Spring Break

We spent the week in Disneyland with Grandma Kathy and Grandpa Gary.  Three days in the happiest place on earth, great weather, not bad crowds, all the attractions open, and chewable Benadryl = good times.

Here’s every last detail…almost…

Day one started off rough with a forty-five minute wait for Dumbo, actually mornings one and two started off rough.  Once Grace got a few rides under her belt her anxiety and excitement settled a bit and although she definitely remained “two” she was generally a good sport for the whole trip.  She’s independent, but she can be bribed and coercion like “there’s no crying at Disneyland, it’s against the rules,” and “if you’re not nice to Mommy they won’t let you ride the rides,” even work on occasion.  

By far Grace’s favorite ride was Peter Pan, I’m pretty sure we rode it six times over the course of the three days.  There were also several spins on the carousel which has a mercifully short line at all times.  

The one who surprised us most was Hope, she loved Disneyland…every minute of it.  I was really worried, I figured that she and I would be spending a lot of time in the Baby Care center “pretending” to breast feed so we could go into the quiet stalls with the rockers.  Hope has been a lot more sensitive in crowds recently, she had the traditional first-birthday-party-ending-meltdown just one month ago and has become more consistent in voicing her distress.  I figured the crowds and all the stimulation would be too much.  The only thing she didn’t like was on day two when I tried her in the Baby Bjorn, I thought she’d like being out and about at eye level.  Not quite.  She was much happier in her  stroller, more secure I guess — although it has it’s own hazards, like an older sister.

But Hope drank in every detail of the park and was totally aware of the rides, the characters, the whole experience.  Of course she’s aware, right?  How odd to be “surprised” by that — I mean, she’s one for pete’s sake.  One of the things that everybody mentions about Hope is how observant she is, I guess it’s just that she doesn’t express herself quite as typically as other one-year-olds.  

totally focused on the Jungle Cruise Captain

totally focused on the Jungle Cruise Captain

But she has wonderfully expressive eyebrows, and eyes and though she’s still not terribly vocal her body language is becoming more and more developed and we could tell that she was truly enjoying herself.


We spent all of day one in Disneyland, rode most all of the Fantasyland rides, except for Mr. Toad’s and Snow White, which we figured would be too loud/dark/scary for the girls — and they’re not familiar with those rides anyway.  Hope also loved Peter Pan.  Where Grace kept her eyes covered most of the first couple rides, Hope of course could not.  She noticed the details, she leaned over the edge of the boat to look down on London and looked all around at the stars.  I think Pinocchio was too loud for her, but she loved the Casey Jr. Train and the Storybook Boat, the Disneyland Railroad, and of course, Winnie the Pooh.  Hope totally slept through the parade, but Grace loved it and watched it from Grandpa’s shoulders.  It’s a pretty stripped-down parade right now, not sure why exactly.  We dashed across to California Adventure to catch the Pixar Parade which is short but very, very cute.  I bought me a Toy Story Woody doll, which I am loaning to Grace.

We had dinner on the deck of the Rainforest Cafe before heading back to the park for a couple more hours, after Grace got some food and a nap she wasn’t ready to go home yet.  She was deleriously happy to ride Peter Pan, the tea cups and the Carousel again before agreeing happily to go home for the night.

Day Two we started in California Adventure, Grandpa had to work so it was just us girls until the afternoon.  We spent the morning at the Brother Bear playground area where Grace was able to run and climb and generally expend some early morning energy.  After that we headed over to the Bug’s Life area which was practically empty.  We walked on Heimlich’s Chew-Chew Train, my personal fave…I mean, c’mon, the animal crackers smell?  I love that.  Hope loved the train but her favorite ride of the day was…get this…the Ladybug Teacups.  If you haven’t been on these things let me tell you, they are fast and jerky…they throw you around way more than the Mad Hatter teacups.  She thought they were hilarious.  She may actually end up being the family daredevil.  

For lunch we went back to the main park because we had seen a new restaurant near Thunder Mountain the day before.  Years ago there was a really good BBQ there and then it was closed for a long time.  They reopened it recently in a Toy Story 2 theme.  It is totally adorable.  It’s pricy, but worth it — there aren’t a lot of things you can say that about at Disneyland…but this totally is.  They serve you BBQ chicken and ribs, beans, coleslaw, and cornbread family-style and all-you-can-eat…and this is darn good BBQ, best I’ve had in a long time.  The whole time there is show going on, a western-style piano player, a guitar player, a little audience participation, Bullseye (the horse from Toy Story 2)…but not a super loud, obnoxious show…really nice ambience.  Of course the “highlight” is that Woody and Jesse from Toy Story 2 greet you as you come in and then circulate throughout the dining area paying special visits to every table while you eat.  Both days we were there (yes, we went twice) we were there long enough to get several personal visits.  Of course if your kids totally hate Woody and Jesse and BBQ this probably isn’t the best bet.  But Grace loves Woody and Jesse, I don’t thing we realized how much until she saw them the first day.  The bummer was that you have to pay to go in to see them and we didn’t know that, we had already had lunch on Day One when we went by there.  Grace saw Woody and wanted to run to him but we couldn’t get her in because it’s part of the “dining experience” — it was moderately heartbreaking…o.k., it was devastating (that’s why we ended up going back twice).  So the next day, when she was allowed in, she ran into Jesse’s waiting arms like she was her long, lost mother.  Seriously, she hugged her like this for a minute…at least.  I think the people behind us in line were crying…it was beautiful…really.  Woody was working the dining room, Grace ran to him and he escorted her to the table…since there was no other way she was going to get there.

So lunch was a serious hit on Day Two.

We caught back up with Grandpa in time for the big parade, which Grace watched from my shoulders this time.  Afterward we managed to catch Small World at just the right time and had a fairly short wait.  Hope was exhausted and fought a valiant fight to keep her eyes open for the whole ride, barely.  Grace passed out on the way to dinner in Downtown Disney, slept all the way through it.  Hope woke up in time for dinner and enjoyed making faces at Grandpa while she ate.  Grace woke up long enough for us to convince her to go back to the hotel with Grandma and Grandpa while mommy and I “ran an errand” (code for “it’s date night, kids!”).  In just under four hours we managed to go Soarin’ Over California, and rode Space Mountain, Thunder Mountain, and Pirates.  Plus we got a little shopping in, I promised Grace a present…she got a Jesse shirt and Hope got a Tigger.  (Oh yeah, day two we did Critter Country after lunch…Chip ‘n’ Dale, petting zoo, Pooh, Tigger…Hope loved Tigger–must be the bouncing).

Day Three we had an extra special guest, Uncle Troy came for the morning and stayed through lunch.  We got into California Adventure just as they were opening and managed to get two rides on the Monsters Inc. ride in ten minutes.  That’s a really cute ride, if you liked the movie (and Grace does…”Randall” has even become an occasional imaginary playmate).  We went back to the Pier to try and get on the new Toy Story ride but the line was beyond our waiting abilities.  All was not lost however, in the gift shop next to the ride I spotted something I had not seen anywhere else…the Jesse hat.  Normally Grace will not wear hats, but this was too cute to pass up.  Fortunately she loved it…she was already wearing her new Jesse shirt.  It was perfect.

We made another pass through Bug’s Land before heading back to Disneyland for another pass through Fantasyland and the Jungle Cruise before heading back for more BBQ.  After lunch Grandma, Grandpa, and Uncle Troy had to hit the road so we said our goodbyes and the four of us continued on to an encore ride of Winnie the Pooh.  We raced out of the park ahead of the parade and put Grace to sleep in the process.  We found a quiet spot outside the ginormous Disney store in Downtown Disney where Grace could nap and Hope could crawl around on the old, felt-backed, vinyl tablecloth Grandma had brilliantly packed for just such an occasion.  We took turns shopping, I bought more Toy Story 2 figurines and a bucket of little-green-men for Grace’s Toy Story 2-themed Third Birthday Party…coming May 2009.  

Once the girls were both up and had some kettle corn in them we went back to California Adventure, to check if Grace could ride Soarin’ Over California (she can’t, too short), then we tried the Toy Story ride again, too long to wait still.  So it was back to Disneyland where we did manage to get on the Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters before dinner at the Golden Horseshoe.  I’m guessing that restaurant is not going to last much longer, it’s due for a makeover…seriously.  We strolled back to Small World after dinner, I really wanted Hope to have another shot at seeing it while she was truly awake.  It was a bit of a wait, and Grace was a little difficult.  I was getting ready to send her and mommy packing off to the carousel…we were not leaving until Hope did this ride awake.  Fortunately the line started moving and we were on.

Hope understood the rhythm and routine of the ride experience.  You wait, you get on, you go.  With Small World, you know, you wait, you get on the boat…it takes awhile to board and then you snake around the garden for a good three-four minutes looking at topiary animals.  Hope was not impressed.  She was getting antsy and fussy and then we rounded the last bend and at the end was the entrance to the tunnel.  She froze.  The kid did not move a muscle as we approached the entrance…then the music started.  OMG!  There is no way I can describe to you how utterly delighted this little girl was with Small World.  It really is the perfect ride for her, colorful, happy, sing-songy, detail everywhere, and the boats move slow enough that she can really take her time to focus and enjoy what she’s seeing.  She loved that ride so much, I could have stood in line with her for it over and over again but the truth was we were all getting pretty tired.  We decided to have one last go at Peter Pan and then bid Disneyland a fond farewell before the fireworks scared the crap out the girls.  We took a brief moment at the exit to explain to Grace that this really was it, that we were not coming back tomorrow, that we were going home to Cosmo and Rafikki and our friends so she needed to say her goodbye’s to Disneyland.  She took it very well, I gave her a Mickey Mouse lollipop…I’m guessing that helped.

Back at the hotel Grace unwound with a long warm bath, B-Ho even got in on the action.  Once the girls were both dry and snug in their beds I crashed.  All of my spring cleaning the week before, and the fact that it is spring after all, just sent my sinuses into revolt so I’ve been fighting off either really bad allergies or a head cold since Monday.  I just kept popping Sudafed all week to keep it manageable.  Now I’m pretty much zonked, slept the last hour of the drive home today…fortunately, I was was not driving that leg.  We got home and unpacked, sorted the laundry to do another day.  Introduced the new toys to their new homes…the usual post-vacation stuff.  I had no internet access all week, the “business center” at the hotel uses some PC-based web browser that is incompatible with Mobile Me, so I came home to fifty emails….I need to unsubscribe to a lot of stuff.  Hope was fussy tonight, could be exhaustion, could be extreme disappointment, could be another tooth.  I gave her some tylenol and rocked her to sleep.

All in all it was a truly wonderful trip.  We had a blast, the girls enjoyed spending the time with their grandparents (we did too).  The moms got some alone time together and alone time with our girls.  Mostly I’m just so happy that Hope had so much fun.  It’s not that I don’t care whether Grace has fun, of course I want her to have fun and I had little doubt that she would.  It’s just that when Grace is having fun, you know it, there is no doubt.   Hope is more subtle, sometimes I still don’t really know what she’s thinking.  So when you see any kind of recognizable emotional response to anything, you know that there is a lot behind it.  She had a wonderful time, tonight as she fussed I sang the Small World song to her….she smiled.  Sweet.

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One Response to Spring Break

  1. Bet Hannon says:

    You do know, I hope, that special-needs kids are eligible for a handicap pass that takes their entire party (up to 6 people, I think) to the front of the lines for far less waiting. We have not used this yet, but have talked to several families whose kids have autism or ADHD or mental illness which make waiting difficult. You get this by going to City Hall on Main Street, and it works for both parks. Disneyland is fairly liberal in their policies about this, apparently. The mom I talked to with a high-functioning autistic son came armed with a doctor’s letter, but they didn’t even really look at it. I’m sure they do some things to cut down on people abusing this, but they really do want special-needs families to be able to come and have fun.

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