Monday, July 9, 2018

California 2018

I read a headline the other day that said something about only having your child for 18 summers. AH! That doesn't sound right! It feels like we're making it count, but this golden time is going by fast. Our big summer vacation trip happened the very first week of summer, which makes it seem like there should be another trip before the summer is over. We spent all the money, though! Ha!

Our plan was to leave the house at 5 a.m. on Sunday morning and go to 9 a.m. sacrament meeting in Cedar City. The Saturday before we left was PACKED with activities and last-minute grocery shopping, but we were close to ready by the time we got in bed. We still ended up leaving an hour late at 6 a.m., but we got to Cedar City right on time. After the meeting we opened the back of the van to get a cold drink and the little drink cooler fell out and our drinks went rolling around in the parking lot. AH! One Dr. Pepper was exploding everywhere like a firecracker! We rounded up the drinks and backed out, dislodging a chocolate milk that rolled alongside us. HAHAHAHAHA! 
We met Brian's brother Hal and his sister Dena in St. George so that we could caravan to Anaheim. Hal had their mom, Denise, his mother-in-law Carol, and Nate in his vehicle and Dena was driving with her daughter Janessa and granddaughter Brighton. We hit traffic outside of Las Vegas because we are FOOLS. I think it added two hours to the five hour drive. The kids were all set being in the van, as the photo evidence shows.
Way back in February I booked a house in Anaheim through VRBO. It was an older home, but it had an amazing-looking backyard with a small swimming pool and covered grill with lots of seating. The kids were in their suits and in the pool before we had all the luggage unpacked. Happy day!

Day One - Disneyland

We were at Disneyland first thing Monday morning. We weren't experts yet, so we got separated almost immediately after getting our bags checked. The only thing we knew was we had to get fast passes for Radiator Springs Racers. Brian had the credit card and he was with his Mom securing her scooter and I had all the kids at California Adventures. I couldn't get the Disney app without the credit card, so the kids and I hurried to get a hard copy fast pass for the ride. Bah. We met Goofy on our way there. :)
We met everyone and after a strategy session and getting apps and fast passes, we went to Soarin' together. The line was pretty long and the kids didn't have their Disneyland Game Faces yet, so it got rough. I think we had at least two bathroom breaks during the line.
After Soarin', a thrilling, but friendly ride, Emil and Colin were super confident about going on big kid roller coasters. Aunt Dena and Janessa suggested we go on Guardians of the Galaxy. Brighton went on it last year and she's more than a year younger than Emil and Colin! It's all fun and games waiting for the ride - we get to see the Guardians of the Galaxy and we're on the elevator with Rocket. Then the lights go out and we shoot to the top of the building and drop straight back down in the dark. I could hear Emil yelling next to me, but he was yelling on the other roller coaster when he was having fun. After going up and dropping down a few more times we stopped at the tippy top of the building and the elevator doors opened so we could see all of Disneyland and Anaheim. I looked at Emil and he was TERRIFIED and bawling that he had peed his pants! WHAT?! Brian discovered that Colin was also scared out of his mind and trying to unbuckle his seat belt so he could get off the next time the elevator doors opened. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! We tried to comfort the boys through our laughing tears. The photo they took of us at the top is the most classic photo of all time.
It took a bit to get Emil and Colin to calm down, but Disneyland is full of distractions and we were presented with an opportunity to follow Loki around and try to get his autograph. He was super cheeky and never stood still. 
Loki stopped everyone before a trolley, moving at a brisk walking pace, could run over them. HA! Afterward he told them how lucky it was he was there to save them. Then he said he was sorry he saved them.
I can't remember what he asked them here - Colin had mispronounced his name earlier. I think we split up at this point and Brian and I took the kids on a couple of rides in California Adventure and we saw a long preview of Incredibles 2 on a 3-D screen. 
Red hangs out next to Mater's crazy tractor pull ride.
Our whole group of 12 went on Radiator Springs Racers together - Grandma came in our car. That is the perfect roller coaster. It's my favorite! 
Our fast passes got out of sync somewhere during the day and we split up again to go on rides after Radiator Springs. Our family went on Splash Mountain next - Bridget's old favorite. A lot of this ride is in the dark and there are ominous parts where the log (no seat belts) climbs up in the dark while a rabbit laughs maniacally. Emil lost his mind. I was right behind him and I tried to rub his shoulders to comfort him. Bridget was deliciously scared and kept yelling, "Why am I in front?!" She got soaked! Emil was so worked up after Splash Mountain that we had to take it down several notches - off to the Hundred Acre Wood to meet characters.
Brian asked the kids what the wonderful thing about Tiggers is and when he started writing his name I said, "T - I - double Guh - R." I bet the guy in the Tigger suit appreciates parents like us. Ha!
Thanks for noticing me.
Everyone is still wet, but now we're happy. The other day Emil had to spell the bad name Colin called him - "P - O - O - H." HA! We went to the Carnation Cafe for dinner - I had made reservations about three weeks before. After paying $60 for bad pizza in a noisy restaurant in Tomorrowland last time, I was determined not to have bad food at Disneyland again. 
Emil's burger was tiny, but all the fries made up for it. I had a Coke with lemon for my drink and it's never tasted so good. It was nice to sit and relax after all that running around. I took the equivalent of a 10K on my steps that first day at Disneyland!
After dinner we met up with Dena, Janessa and Brighton for the Jungle Cruise. I've never been on it! How can that be?! Our guide was a stand-up comedian - he had us all laughing through the whole cruise. "Do you like zebras? Don't look over there..." (A zebra getting torn apart by hyenas? Fake blood everywhere? I thought this was a family show.) 
One of the things the Disney app alerted us to was where and when the characters were for autographs. We made our way to Main Street to meet Pluto and then Mickey Mouse with Nate. After that we were shoulder to shoulder with all the tired Disney goers for the Pixar Parade. We watched by the water, so divided our attention between the water/light show and the fireworks. I put Colin on my shoulders for a minute and crushed what was left of my spirit and body. Thirteen hours at Disneyland!

Day Two - Being Lazy
We scheduled a lazy day for Friday, but then Dena found out it was Graduation Day at Disneyland on the Wednesday we were planning to be there. We also found out we are old people who couldn't possibly do Universal Studios the day after Disneyland. So we switched our lazy day to Tuesday and it was The Best. The kids played in the pool, Emil tried on every costume in the playroom, we ate food, the kids played in the pool. Did I mention the kids played in the pool? I will now testify that renting a house is the ONLY way to go. Renting a house with a pool is even better. We figured out that going in on this house together cost us a little over $900 for six nights. We could cook our own food in an actual kitchen, we had a really nice grill outside, and we didn't have to share the pool with strangers. WIN. 
Late in the afternoon when Brighton had been in the pool for about six hours, she sleepily made her way around the edge of the pool. She didn't want to get out, but it was so hard to keep on having fun in the pool.

Day Three - Universal Studios
It took us a few hours to get to Universal Studios, but it was a beautiful day and the kids were ready to become wizards. First, though, photo ops with Universal characters. (I love that Emil is so quick to follow my direction for photos. I wanted them to pose like the statue in the background and he was the only one who did it.)
Shrek and Fiona by a waffle cart?! That's fun.
 Leading up to our vacation we referred to Universal Studios only as Harry Potter World. We've watched all the movies as a family, Bridget (and Brian and I) have read all the books multiple times, we all love it. The California Harry Potter World isn't very big, but it really was like stepping into the movie. Our first stop was Ollivander's to get our wands.
I'd been saving my winnings for months so that we could pay for this trip with cash. It's so hard not to think about how much money we're spending when we're on vacation! I saved it up for this very purpose! But spending $164 on interactive wands made me dry heave a little. The kids went around to all the places where they could do spells (Bridget's right foot is on one of the symbols showing what spell to do) and became really good at magic. 
This was one of my favorites - the spell turned the lights in the window on.
Bridget and Brian talked me into going on the Hogwart's roller coaster. They went on it together and it was their favorite ride in the whole world! Bridget begged me to go on it with her (I was in the waiting room with the boys because they didn't want to risk it). I passed several signs that warned me if I had motion sickness this ride is not for me, etc. I went on it anyway. Like a dummy. The combination of jerking back and forth and up and down while watching fuzzy 3D images and then the ride stopping in a dark, smoke-filled spot for five minutes gave me a migraine. I played it cool (I thought) and tried not to move my head or my eyeballs while we walked into the other parts of Universal. Brian took Bridget on the Simpson's ride (not worth it) while the boys and I met Bart and Crusty.
I'm fuzzy on the timeline from here on out because my mind hurt. I know I waited at a cafe across from some Transformers characters while everyone went on another ride. Then the kids met Optimus Prime because he's Brighton's favorite (!). When Optimus Prime told the kids to do their battle pose, Brighton slowly lifted up her elbow menacingly. Hahahaha!
After this we made our way back to Harry Potter World because the boys wanted to do more magic. Yes! Let's get some more use out of those wands! I think we went right to the Three Broomsticks with the Grandmas and Hal and Nate.
Bridget got a butterbear brain freeze with her ribs and corn.
Sirius Black is a wanted man! The buildings in Harry Potter World are just the coolest.
While Bridget and Brian went on the Hogwart's ride two or three more times, the boys and I ran around casting spells and being awesome wizards. We made it home, probably, but I don't remember anything else. Dena sacrificed one of her magic migraine pills to me - it's the first medication that has ever worked for me. I got a good night's sleep and I was ready for another day at Disneyland.

Day Four - Disneyland Again
We were WISE to the Disney Fast Pass App on our second day in Disneyland. We synchronized all the passes and stayed together. The first stop for everyone but me (still fragile from the Hogwart's ride) was Star Tours. We went on it the first day with just our family and Emil was the spy! It didn't take long, and then we were off to meet Star Wars characters that we just missed the first day. One in five kids are super excited to meet Chewbacca! He was excited about Colin being his brother from another mother.
Rey taught the kids how to drive the Millenium Falcon - #useful.
The twelve of us split into groups of two and road the Autopia cars together, then went to the Monorail. Easy, fun for everyone rides. The grandmas parked their scooters next to the entrance of the Monorail, which was on the second floor. When we got off the ride, they took the scooters to the elevator and the rest of us took the stairs. We'd been waiting for a while for the grandmas before we checked to see what the hold up was - they were stuck! Nothing they tried got the elevator going again. They could hear us if we yelled into the door cracks. Once the maintenance guys and the fire department were called we settled in and ate cold pizza while we waited for them to get our grandmas out. It took more than an hour! Thank goodness they had food and water in there and neither of them freaked out.
Brian is doing his best impression of Gaston here. I've teased him since we were engaged that he looks like Gaston AND he uses antlers in all of his decorating. Being at Disneyland with the possibility of me meeting Gaston in person made Brian feel a little insecure, I think. :)
A Disneyland employee stood by us without intruding the whole time we waited for Denise and Carol to be rescued. Once they were out, the Disney person gave each of us three free fast passes. Normally you can only have one at a time and you have to wait more than an hour in between each fast pass. Jackpot! It was very liberating to know we could fall back on a fast pass any time. (We didn't know until too late that they were only for Disneyland, not California Adventures.) Off to the caterpillar ride!
I had to flag him down, but we met Gaston! After this picture he started flirting with Janessa - easy come, easy go.
The twelve of us rode Radiator Springs Racers together after more little kid rides. This time the boys were in one car with Grandma Carol and the girls were in another car. The boys talked a lot of trash, but I didn't think we'd end up racing each other. Then when we went to a Ramon's instead of Luigi's before the race I got hopeful - sure enough we pulled up alongside the boys for the race. They all went crazy! It was my favorite moment ever. Then they "won" and went even crazier. Ha!
Standing in lines is part of the deal, y'all.
Luigi's Dancing Cars is this close to being a puke ride. The grandmas and I took Nate, Emil, Colin, and Brighton on the Winnie the Pooh ride while everyone else went to Indiana Jones (Colin wasn't tall enough and the other kids had no interest in getting stressed out in the jungle). Then my family went to the Louisiana-themed restaurant for dinner. 
Mickey Mouse-shaped beignets! I could go for one right now, actually.
We ran into Dr. Facilier from Princess and the Frog. Bridget and I joked before going to Disneyland that we wanted to meet the villains. She didn't have the stomach for it in real life. Ha!
We went through the Haunted House after this and it stopped about a dozen times. Meh. Emil's obsession with Nightmare Before Christmas is going strong - he loves that kind of art and he loves that story. Funny kid. :)
Bridget doesn't want to be rude, but she'd rather not join the Dark Side.
Menacing.
Darth Vader was a riot! He approved of Emil's choices and told Colin he had chosen poorly.

Day Five - The Beach and a BBQ
We couldn't be that close to the ocean without dipping our toes in. We were amateurs getting there and parking, but the house we stayed in had all kinds of beach stuff so we didn't have to pack it.
Brighton let me braid her hair while Grandma Dena and Janessa got ready. She reminds me so much of Bridget at that age! Notice our sandcastle cornerstone on her right. :)
Emil was determined to catch a wave. :) 
Bridget hunted for shells in between catching waves on a boogie board.
Colin lost a tooth (in the pool) the very first night of our vacation. Is that our thing? Losing teeth while on vacation? Ha!
We came back to the house after a few hours and had steaks and baked potatoes and watched the kids swim and swim. The next morning, Saturday, we drove home!

The End