Unbeknownst to the kids, their suitcases were all packed and ready to go, full of new outfits and fun surprises. As we all sat around the breakfast table, Brian confessed that he had the day off from work, and asked the kids what they would like to do. Here's how the rest unfolded...
Click for video announcement.
As a little added White Family Drama, when Brian went to load the suitcases into the van, he discovered transmission fluid all over the garage floor. He came into the house with "thumbs down" and I just about freaked out. We quickly called my step-dad and were able to get all the carseats and suitcases rearranged into his truck and our other car. Praise the Lord, we were on our way and only a few minutes behind schedule.
Our time at the airport was calm and exciting. We made it through baggage check and security without any issues. Even had time for a stop at McDonald's for some juice before we headed to our gate. Upon seeing airplanes through the windows Noah's excitement went up ten notches and could be heard down the entire "B" corridor.
We gave the kids each a new fanny pack that was stuffed with gum, crayons and trinkets. I knew that those, along with beverage service and sheer excitement would keep the kids entertained on the 2-hour flight. And for the most part it did, along with a quick movie on the iPad.
Once we got all our luggage (5 suitcases, 3 carseats, 3 carryons, 4 fanny packs and a stroller), picked up our rental car and went grocery shopping, we checked into our condo. We had a lovely, 3-bedroom, 3-bathroom condo right across the street from Disneyland. Once we were settled it was time for the next surprise.....knock, knock....in came Grandpa, Grandma, and our nanny, who is my cousin's daughter that our kids all adore. The kids were thrilled, although by that time they were coming to expect surprises. The stinkers.
We got to the park about 10 minutes before it opened on our first morning. We were armed with a schedule we had generated by a software program that told us exactly which ride to get on at what time, and promised to nearly eliminate wait times. For the most part, it delivered.
As we waited behind the rope on Disney's Main Street, joining in on the countdown to letting us all in, I found myself a little choked up. The magic of it all, the sweat and tears in paying off our debt, seeing the looks on my kid's faces that I myself had at their age....it was all quite emotional.
As we walked through the castle into Fantasyland, I just sort of hung back and took it all in.
The last time I went to Disneyland, I was seven. One of my memories was the Dumbo ride, so it was fitting that that was the first ride we all went on.
It was just how I remembered.
We gave our kids autograph books which were nearly filled by the end of the trip. (Sadly, Isaiah lost his after the very last autograph on our very last day.) We had so many opportunities to see the different characters, and really got a lot of personal time with them. Our very first encounter was with Pluto, who messed around with Noah for a while.
It was pretty much Emma's life dream to meet Ariel. Emma was a little bit shy, but definitely took it all in.
Surprisingly, the boys were pretty "in" to meeting the princesses, too.
Our entire group had brunch one morning at Goofy's Kitchen. We payed WAY too much for food that was just okay, but it was all worth it for the amount of time the kids got with so many different characters. We're talking dancing with Baloo, doing the "Twist" with Pluto, playing Tic Tac Toe with Chip...so much fun.
Who is that lady standing behind Isaiah? Can someone please tell her to stand up straight or suck in her gut?
We spent a couple days over at California Adventure (which is adjacent to Disneyland). There are some more "intense" rides there.
This is after Emma and I did California Screamin', a super-fast-with-an-upside-down-loop roller coaster. She loved it and went on it three more times!
Here is a video I took during our ride. I wish I had captured more of Emma, but at least you get a really good view of my hand. Click here for video.
Some snuggle time with my sweet little babe. He was such a great sport the entire trip. He spent most of his time in the stroller, or occasionally in the front carrier when we could shade him from the sun. I sat out some of the rides so I could nurse him, which was fine, and everyone else took turns sitting out rides and watching him. I would totally do a trip with a newborn again - not a problem at all.
This is the ferris wheel at CA Adventure. See those red tracks inside the spokes of the wheel? Those are what the cars slide around on while the wheel is moving. Seems tame at first while the wheel is loading. But when it gets going full speed, it's pretty much the scariest thing. Seriously. A ferris wheel.
Here's proof. Look at Jordan (our nanny). Happy and calm, right? This is right after we got on the ride.
And here is after the wheel got moving. Look at Jordan now!
video of us during the crazy part.
Killing some time while we waited in line.
Our kids were all so brave on all the rides. The first "wild" ride we did was Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Everyone (but Braxton) did it, and loved it.
Jordan was excited before the ride even started!
By the way, Jordan was worth her weight in gold on this trip. I never, ever, want to travel without her again. Well, I guess it might be weird if the trip were just for Brian and me.
I had Noah next to me and was a little worried about him, but he did great.
The little kids all ended up doing every ride that they were tall enough to do, and especially loved the ones like Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, Matterhorn, and Indiana Jones - and did some of them multiple times.
One error in judgement we made was allowing Isaiah to go on Tower of Terror at CA Adventure. I had no idea what it was, otherwise I probably wouldn't have let Emma go on it, either. The people in line next to us commented on how brave Isaiah must be, until Brian said "this is his first time" to which they replied, "oh". They sat behind Isaiah on the ride and tried to see his expression during the ride. When it was over, they commented on what a great job Isaiah did, and then he burst into tears. Poor guy! But the picture the ride took of us all was so worth it that my Dad couldn't resist buying it.
The whole front row is our family. I love the story everyone's faces tell, including the people behind Isaiah.
This is how Noah occupied his time while we rode the Tower of Terror, thankfully.
I love the memories that my kids will take with them from the trip. The little boys will have probably only little flashes of memories, but I expect Emma will remember quite a bit. One thing I'm sure she will remember was her magical princess makeover.
Emma had her very own Fairy Godmother-in-training who transformed Emma into the princess we always knew she was. Emma got to select which hairstyle she wanted, and carefully chose which makeup colors to use.
When the makeover was complete, the little birds behind Emma opened up to reveal a magical mirror where Emma could see the results.
On our last day at Disneyland we made it a point to see the parade. At about 45 minutes prior to the start of the parade it was already too late to find a spot in the shade. So we picked a spot on the sidewalk where we had a good view, and got waffle cones while we waited. It was hot. Very hot, that day. Okay, probably only about 85, but sitting on the sidewalk, nursing my baby under a blanket, sun beating down...I was a sweaty mess. And you know what else? The sidewalk brick was so hot, I burned my butt. Burned. My. Butt. I kept asking Brian to slide blankets and diaper pad and anything else I could find under me while I nursed, but the heat kept sneaking through and literally burned me. Left a mark.
As hot as we were though, the parade was great. Any show Disney puts on is great, I have come to find.
Speaking of shows, the World of Color show at California Adventure was uh-mazing. Water, lasers, music, fire, images on water-screen. Definitely worth seeing.
After five full days at Disneyland we checked out of our condo and headed south to Sea World. We only spent one afternoon there, and to be honest, I was tempted to skip it all together. But we hit the big shows and had a lot of fun, so it was worth it.
I do wish we had one or two more days at the end of our trip to just relax. Our last night we stayed at Laguna Beach, and enjoyed the morning and a picnic on the beach before we had to head to the airport. I'm thankful that we had at least that little bit of down time.
Phew! That's our trip, in a giant nutshell. Brian is already talking about where to go next, in two years. Mexico? Hawaii? All I know is that I finally just got the last suitcase put away!
Thank you, Jesus, for such an amazing vacation.