you want.  It was so busy, and so loud, and so intimidating and confusing but absolutely exhilarating for this self-proclaimed "foodie."  I loved every second of the meal. We tried fried cod, shark, tuna, a whole tilapia - with it's head on and everything (soooo good and my favorite), salmon, shrimp, calamari, and big tubs of clam chowder with sourdough bread.  It was the best seafood feast I've ever experienced and am so glad to know we can go do it again next time we visit!!!

So much fun and we haven't even gotten to the main attraction!  Before we begin our Disneyland report I have to say that we spent a lot of time split up with Shane and the older 3 kids on bigger rides and me and the young two going on smaller rides. In addition to that difficulty I spent so much of my time with Peter in one arm and held Sophie's hand with my other that I didn't get nearly the photographic documentation I wanted, but oh well.  Peter was so extremely tired and was only happy with me holding him 90% of the time.  Sophie was so scared of everything and could only collect her courage with the assistance of holding mom's hand, riding whatever ride with mom's arm around her, and often using mom's hand to also cover her eyes.  I noticed a pattern though, as the week went on.  She wasn't afraid of anything if she could see an actual live face.  Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Sully, Mr. Incredible and the like all terrified her, although she did always want to wave and shout hello.  But Mary Poppins and Burt, the princesses, Tinkerbell and Peter Pan, she felt comfortable with.  AND she wasn't nearly as afraid of a ride if we had already done it.  It's the unexpected and unknowing that seemed to frighten her.  So, fortunately, by the end of the week she was really able to enjoy herself I think.

On the tram Tuesday morning.  We are so excited!  Except for Brandon.  He is in a bad mood and his mom and dad are trying really hard not to let it put us in a bad mood.  Of all the times and places to be determined to be upset he chooses now.  In his defense he DID have to ride in the back of the van on the way there so it was worth it.  Sheesh. You can't see it, but I am rolling my eyes. Ugh.  I was disappointed, but whatever, he got over it.  Not as fast as Shane and I would have liked, but he did eventually give in to Disneyland happiness. 

There is a new ride in California Adventure called Radiator Springs Racers.  It is awesome.  But what efforts we had to make to get on the dang thing!!!  We tried Wednesday but the line was never shorter than an hour wait so we decided to get up really early Thursday morning to get fast passes.  We were at the gate before 8:30 (the park opens at 9) and when they let us in I ran -literally ran- to get in line for fast passes.  Shane and the kids ran to get in line for the ride.  Our plan was to ride it first thing and then get to ride it again with the fast passes. With everyone's tickets I was ready.  But the dang machine wouldn't accept 3 of the tickets!  The girl told me I would have to go back to the front gate, have them re-scan the tickets and then come back. "But the times won't be the same if I do that!  The fast passes could be gone by the time I get back in line!"  The line wrapped around and around and around.  It was ridiculously long.  She said with a smile, "Well, just hurry and come right back here.  It'll be OK.  You at least got four fast passes!"  I wanted to yell at her, "So which of my children should I tell can't go on the ride you dumb girl!!!"  I was beyond frustrated, especially because I had witnessed a woman 3 in front of me experience the same problem and the same girl call her manager over and he inserted his magic fast pass card and she was able to get the tickets she needed.  Then to make matters worse... the stupid ride was broken all day.  We tried 5 times waiting and it never was working.  We were meeting family for dinner that night and couldn't wait any longer.  I asked the Cars workers if our fast passes would be valid for the next day.  They said no because the day was far from over and the ride could start to work before the end of the day.  On our way out I stopped at the chamber of commerce (customer service) and asked if I could get fast passes for the next day.  At first he said no.  Until I threw a tiny fit.  I passionately explained we had tried for 3 days to get on this ride.  We were leaving tomorrow.  We got up early to be here and have a family dinner to go to and can't stay and wait for the possibility of the ride working again any longer.  Please isn't there anything you can do???  Hooray!  He gave me two fast passes that were each valid for 6 people.  But when he asked for my fast passes in exchange and I could only give him 4 he said, not kindly, "You said you had 8 people in your party." "I do." "Then why only 4 fast passes?"  Then I had to explain my struggles earlier in the day and how I was unable to procure more fast passes for the rest of my family.  I am pretty sure he thought I was one of those crazy angry people who threw fits and lie to get what they want.  But oh well.  He gave me the passes and I, totally shaken from the encounter, presented them to my cheering family.  Was the ride worth all that aggravation?  Why yes.  Yes it was.

As it turned out there was a height requirement so Sophie didn't get to ride it at all and Logan and Lindsay got to ride it twice because Gramma Cracker took the little ones away when we discovered they wouldn't be able to ride with us.

Wednesday Gramma took  Sophie and Peter home after lunch.  That way Shane and I could ride some big rides with the older kids.  We did Space Mountain, which became Lindsay's favorite.  We also rode Star Tours, Logan's favorite.  Soarin' Over California, the Matterhorn (my least favorite), Screamin', Splash Mountain, and Indiana Jones. 
That night we stayed for the World of Color.  It is this cool light show they put on water.  It was really really awesome.  Poor Brandon couldn't see much, he was too short to see on his own and Lindsay was standing on the stroller and I was holding Logan up so there was no way to get Brandon higher.  But he was a good sport about it.  He made good comments on the things he was able to see and listened to Lindsay and Logan telling him about parts he didn't see.

There's this Brother Bear Park across from the Grizzly Rapids ride.  Sophie, Peter and I spent a lot of time here waiting for the others to ride their big rides.  I didn't get a picture of it, (of course) but there is this huge play area in the Brother Bear Park that has this webbed rope you can climb all the way up to the treetops.  I climbed that.  In flip flops.  Holding Peter. And holding Sophie's hand the. whole. time.  Yep, I pretty much rocked it.

There were 2 rides that I got to see a lot of. Because we split up so much and because the lines were always really short for these rides and because Peter and Sophie loved them we went on the Little Mermaid ride and Winnie the Pooh a lot. Like 5 times each.  They are cute, fun rides, but I was glad when we rode them for the last time.

This is the pose I was telling you about that I held all week.  Peter in one arm, Sophie in the other.  Talk about building up my muscles!! At the end of the day my arms sometimes would just ache.

It's a Small World was a favorite for the little ones.  Brandon said it was torture.  I encouraged him to try to find as many broken robots as he could.  He said the helped make it bearable, but it still was torture.  

 Logan was so excited about Star Tours.  He loved this part in the line when he got to see the real live R2-D2 and C-3PO.  He was so much fun on this trip and surprised us a lot by loving the roller coaster rides.  IT all started with Splash Mountain and every single one after that his enthusiasm about all the rides was very contagious.  He even tried Tower of Terror.  When Shane asked him if would go on it again he said, "Yea.  But not right now."  Star Tours was, of course, this super star wars fan's favorite.

We left the parks early on Thursday so we could have dinner with our family.  Gramma and Frank took us to this awesome park by their house where we met cousins and had a bbq rib picnic dinner and played all night long.  It was a much needed break for us and felt very relaxing.  4 days in a row at Disneyland, we found, is a lot to ask of a family.  Although we were very very grateful we could go at all, this little picnic at the park was just what we needed to revive our Disneyland spirits, which that night, needed some serious reviving. IN fact on the way home when the kids were asked what their favorite part of the vacation was they said "The night we played at the park with our cousins." Again there aren't pictures to show for this night except for this one of Sophie on the swing. All the kids received some money to spend on a souvenir.  Sophie chose this Jesse doll and they have been inseparable ever since.  She was burying Jesse in the sand and I tried to get her to stop because she was getting her new doll all dirty.  Sophie didn't care explaining that she would just wash her. This made me stop and think that Jesse would love being buried so I didn't say anything else about it :)


Friday came. Our last day and we all wanted it to be a really good day.  Especially considering it was also Lindsay's birthday!  Lindsay had her 9th birthday on our last day to Disneyland.  She got her favorite cereal in the morning and we decorated the car for her on the inside and out.

We left by 9.  We rode the Cars ride, we got in Lindsay's favorite ride, Space Mountain, we finished some shopping, took a tour of a bakery while Brandon and Dad went on Screamin' again.  Because our plans were to stay late, we decided to go back to Gramma Cracker's house for lunch and hopefully a nap for Peter.  Lindsay asked for turkey sandwiches and instead of cake and ice-cream she asked for a caramel apple all to herself for her birthday treat.

When we got back to Disneyland later that afternoon Shane was determined that all the big kids would ride their favorite rides one more time.  I was determined we would find as many princesses as we could for Sophie.  We had already got a picture with Princess Aurora on our first day there.  She was adorable asking Sophie about her adventures and the exchange was thrilling, but it wasn't enough for either Sophie or myself. 

Imagine our happiness when we arrived and saw Snow White right there at the gate!  She is one of Sophie's favorites and oh what joy and rapture filled her heart!  We quickly got in line and this Snow White was so sweet.  She spent a minute talking to Sophie about her shirt and asked Sophie if she sewed on all those tiny diamonds herself.  It was so so so so cute!  I wish I had been able to record their conversation.

After we took pictures with this Disney Princess the worker with Snow White, Kaitlyn, came over to us and asked us to sit in the shade and wait for about 5 minutes.  When Snow White left Kaitlyn talked with Sophie about princesses and told her if would wait a little longer she thought some more of her friends would be arriving.  She checked her watch and commented that they were a little late and she was going to go look for them.  A few seconds later she popped her head around the corner and waved for Sophie to come to her.  As began following Kaitlyn, suddenly Cinderella, Belle, and Tiana just floated around the corner.  They were all holding hands with each other and when they saw Sophie they swarmed around her talking to and hugging her. I could shoot myself for not getting a picture of that moment!  Seeing Sophie's excitement and knowing this was something extra special she was getting to experience brought tears to my eyes.  It's so lame, I know, but Sophie's sheer joy touched my heart deeply.  I will be grateful to that Disney worker forever.  It was a special moment.

 Everyone was able to do and see exactly what they wanted the last day at Disneyland.  We got a great seat for the parade.  We chose to stay for Disneyland's parade because last time we were in CA we went to California Adventure's Pixar Parade.  I loved the parade in Disneyland, but I think my favorite of the two is the Pixar Parade.  It's such a great one!

This is one of the dancers who danced down the street in front of the princess float and she flirted excessively with my three boys.  It was very cute.

Before finding a place for fireworks we went on the Buzz Lightyear ride for our last ride.  It was Logan's favorite last time we came and we thought it'd be great to have something the whole family could go on.  While we were in line we realized our last ride 2 1/2 years ago was Buzz Lightyear and our first ride this time and last was Pirates of the Carribean.  We decided that we would make it a tradition to always go on these rides first and last whenever we come.

It was really important to me to get a good seat for the fireworks and see the whole show because we missed a lot of it last time.  We found a good seat with a bench that we turned around to face the fireworks.  Peter fell asleep in my arms. This hasn't happened since he was maybe 6 months old.  We ate churros, played with little toy souvenirs, and Lindsay answered birthday texts while we waited for the show to begin.  They announced the fireworks might not happen because of the wind and my heart sank.  Luckily the show went on.  What an amazing, perfect way to end our trip.

We had a wonderful time.  What a great thing to be able to take vacations with your family.  They don't need to be extravagant to create wonderful memories.  We will cherish these memories always.

The Gebs family.  Disneyland May 31, 2013