Sunday, December 27, 2015

Cali Trip 2015

A few months ago Jack's sisters let the family know they'd be going to Disneyland in October.  We had a hard time committing because of my pregnancy, and then once we did commit, had a hard time being excited.  I was anxious about all of the cost and time just to be miserable on my feet all day in the heat and not be able to go on many rides.  We planned a couple of other things in tandem with Disneyland though and Jack and I both started to really look forward to the trip.

We left Saturday morning and drove 4 hours to St George.  I stocked the car well with treats and snacks, books and toys for the girls, and I updated their iPads with movies and games.  We also found some cool drawing boards at Costco that come with little stylus's and erase at the push of a button.  Liv was crazy for hers.  In St George we grabbed lunch at two of our favorite places, Tom's Deli and Croshaw's pies (lemon cream cheese!).  We took our food to the splash pad, put the girls' swimsuits on, and let them run around and play in the water to get wiggles and energy out while we ate.  We then got back in the car and drove to Vegas where we had booked a hotel south of the strip.  Jack loves Vegas and it was so nice to break up the trip and add something else fun to the vacation.  We swam in the hotel pool, ate dinner at Maggiano's (mushroom ravioli!), watched the Bellagio fountains and saw the Treasure Island pirate ship, and took the girls to walk around the Wynn and see all the flowers.  We took a picture of our family in the spot Jack and I met for the first time 8 years ago.  Right next to the lobby in the Wynn.  It was so fun to reminisce again about that first date and then compare to now; two girls, one on the way, a new house, all on family vacation.  For breakfast the next morning we stopped at Hash House a Go Go on our way out and then grabbed a box of Sprinkles cupcakes (red velvet!)

We hit some miserable traffic outside of Vegas, which was so frustrating since we had 4 hours between Vegas and Anaheim but we survived and made it safely to the Disney Paradise Pier Hotel.  We were staying in a Disney hotel so I could be close to it while we were in the park in case I needed to go back and rest.  We arrived a little after lunch and Jack had the suggestion that we add a 5th day to our park hopper passes to get into the park that day and sort everything out for my DAS pass and have some time for just our family.  We had gotten a 4-day pass so we wouldn't have to rush around and I could take my time resting and our girls could wander and do what they wanted.  We got a special tag on our stroller at city hall that basically allowed us to get return times on rides (in addition to our fast pass) or walk onto rides through the exit using the stroller as an assistive device so I wouldn't have to stand in long lines being so pregnant.  Jack and I went to Hawaii when I was in my third trimester with Berlin and when we got back she was so low that I had to go on modified bed rest for two weeks.  We wanted to prevent that from happening again.  All of the employees were super helpful and accommodating the entire time we were there and really made the visit nice in my limited ride-going state.  We took Liv and Berlin on a few rides we knew they would love in order to give them a feel for the park (Winnie the Pooh, It's a Small World...) and spent some time in our hotel room, which was so cute and Disney-esque.  We had two queen beds in our room and a futon couch.  We took the small mattress off the couch and turned the couch over to block off sort of a separate room for our girls to sleep in.  They slept on the mattress and padding on the floor and Jack and I could move freely about the room in the evenings while they slept instead of feeling like we had to turn in at the same time.  One of my favorite things about the trip was going back late each night and putting the girls down, then Jack would order us sandwiches and soup from Earl of Sandwich in Downtown Disney and we'd eat and watch Law and Order.  Our hotel was right across the street from Downtown Disney and the monorail right into the park.

Two of Jack's sisters had arrived later Sunday afternoon and on Monday morning first thing we all met in California Adventure.  We were able to have a separate entrance through the Grand Californian Hotel (also across the street from us) that took us right in because we were staying in a Disney Hotel.  We quickly got fast passes to World of Color and Radiator Springs, as we heard they are the most popular tickets and passes and go quickly.  California Adventure sure had a lot more going on than I remembered!  Honestly I loved it just as much as Disneyland!  There was a carousel the girls loved and some great shows that we were able to see.  The Frozen stage show was so cute.  Monday we had made reservations at Ariel's Grotto and ate a yummy lunch while a few princesses walked around and talked to all of the kids and took pictures with them.  After lunch Jack took Olivia on a cool zipline, we watched the Disney Jr show with the whole family, and then saw the Pixar parade.

Tuesday we were back at Disney and went on so many fun rides!  The girls LOVED the teacups and Jack loved that he didn't have to ride with us  because he doesn't handle spinning well.  We also did Cars Land, the Haunted Mansion (which was decorated to be Nightmare Before Christmas themed), met more characters, and Jack convinced Olivia to go on Splash Mountain.  It was a ride that will live in infamy in our family because of how much she hated it haha.  We also ate our favorite meal of the trip.  It's a BBQ joint in Disneyland and you pay for an all-inclusive meal, then sit at big wooden tables under canopies and the server brings out big metal buckets of food, family style, for your table!  The food was honestly AMAZING.  One bucket held bbq ribs and chicken, another had huge chunks of honey cornbread and buttermilk rolls, another had ears of buttered corn on the cob, and another had coleslaw.  There was also big frosty mugs of homemade rootbeer.  The whole time listened to a country band up on the stage and then they invited all the kids to come up and learn a song and dance to perform.  I think this was my favorite moment in the whole vacation.  Afterwards we found a great place (thank you disabled pass again!) And watched the electric parade, which was the best of the parades.

Wednesday morning we had a character breakfast at our hotel!  The buffet food was super good (especially the mickey-shaped waffles!) and Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Goofy, Daisy, Donald, and Stitch danced and took pictures with all of the kids and came around to each table to meet everyone.  We hung around California Adventure for most of the day, playing in the splash pad by Bug's Life land  riding the big ferris wheel, and meeting Elsa and Anna, and then in the afternoon Olivia had an appointment with her Fairy Godmother to get a royal makeover for the Halloween party at Disneyland that night!  She got a new dress (Cinderella, which we had purchased beforehand and brought with us to avoid paying $80 for a dress at the boutique), and got her hair, makeup, and nails done.  She also got her own backpack with some goodies in it!  Jack couldn't resist buying her a bunch of accessories at the boutique and even I gave in and got each girl a little princess necklace.  We had gotten Berlin a new Sophia dress to put on during Olivia's makeover too and I brought nail polish to paint her nails while Olivia did so Bay wouldn't feel left out.  The best part of the makeovers was, sadly, at Liv's cousin Jacee's expense.  Her Fairy Godmother must have been having an off day because she was cranky and rough and left Jacee's hair looking a little....cavewoman-ish.  Pam was a good sport about it, and we got a lot of laughs out of it.  We were able to pin her hairpiece down a little afterward and make some improvements, so that helped.  The Halloween party was underway by the time we were finished and all of the kids in our group got big bags and got to go trick-or-treating at different candy stations around the park!  It was pretty crowded, but so much fun!

The last couple of days we switched from the Paradise Pier Hotel to the Disneyland Hotel.  The headboard in our room was super cool, it lit up the castle with twinkling lights and played music!  Our last day at Disney we just cleaned up on all of the rides in both parks that we had missed or wanted to go on again and then saw the Aladdin show with the whole family!  Our last night in the park we wanted to see the  Fantasmic show on the water.  We found a place to park but honestly it was so crowded that we could barely see.  Just then one of the park employees asked if we'd like to sit in the VIP section because they had a group not show up!  They led us to some chairs in a roped off area right on the water and gave us drinks and popcorn. We were able to see the whole show seated, without obstruction, and at the end fake snow fell from bubble machines right above us.  It was the best possible way to end our amazing Disney Vacation.  And honestly, the entire trip was full of little personal touches and allowances like that.  We were so happy with Disney's attention to detail and how clean and well-run the park is.  There were special experiences around every corner. 

We had our last traditional Earl of Sandwich late-night meal one last time and were so sad for the Disney portion to be over, but excited for the last leg of the vacation

On Friday we checked out of our hotel and headed to Crystal Cove beach!  We ate a cafe on the beach and spent most of the day chasing seagulls (Berlin), running from the waves (Olivia), catching fish in the tide pools (Jack) and sitting in the shade (Me).  Jack was so sweet to run down the beach and rent some beach chairs and umbrellas for his 7-months-pregnant wife and kept me well supplied with cold bottles of water.  Berlin started hating the experience about an hour in.  She doesn't like to have dirty hands or feet and the sand was troubling her to no end.  It didn't help that there was no where to rinse off due to the water shortage in Cali so we had to pile back into our car feeling gritty.  We then drove to Huntington and stayed at the Shorebreak Hotel, which was only across the street from the beach.  We all took a bath and got freshened up and then met with the rest of the family for dinner at my favorite place, BJ's! We walked to the end of the pier in the dark and I had 10 panic attacks thinking of my kids falling into the water.  Saturday morning there was a surfing competition going on and we walked down the pier one more time to watch the surfers.  I've never seen waves so big!  We shared shakes at Ruby's and then headed home.

Jack and I had worried that our girls would be too young to appreciate Disneyland yet and that it may not be worth the money and time spent (plus hauling my huge belly around for a week), but honestly I couldn't imagine two kids having more fun.  They were just in heaven the entire time and we have been home for two months now and there isn't a day that goes by that they don't talk about Disneyland several times.  Every night when they go to sleep they want to reminisce about their favorite moments and rides. Jack and I also count it among our favorite things we've ever done.  Well done Walt Disney, well done.

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