Sunday, September 28, 2014

One last thought...

I'll just say this:

Spring of this year brought some serious heartache.  The partial molar pregnancy (which is still something I'm dealing with) and my dad's passing just a few weeks later were a huge one-two punch.   It wasn't until sometime in July that I really felt the weight and grief of those losses.  There were understandably some difficult, emotional days.

I knew this Disneyland trip was going to be fun.

I knew we'd make great memories.

What I didn't expect was for this trip to feel like it was balancing out and even outweighing those hard experiences from earlier this year.   This little family of ours was kind of due for an intense dose of happiness, and we sure found it.  

It sounds almost silly, but the best way I can describe the trip is 'magical.'  Our visit to the 'happiest place on earth' was priceless, and perhaps even more special (and magical!) because of the hard things we have recently experienced.

I am immensely grateful that we were able to make it happen.

Day Three: Park Hopping

We had packed in so much the first two days that I wasn't really too disappointed that Wednesday was our last day.  That said, I was in no way antsy to leave and certainly would have enjoyed a few more days of the 'magic.'

It became apparent, though, some time around one o'clock on that last day that our boys were exhausted and quite possibly just could not soak in another day of fun had they had the option.   This guy especially, needed someone to declare and end to all of it so he could get some real sleep in a real bed when nap time rolled around.

Three days for this little family was perfect this time around.  
The day started in Tomorrowland.  When you ask Luke what his favorite ride was as Disneyland he almost always says "da wockets."
He really liked that Astro Orbiter and had one of his biggest fits getting off of it.  We all had a great time on Buzz Lightyear's Astro Blasters.
 Noah still talks about shooting at all of the "Z's."

We finished off Tomorrowland with Autopia and Star Tours. 
  Space Mountain was closed, so we'll save that for our next visit. 

On our way to the other side of the park, Luke took another ride on the tea cups, we made a brief stop in the Mad Hatter's store,

and then took a ride on the Casey Jr. Train.  
The boys loved sitting in the caboose.

At that point we had almost done everything in the park, so it became a matter of revisiting our favorites.  So, off to Pirates, Thunder Mountain Railroad and Splash Mountain we went.  Between having Fast Passes and using the Rider Switch Passes, Noah didn't get much experience with the long Disneyland lines, which was fine with all of us.

While I stayed with a sleeping Luke, Noah rode Splash Mountain twice and even sat in the front.
I love that brave boy, and he loved getting all wet in the front.

None of us had been on the Sailing Ship Columbia (at least not that I remember) so we took a little sail around the river.  
That little Luke kept trying to slip between the ropes, so we held on to him extra tight.  One year old overboard was exactly not what we needed to end our trip with. 

We got a little thrown off when a bunch of rides closed down for a while.  It kind of helped us decide to put that Park Hopper Pass to work and head over to California Adventure.  We planned to end our day in Cars Land, so first up was to get Fast Passes for Radiator Springs Racers.  After that we just walked, rode more rides, and enjoyed a zero waiting time for just about everything except Toy Story.

We had seen McQueen on the first night in California Adventure, but no one minded stopping by and saying hello again.
Noah loved that when he walked up to McQueen and said, "Kachow!" that McQueen answered back with a 'kachow' of his own.
 ALL day Noah had been asking when we could go back to Sarge's store.  There were a few toys he'd has his eye on since day 1, and oh boy he was antsy to get back there.  Anyone who knows Noah well knows that when he gets really excited and he just can't hold it in, his little arms start flapping up and down like a bird.  Once he saw the cashier ringing up Windlifter (from Planes 2) and Darth 'Mater' he about took off in flight. 
 His trip was complete.  Seriously.
Before we knew it the sun was down, 8 p.m. was upon us and we  were trying to squeeze in two more rides (for a total of 6) on Radiator Springs Racers. 
Once again, Luke was such a good boy, while others were off having fun -- one last time.

I also tried to squeeze in a picture of the boys with their awesome, sweet Grandma before the night was over. 
 Hey, I tried. 

Oh, we're so glad she experienced this family adventure with us!

As we left the park and walked back to the hotel I was tired.  My goodness, we were all tired.  But at the same time I felt exhilarated and excited.   I kind of had an extra little spring in my oh, so tired steps.  

We had just completed three days of pure fun.  I had seen my boys' eyes light up over and over and over again.  Listening to Noah and Luke recount their adventures and experiencing it ALL with them was just fantastic.  We had filled our plate with new experiences and memories that will keep us talking for years to come.  Who knows when it will be, but I can't wait for all of it to happen again the next time Disneyland comes around for our family!

Friday, September 26, 2014

More New Friends: Disneyland

We were taken in to meet Mickey in small groups.  Our family was the last of the group, so we got our own little private time with him.  The staff at Mickey's house was awesome.  They let Noah have his moment, and we didn't feel rushed at all.  After big hugs, Noah rubbed noses with Mickey and then just didn't want to let him go. 
Mickey gave a good effort for Luke.  He tried waving and playing peek-a-boo, but Luke just couldn't be convinced to go see Mickey on his own.  Once I held Luke he was happy to be closer and get to know Mr. Mouse.

Grandma took a pretty cute picture with Mickey too!

We saw Minnie from a distance, but that line was equally long, and Noah was totally content after meeting Mickey.  Next time.

Pluto was also hanging out in Toon Town, so Noah waited a few minutes to meet him as well.
This is another one of my most favorites.  
Noah found his happy place with Winnie the Pooh.  He just didn't want to let go.
The worker there could see how connected Noah wanted to be with Pooh and said, "Winnie the Pooh likes honey.  Do you like honey?"  And Noah excitedly responded, "I like honey too!"  So Winnie the Pooh went back to his pretend honey pots, scooped out some honey, and pretended to share it with Noah.  It was maybe the most darling thing ever.  I wanted to hug that Pooh Bear myself for giving us all such a sweet memory.

Tigger was fun too, especially when Noah told him, "I like to bounce just like you."  They bounced and bounced together in circles, and Noah giggled through the whole thing. 
It all really was just too cute, and left us with some priceless memories.  Next time Luke's going to love it too, right?

We caught up with a storm trooper who was a bit aloof and totally serious.

But I guess he's playing the part and isn't exactly going to start bouncing like Tigger.  Noah thought he was very cool.

Chip and Dale were hanging out on Main Street so we stopped to say hi.
I think we've only read one book that they are in, so Noah hardly knows who they even are.

But you'd never know that by how excited he was.  He literally ran to Dale, jumped into his arms and stayed and stayed and stayed there.

Chip let Noah know he was feeling a little left out, so Noah was sure to share the love a little.

We didn't make finding characters, other than Mickey, a huge priority, but instead just kind of took advantage of the opportunity if it was there.  I'm sure we could have met others had we tried harder.  This time around it was fun to just see what happened and who we could come across.  The character interactions were definitely one of my most favorite parts of the trip.  To see Noah's eyes sparkle with excitement as he met each character is a memory I'll hold on to for a long time.  Thank you Disney!

Day 2: Disneyland!

The magic continued on Day 2 in Disneyland.  I couldn't believe how easily so many childhood memories of this place came back as we walked through the park.  To now be making some of those same memories with my sweet, little family was, well, just special.
We started off in Fantasyland.  That place is always busy.  Compared to the peak season, I'm sure it was mild. But it was definitely the busiest place in the park.  We began with the classics: Dumbo, Snow White, Pinocchio, and  Alice and Wonderland.  
I don't take selfies ever, but when at Disneyland and trying to capture moments with my kids, I sure did.

Besides, if it's not just me in the picture it's not truly a selfie, right?
 Dumbo ride photo overload:


And Luke definitely wouldn't let us miss out on a carousel ride. 

While Nate and I quickly took a ride on the Matterhorn, Grandma took the boys on the tea cups.

Luke found HIS ride.
I don't know if he liked the ride or the lack of waiting in line better, but he practically earned himself a frequent rider card on those tea cups.

Even now if you ask him what his favorite ride with Grandma was he'll say in the cutest voice, "Tea cups wif Gamma."

We moved on to Small World (Nate's least favorite ride.  Who hates Small World?). Even though it was still early, we thoroughly enjoyed those eight minutes out of the heat.

We listened to a lot of Disney music before the trip, and 'It's a Small World After All' was one Luke kind of got attached to.  As we entered the tunnel and he could really hear the music he loudly shouted, "All Wurl! All Wurl!" 

 I loved watching Noah and Luke's eyes just take everything in. Pure excitement, even on Small World.

From there we moved on into Toon Town.  The first stop and first priority was to meet Mickey. 

And after that, we just stayed and played until we could tolerate the heat and lack of shade anywhere in that place no more.  So we rode Gadget's Go Coaster,
 hung out a while on Donald's boat,
 and climbed in as many cartoon cars as we could.

Luke especially liked this fire truck.

We took a break for lunch and rode the train over to New Orleans Square.  I don't remember that train from my childhood at all (Like the dinosaurs? I have no memory of that.) so it was fun to experience it with the boys.  Once we were on that side of the park we rode Splash Mountain, 
 The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh,
 Thunder Mountain Railroad,
 and Pirates of the Carribean.  We also, of course, didn't miss the Jungle Cruise, Tarzan's Treehouse, or Indiana Jones.  Noah even got to wake up Jose the Parrot to start the show in the Tiki Room, which he is still talking about.

Our time on that side of the park was just so fun.  Noah loved Splash Mountain.  I was a little nervous how he'd handle that fifty foot drop, but he almost immediately asked to go on it again -- so we did.  He goes back and forth between saying his favorite ride was Radiator Springs Racers, Splash Mountain, and Thunder Mountain Railroad. 

He can tell you all about the bats in the mine on TMR, the mountain goat you see on the right, and the dynamite explosions.  Noah was able to get in a few rides that day on TMR and a few more the next day as well.

Luke was a champ.

Along with the tea cups, he sure rode Winnie the Pooh a lot too.  Anytime one of us was taking Noah on Splash Mountain, Luke was over with Pooh.  There actually aren't a lot of rides he can't go on, but since we found ourselves on the fast, 'you have to be over 40 inches' rides a lot sweet Luke did his fair share of waiting and hanging out.   Sometimes a $6 bag of popcorn becomes a necessity when a little boy has to pass the time.

I consider it money well spent because it got him through a day and a half of waiting.  That little rascal had no interest in sharing it with any of us.

Going on the recommendation of a few friends and wanting to have one 'special' dinner while at Disneyland, we made a reservation at Big Thunder Ranch Barbecue.

It was SO great!!!  The food was delicious.
 I've never seen our boys gnaw on bones quite like that. 
 Rib in one hand and cornbread in the other.  He was totally satisfied with his dinner.
Noah thought throwing his bones in a bucket when he was done was a pretty sweet idea. He just kept saying things like "I like this place." and "Chicken and ribs are my favorite." 
  Being silly is also his "favorite" a lot of the time.  Fine by me!
Along with the food, there was some fun cowboy singing and entertainment.  And I especially loved how quiet it was back there.  We were just kind of removed from all of the busyness and people traffic that fill the park for a while, which was surprising and a nice change.

The day ended far too quickly for my liking, and all of a sudden we were trying to squeeze in a ride on Peter Pan before the park closed.  It was probably the longest line we had encountered and thirty minutes seemed like an impossibility, especially for Luke who had reached the point of exhaustion.  After standing there for only a few minutes a sweet mom walked up to me and gave us a pass to get on the ride immediately for up to six people.  So off to the front we went!  Talk about a Disney angel at a time when we really needed it.  I was incredibly happy and also incredibly grateful.  We were also able to finish off the night with Mr. Toad's Wild Ride.  Noah 'drove' with Grandma and thought all of the twists and turns of the ride were pretty fun.

I'm pretty sure our boys were more exhausted and worn out on Tuesday night than they ever have been in their short little lives.  They really could take no more.  But I had to smile a bit after they both had major meltdowns and were finally asleep, because that exhaustion came accompanied with a day of immense fun and some of the most treasured, fantastic memories that this little family of ours has ever made.

Totally worth it.