Dec 31, 2011


I fondly remember my childhood Christmases as fun and leisurely. Christmas Eve day my mom would make her famous bread while I worked on a layered jello dessert. In the evening we would head over to the Moffetts for a night of fun in the company of good friends and family. When I was real little this also involved a visit from Santa and us kids trying to figure out which man attending the party was playing the part by first analyzing their shoes, followed by writing down a list of names and examining it and who was not in the room during Santa’s visit. This led to the hiring of a college student to play Santa for a few years until the novelty wore off completely for us “kids”. Back then it seemed like we stayed out late and the valley fog would be thick on our drive home that night. I’d be exhausted, yet couldn’t sleep anticipating the morning’s surprises.

Even after I knew there was no Santa Claus, I had a hard time sleeping past 8 AM. My parents and I would get up and as they made their morning coffee, we’d open stockings followed by all the other gifts under the tree. Sometimes we’d make breakfast and sometimes we’d just snack on Bonnie’s delicious cookies. But once presents were opened and the wrappings picked up, what I remember most fondly were the naps and quiet day leading up to a meal prepared by my mom with a family member or a few friends coming over for dinner that evening. Dinner would be served early and end before it was too late, where I’d settle back into a nice Christmas dream.

All this seems so long ago especially when I think of how crazy recent Christmases have been with lots of driving back and forth between families and friends. My mom hasn’t stopped making her bread and we still attend the Moffett’s Christmas Eve party when we can, but I have not been able to take the Christmas Day nap in quite a few years, finding myself in the car travelling from one place to the next, socializing in between.

All the recent Christmas craziness is what prompted Cameron and I to take a year off and head to Vegas several years ago (ok, so he had ulterior motives and also planned on proposing - we all know how that ended :) but we agreed then that every other year we would do only what we wanted to do. The next off year that came along, my dad had just had surgery, so I flew to Tucson to be with him and my mom while Cameron spent the holiday going between his family.

This year happened to be our next off year, and we decided to spend it in Tucson with my parents, agreeing that this will likely be the last Christmas we spend away from our home, given that London will be able to grasp the concept of Christmas and Santa by next year. She did begin to grasp the concept that fun new toys are wrapped in the shiny paper when we opened presents at home the day after Christmas when we got home. By the end, she was tearing through the paper at our prompting.

Any hoo, on Wednesday evening Cameron and London picked me up from work and we went straight to the airport. Thanks to the Family line, we breezed through security and enjoyed a nice dinner thanks to Jack’s Urban Eats. We also ran into an old college classmate of mine who we learned recently moved to Sacramento with her fiancé. After exchanging numbers and promising to be in touch, we boarded our flight. Then, after a planned hour layover plus an additional 30-minute delay in LA, we finally made it to Tucson around midnight. London wouldn’t sleep a wink until the wheels literally touched down in Tucson.

Our first day in Tucson was spent catching up with my parents and being lazy, including our first glorious nap. Cameron and I also discovered the benefits of a gel foam mattress pad, which my mom had on the spare bed. Cameron and I got some of the best nights and naps of sleep sleeping on this little piece of heaven! So much so that we bought one for our bed at Costco the day we got home!

Thursday night we paid homage to my dad’s family and celebrated the 3rd night of Hanukkah, lighting the candles on the menorah and eating potato latkes. Yum!

Friday was our big day out, with my parents treating us to a trip to Tucson’s Reid Zoo. In acreage, I’d say it’s a little smaller than Sacramento, but when it comes to animal offerings, it’s a bit more impressive. Highlights included the Giraffes as you wouldn’t believe how close we got to them; the white Rhino, who looked like a pile of rocks at first; the mama lion and her 3 adorable cubs; the leopards, one of which was roaring up a storm when we were looking in; and the white peacock, actually all the different peacocks and their beautiful colors. It was pretty impressive just how close we could get up to most of the and really gain an understanding of their size and power.

Even though it was a Christmas Eve away from the Moffetts, it did remind me of Christmas Eves past, starting with when I woke up to the doughy smell of my mom’s bread. Of course, that was until I walked out to the kitchen where London was kneading her own piece of bread dough! She was quite the little baker that day, as we also made sugar cookies. I can see this being a tradition for her and I, with the possibility of leaving some out for Santa next year. We made the best of the evening, inviting several of my parent’s neighbors and friends over for an impromptu dinner of appetizers, Swedish meatballs (my grandma Ruth’s recipe) and corn chowder. At the height of the evening there were 11 of us celebrating.

Christmas day was definitely as low key as I remember it from years past. Cameron, London and I all took a good 2 ½ hour nap after opening our stockings and a few presents that morning. We’d all said the focus was being together this year since we’d just had our big Disneyland trip and we didn’t want to worry about taking much back home with us. Dinner was prepared not just by my mom this year, but combined the efforts of my dad and Cameron, too. The main event included a prime rib that at one point we feared was toast after a mishap on the grill. In the end, it was saved and was quite delicious, just a little crusty on the outside. My mom complimented the prime rib with a nice salad, my traditional layered jello (which we had forgotten to serve the night before), mom’s bread(of course) and some yummy mashed potatoes and gravy.

London had a grand time having full run of my parent’s house, something she doesn’t have at home, still. She couldn’t get enough of playing on Grandpa’s piano, climbing up on the black bench every chance she got. And knowing it would be hard to bring home a keyboard for her, he gifted London the money to get a keyboard to play with back home. I know it won’t be like playing Grandpa’s, but the girl does love to tickle the keys.

London was also enchanted by my parent’s cat, Mocha. Mocha isn’t exactly the friendliest of kitties. It takes multiple treat bribes over a few days for her to not hiss and swat at me when I come near. London was good and kept her distance, but every time she saw Mocha she would wave and say hi. By the end Mocha did let London pet her twice and let me hold her a few times.

Overall it was a nice and relaxing holiday, just what Cameron and I needed. Now I just need to mail my parents main present to them – it hadn’t fit in my suitcase and I wasn’t sure if I would be able to carry it on so we left it behind. Probably should have mailed it to begin with, but I didn’t finish it until the day before we left. Oh well, I know they’ll love it and it will be quieter at the shipping store now.

Dec 30, 2011

Pie Baking

When I’d originally been planning on attending Thanksgiving at Matt & Lynde’s I offered to bring a pie or two. This way I’d still carry on my tradition of being the pie baker for Thanksgiving Day – a role I take whole heartedly.

Learning that this family is not found of pumpkin, I offered to bring a peach pie. And even though I bailed on them at the last minute, I was still going to see Lynde when she watched London and therefore, kept my promise to make a peach pie. Of course, I made the pie crust from scratch. And I made extra pie crust dough. Which meant I had some pie crust I needed to use within two weeks.

Knowing Cameron loves pumpkin pie and I’d been too stuffed on Thanksgiving to have a slice of Bonnie’s, one night, a few nights after my two week window, I set out to make a couple of pumpkin pies with said leftover pie crust.

London was a bit fussy that evening and very needy. She’d been recovering from a severe double ear that we would learn the next day had not cleared after a 5-day course of antibiotics. Anyway, I decided the best course of action to ease the whining was to distract her. This involved dragging a kitchen chair up to the island counter and letting her “help”.

Except that when I pulled out and surveyed the pie crust, I deemed it unuseable – it wasn’t as much yellow as it was gray. Gross. With Cameron expecting pumpkin pie when he got home from another trip Reno that evening (I hope to have more on that trip soon), I had no alternative but to mix up a batch of new pie crust dough. Luckily, Martha’s Pate Brisee recipe is super easy and I had all the ingredients on hand.

London did a great job “helping” by pulsing the food processor with me. After the required hour in the fridge, London then “helped” me roll out the pie crust. She also ate her fair share. I swap the required 1 teaspoon of sugar with 1 tablespoon so the extra sweetness is enticing – I ate my fair share as well. After I had the two crusts in my new ceramic, red, Target pie bowls, there was a bit of extra dough which I let London continue to roll. And what a perfect photo opportunity that made.

Wouldn’t know she had two ear infections from these pictures, huh? The distraction worked great. By the time we were done, it was time for her evening bath and then off to bed.

Dec 29, 2011

Run to Feed the Hungry & Thanksgiving

After having just been to Disneyland, we didn’t have grand plans for Thanksgiving – that is London and I. Cameron was headed to Reno to go hunting for a buck with Dave and Jason. I’d wanted to run Sacramento’s “Run to Feed the Hungry” 10K Thanksgiving morning. Lynde agreed to watch London for me and the plan had been for me to join her, Matt and his parents for dinner.

But after talking with Emily a few weeks before, and a few texts back and forth that week, Emily talked me into coming up to Chico after the run to spend the holiday with her and her family – the Moffetts are my original second family after all.

This was the 18th year “Run to Feed the Hungry” took place and my first time participating. It was also the first time it rained for this event! But myself and 27,000 other people braved the wet and cold to participate in the 10 or 5K events. I made sure not to leave my gloves behind this time, and even dug out my ear warmers that morning. But in getting my ear warmers and London out the door, I did forget my ipod. I started the race thinking how long the 6.2 miles were going to be without my music.

Well, the first mile I couldn’t do my run/walk intervals, there were so many people. So that went quickly. And around mile 5 or so, I was really glad not to have my headphones.

There was a homeless man standing on the sidelines cheering us on. He could have been seeking shelter somewhere warm and dry, but no, he was out there cheering us on in the rain and cold. And then I heard him say “Thank you, Thank you, you will never know how much this means to me”. Warmed my heart, (and my body, for a bit). After all, the run benefited shelters that he probably seeks out for food and warmth. This sentiment also propelled me through to the finish line. Unfortunately, the long walk back to the car cooled me down – way down. I still wasn’t warm when I picked London up or jumped into a piping hot shower.

It was a little bit of a mad dash to get ready and on the road to make it up to Chico in time for dinner. At one point while blow drying my hair, London was sitting and watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. I had recorded it in hopes it would keep her entertained while I got ready. I turned my head and not a minute later she was out of sight and had started to cry. I rushed over to find Jake darting across the room as her little cheek filled with blood. He’d gotten her good. Not that she probably didn’t deserve it – I’d caught her earlier that week trying to pull his ears off his head and he hadn’t scratched her then. I was also at fault, as I had the bedroom door closed, which meant his escape route was non-existent. I felt so bad and we’re still not sure if it won’t scar. Right now London has a faint pink line where the scratch once was.

We did manage to get on the road in time, and didn’t run into much traffic until Hwy 99 just north of Gridley – right when we went down to one lane. Of course that’s when I, and 20 other cars got stuck behind a big rig going not his allotted 55 MPH maximum, but 45-50 MPH. Had he been a considerate truck driver he would have pulled over at some point. Nope. Finally we got to the point where 99 and 149 merge and it becomes two lanes again.

Somehow I still made it with about 20 minutes to spare before the turkey was served. Everyone who was attending dinner was already there and almost the whole family had gathered for the holiday. Andy and Ashley were there with their 9 month old daughter, Abigail, and it was fun to watch her and London interact. Both are so used to being around other children that there were no issues. They both love Bonnie’s saltwater fish tank and London, being older child for once, enjoyed trying to show Abby. For the most part they did their own thing.

London found Gene’s childhood rocking chair that had a teddy bear resting in it. London changed it so the teddy was in her lap while she rocked. We learned that the chair had actually originally belonged to Gene’s father, who’d I’d grown up around and called Granddad.

Dinner was fantastic of course. But eventually it was time for London and I to get on the road. With Cameron out of town, I was responsible for the dogs and Tulley had been stuck in her crate most of the day. I asked Bonnie to watch London while I loaded up the car with all the yummy leftovers I was getting to take home. Bonnie took London and sat down at the piano. If this girl doesn’t follow in her grandpa’s footsteps playing piano I will be surprised. London had so much fun playing around with the keys, preferring the lower octave notes best. At one point she even reached up and tried to turn the pages of the music book, like she knew what she was doing. Emily actually got this one video, which I’ll need to snag from her one of these days. We could hardly wait to take London to Tucson so that my dad could play for her and watch her play as well.

Dec 19, 2011

Disneyland - Day 4, plus Final Thoughts, Lessons & Observations

If we thought we were slow moving on Day 3, we really were Day 4. When we called Cameron’s mom, she, Joe and Connor were already on the road headed home, as Joe was still not feeling well, and they’d been there longer than we had. When I walked down the hall to check in on my parents and London, the report was that London had just woken up 15 minutes before – I’d been up for an hour! The silly girl was still in her PJs, as was my mom. My parents wanted more time with her so they watched her while we all got ready and packed. Then we loaded up the stroller for two trips down to the lobby to check out, check our luggage and load my parent’s car with theirs. After a few goodbyes in the garage, they were on their way home and it was just the 3 of us.

The day before hadn’t involved any true meals, so we decided to make the most of Downtown Disney and went in search for a real breakfast. As mentioned before, we landed at the Rainforest Café again, where London was mesmerized by the large fish tanks. It happened to be cleaning time, so there was also a scuba diver to captivate her.

The Rainforest Café is located next to the Monorail station, so we boarded the next train after breakfast to head into the park. On our way in, we could visibly see it was much more crowded that day than any day previous. This was a great reminder to us why we went primarily during the week. A few more hours in the park reminded us why we will probably never go on a weekend ever again.

The monorail drops you off in Tomorrowland, but we were actually headed for Frontierland to see Santa and his reindeer. While it looked like a long line, we got to see Santa relatively quickly, but not without spotting a true hidden Mickey. When we had been with Matt & Lynde, Matt used an app to find all the hidden Mickey’s on each attraction we were on. In a book at one of the stores, I’d learned the difference between a hidden Mickey and just decoration. This one is a true hidden Mickey.

Yet somehow between the time Cameron took the picture above as we were entering Santa’s house, and the time we sat next to Santa, the camera got switched from auto to manual and so our Santa pictures came out blurred. The one shot by Disney wasn’t much better so we opted not to pay the elevated price for it. This was the best we could do.

By the way, it was a good thing we didn’t bother with any other characters and the lines they attract. London was not sure about Santa at all until I sat next to him. And combined with the fact that she barely holds still for us to get a picture any way, it would have been a huge waste of time and energy!

London was more entertained by the eight reindeer in the corral. They were gorgeous. Of course, Cameron would love one on our wall at home – I told him if he ever does go on a hunt for one of these he can’t call them reindeer if London is young enough. We agreed if this ever happens, we’ll call them Caribou. But it we do end up with one on our wall, I reserved the right to hang sleigh bells on it at Christmas time.

We made one more effort to find Cameron’s straw hat before we took in the Castle Walk-through tour that tells the tale of Cinderella. I’ve always read about it before we go to Disneyland, but had never seen the door to it until this trip and did not want to miss it. This turned out to be the worst day to do this tour. We ended up in front of a group of obnoxious locals. They had gone through here several times and knew exactly what was coming before we even got to it. They were kind enough to loudly announce what was coming up – which meant it ruined the surprise for us. Plus, they were so loud it was hard to interact with London to show her everything and hear her reaction. Add in the fact that they were breathing down our necks the whole time and we just couldn’t get out of there and away from them soon enough. Cameron would mention this during a transaction later on and the cast member said to report it immediately afterward – they do their best to remedy a situation for those that were annoyed.

At this point, the crowds were definitely getting to us so we wandered in and out of the shops on Main Street, looking for those last souvenirs. At the Emporium we looked for some ears for London, but they didn’t have the right size. Luckily, across Main Street was another Mad Hatter location, which did have the right size, which was “Infant” for London’s small head. We opted not to get her name on it, as we knew we were lucky to get one good picture with them on her, and then they were going to end up in a shadow box memory frame. I probably should have gotten her Minnie over Mickey ears, but I grabbed the Mickey’s ears first so that’s what she got. I also grabbed the Hidden Mickey book for myself to read leading up to our next trip – whenever that is.

After 3 full days of walking in and around the parks, our feet were exhausted and sore, so we found a bench just past Main Street in the big circle that leads to all the lands and people watched. This is when Cameron and I agreed that 3 full days was enough for us, and our feet. Plus, we agreed never to go on a weekend day ever again. Too many people. Big crowds annoy and stress both Cameron and me out.

Before we made our way out and over to the big Downtown Disney store, we had one last task to accomplish inside the park – trade in one of our original Ariel souvenir pins for another. See, our travel package, and my parents travel package, had included two vouchers each for a souvenir Disney Trading pin and lanyard. We’d traded in the voucher for the pin and lanyard and all of us got the same Ariel pin. This wasn’t something my parents were too interested in holding on to for their own memories, and after my dad talked the sales lady up, learned how the whole Pin trading worked so that he and my mom could give their pins to us and we could work on getting some different pins for London. We had given one of our pins and lanyards to Connor so we had 3 Ariels and one lanyard – two Ariels to trade away. We’d been able to trade one away in California Adventure for an actual California Adventure pin, and now, we needed to offload another. We found a worker and got a cute Mickey Mouse for London instead.

This actual did get us somewhat interested in the whole pin trading thing. But, while we looked at the pins available in every store, we didn’t purchase a single one. We figure when we go back with London again, we’ll buy through the travel company again and hopefully get the same voucher. Then we’ll let London keep one pin and we’ll trade away the duplicates again. Until then, her lanyard and pins are hanging in her room.

I did find one flaw with the pins – the darn Mickey-shaped backs; they fall off too easily. As we had been getting on Toy Story Mania the day before, London had ripped one pin off the lanyard and was trying to pin it to her leg! We were able to get the pin away from her before any damage was done, but lost the back in the process. They don’t just have replacements either – you have to buy a pack of 12 for 2.99 or something. I wasn’t willing to pay that for a bunch of backs I didn’t need – I just stuffed the last pin in the diaper bag in a way that it wouldn’t poke us.

But, since they do fall off so easily, I was also lucky to find one while we were walking through the park on this last day. I think I’ll go to Michael’s and get a pack of regular pin backs that needs two fingers pinching them to release them from the pin post. Probably more than you ever wanted to know about Disney Pin Trading, but it was a big take-away for us.

At the large Disney store in Downtown Disney we made the last of our purchases – two bubble guns that flash neon colors when blowing bubbles. We got one for London’s daycare class – those kids love bubbles, especially London. It’s one of the few words she uses. The other was for London…and Jake…and Tulley. It’s hilarious to watch the three of them around bubbles with London giggling and Jake howling and Tulley snapping at the bubbles. The bubble gun now multiplies this fun by 10! We’d already bought some other souvenirs the first night we were there, including our Christmas ornament to commemorate the trip. I’d really hoped to find a Christmas CD of the music played in the parks – some of the songs were such beautiful arrangements, but didn’t find anything along those lines.

We wandered Downtown Disney the rest of the time, having another nice sit down and relax lunch at the Pizzeria and then headed back to the hotel to catch a cab to the airport early. Traveling with a toddler, you don’t mind getting to the airport early.

It was raining when we did make it home, so London and I played in the arrivals terminal until Cameron made it to the car and back. In the end, we were all exhausted and happy to be home. It was also nice to have a full day back at home before going back to work.

Taking London to Disneyland at 1 ½ was amazing – just watching her eyes light up and take it all in was such a gift. We were also quite thankful to have the grandparents, especially being able to sneak in a date night and have my parents and London stay just down the hall at the hotel. And we can’t wait to take her back. Cameron and I both agreed that she has to reach some height milestone first though, either 36” 38” or 40”, we’re not sure which one yet – it will depend on how many more rides either height gets her on, probably. And, I think next time we’ll let her dictate the pace a little more and make more of an effort to fit in naps and time to relax by the pool if need be.

While there are plenty of hotels to stay at around Disneyland that aren’t priced like the resort (even the Hyatt, which Cameron and I enjoyed last time), we did enjoy the resort experience. The Paradise Pier was the cheapest option and was great, so we’ll consider it again. It did help to have the play yards included. Guess that will depend on London and what she needs to sleep in next time. Also, if we have a stroller in tow again, we’ll definitely want a hotel within walking distance. I couldn’t image having to get it on and off a shuttle. The airport shuttle is enough.

We are also glad we dragged along the big, bulky stroller with storage space. It was much more comfortable for the long days in it for London and was good for storing her coat, any purchases and the camera when we were walking around – I just wish the monorail accommodated strollers better. We did have to fold it up each time we rode that.

Dec 13, 2011

Disneyland - Day 3

Day 3 at Disneyland was our last big day and boy was it going to be packed. We hadn’t taken in any other entertainment besides the Holiday Parade and It’s a Small World Holiday light show by accident. We still had World of Color, Winter Fireworks and Fantasmic. It was our last full day as we’d be flying home mid-day the next day. It also our last with my parents and Cameron’s.

But given our late night the night before and gung-ho attitude, we were a little lazy that morning in getting up and I don’t think we made it to the park until after 9:30 or so (the park opened at 8AM). All in all this was fine as it was a colder day and cloudy.

We headed to Fantasyland first where London, my parents and I took a turn on King Arthur’s Carrousel. It was pretty cute watching my parents and London wave to Cameron, who was taking pictures from the side lines after taking a call for work. We also made it onto Peter Pan’s Flight, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, Snow White and Pinocchio. The longest line was, of course, Peter Pan. This is the most popular ride at Disneyland and Disney World. The attraction in Disney World has a fast pass option but not Disneyland. I don’t think one ride in Fantasyland has a Fast Pass option, now that I think of it. We probably waited a good 20 minutes for Peter Pan, but we were able to walk on to all the other rides, which made it less of a problem. This fact probably had something to do with the cloudy weather – we even got sprinkled on at one point.

From there we made a beeline for It’s a Small World so my parents could see London mesmerized by the attraction. She loved it as much the second time as the first. Of course, it was a little fun to watch my dad and Cameron suffer. My dad had joked that the traditional tune had just left his head from our ride on the attraction at Disneyworld when I was 16. Cameron is also not a fan of the ride, having been stuff on it for 15 minutes one time, and still puts on the charade of being a Grinch about Christmas and all that goes with it (FYI – he plans to wear the Grinch PJ bottoms I got him last year on the plane to Tucson this year – I’ll take pictures if he does). Then it was on to Toon Town, where we picked up some fast passes for Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin.

Joe hadn’t been feeling well that morning so we weren’t sure if we’d even see that part of our crew that day, but by the time we made it to Toon Town we learned that they were in line to see Mickey at Mickey’s house in Toon Town. We wandered through Mickey’s House and met up with Vicki, Joe and Connor. The line to see Mickey was too long for us (why wait in line now to see characters when we are sure to do so again when London actually cares) so we headed back outside in search of food, but happened upon Mickey’s car first. London loved playing in it. I told you driving is her favorite thing to do.

After a quick visit to Donald’s boat, the lunch area was finally open for the day (again, after the posted 11 AM sign), so we grabbed a quick bite of pizza and some sandwiches. When it came time to go on the Roger Rabbit ride, Cameron ended up giving Connor his ticket so he could go with us. This was the first time I’d ever been on the ride. Imagine the tea cups on a track going through a ride like Mr. Toad’s wild ride. We were spinning so much it was a bit hard to take it all in.

London was getting a bit crabby at this point and we were all a little cold. We figured we’d hit up a round trip on the Railroad and then go back to the hotel for a nap. My parents and I both had never actually ridden the Disneyland Train and it was fun to get a new vantage point of Disneyland, and see the Grand Canyon and Dinosaur dioramas that I’ve read about.

Unfortunately, while we were on the train and about half way (I believe we were pulling in at the Main Street location), London went into a meltdown. Her current way to throw tantrums when one is holding her is to bang her head back and forth. I was holding her on my lap at the time, and she’s gotten so tall that she swung her head right into my mouth – I had a nice fat lip the rest of the day. We were going to beeline it to the hotel after we got off, but first had to stop at the restrooms just 50 feet from the Toon Town Train depot. By the time everyone was ready to head for the hotel, London was passed out in her stroller.

We decided to walk around the park until she woke up, hoping she would be out for a good hour or so. Cameron had gotten a great straw hat at Disneyland the last time we were there and wanted to see if they still had it, since he had accidently left it on an old co-worker’s boat, and she wouldn’t give it back after it became the “boat hat”. It must have been the wrong season as it wasn’t at the Mad Hatter’s in Fantasyland, nor in any shop in Frontier or Adventureland. At one point we tried to board the Riverboat, but apparently even this ride requires you to find stroller parking. We weren’t about to risk moving London so we opted to continue walking.

While we were in Adventureland, I convinced my parents to get fast passes to Indiana Jones. After a tour of New Orleans square, and bumming that Pirates of the Caribbean was closed for refurbishment until Thanksgiving (we learned that it was supposed to be open the Monday before we arrived, but got pushed back), it was time for their ride. My dad came out saying it was his favorite ride. I knew it would be. It’s one of mine! Too bad London has to be 40” to ride it. Give it another year or so – she’s already 33”.

London woke up while they were on the ride, so once we regrouped, we ran into the Tiki Room and then headed for California Adventure. We probably should have allotted more time for this park since my parents had never seen it, but with all the construction going on to the entrance and Carsland, it made it a bit frustrating to get around (think many mice in small maze tunnels), and not too many rides London couldn’t go on.

Our first order of business was get fast passes for seating to see World of Color at 8 PM that night. Then we headed for the new Little Mermaid ride. After a 30 minute wait, we finally got to board our clamshells. Great ride and well put together. It hit all the great parts from the movie.

Across the large pond we waited probably 45 minutes to get on Toy Story Mania. This ride has some kinks and was a bit of a let down, at least for this visit. It didn’t help that it really wasn’t a ride for London, though she technically could go on it. The ride requires 3D glasses, which she cannot keep on yet. Then there was the bar that goes across you lap. Most rides with bars, are a single bar to go across every rider’s lap. Not this ride. Designed for two laps, there were two bars that sort of met in the middle to cover a third person, as long as every one has the same sized thighs. This doesn’t work well on Tower of Terror in Orlando (my cousin Eddie and I learned that riding with my dad and Uncle Rick when we were there – did make it more fun in our eyes) and it didn’t work here. About mid-way through the ride I noticed that London was slipping through the gap between the bars. So there I was holding on to her for dear life while she grabbed my glasses which made everything blurry to me. London also wanted to pull the cord to shoot at the targets but to do so, she wasn’t aimed at anything on the board. Add in the fact that the ride kept stopping and had to have the games reset a couple of times, and I was just ready to get off it by the time we made it through.

At this point it was starting to get dark and we were all hungry. We found some ok Chinese food rice bowls in the Wharf which was mainly food options. I think the mix of being tired, all the waiting we had done and the long days were getting to me at this point. I took London to the bathroom for a diaper change and became increasingly annoyed by the other mother changing one of her children. Her loud mouth sisters and their combined 5 other children running and screaming in the large echo-y bathroom didn’t help, nor them crowding me up against the changing table since they had to all be crowded around the other at one point. Cameron heard screaming at one point and sent my mom in after us, just as we were leaving the rest room. Asked if that screaming was London I explained the situation. I guess I have something about getting stressed out at amusement park bathrooms changing London – it was similar to my experience at Marine World back in May.

After dinner, we wandered over to the BlueSky Cellar to see what all the construction was about and to let London run around in a warm place for a little while. She had a great time playing hide and seek behind the large tables and running up and down a wheelchair access ramp.

Up next: Mike and Sully to the Rescue. This is a fun ride and right along of the traditional Fantasyland rides, which were perfect for London. It was also nice to not have a line and got us back into the spirit one should have when at Disneyland.

In a Bug’s Land, my mom and I took London on Francis’s Spinning Ladybugs (similar to the teacups although we had no control over the spinning of ours for some reason – the ride was having issues that caused us to wait in line a little longer than we were prepared to).

My parents went on Tuck and Roll’s bumper buggies (think bumper cars) after that – it was pretty funny to see them both turn into big kids for this ride. Sadly, my memories of bmper cars are a little jarring so I opted to sit with Cameron and London and eat a churro. Then we walked right onto Heimlick’s Chew Chew train. We must have timed it just right because we got the train to ourselves. The one before us had been full and by the time we arrived back to offload there was a line waiting to get on our train. Not that we could see that much during the ride– A Bug’s Land isn’t very well lit at night, even though it was only 5 PM or so. It got dark early in the parks thanks to all the tall buildings and attractions. I’m sure the lighting the way it is, is meant to portray what its like for a bug at night in the grass, but it could stand to be a bit lighter mainly just for safety concerns and to not totally take away from the land in general.

Cameron had gotten us Tower of Terror fast passes while London and I were on the spinning lady bugs and it was now time to take advantage of them. By the time we got done, London was passed out again. My parents said they would take her and wander toward our area for World of Color while Cameron and I ran to have one last ride on California Screamin’. We got back just in time to get into our seating area for World of Color. Of course, we had another hour to wait for the actual show, so London and I played tag to entertain her. But the show was well worth the wait – World of Color was fantastic. I do agree with my dad that it is a shameless plug of almost every animated Disney movie ever, but everyone was singing along and the effects were brilliant. London especially loved when bubbles rained down on us.

Now, after World of Color, the plan had been to dash back to Disneyland for the fireworks and Fantasmic. The fireworks were scheduled to start 15 minutes after World of Color, and the first show of Fantasmic 15 minutes after the fireworks. But my parents were done for the day – I’m sure Cameron’s and my pace for Disneyland was bit much for them, as was London.

They offered to take her for the night again, and wanted to stop at Build a Bear with London on the way back to the hotel before it closed. So Cameron and I took off for Disneyland on our own. We made it to the gate to have our tickets scanned to get in just as the fireworks started – we were literally under the awning when the first boom went off. Somewhere along the way, Cameron decided we would skip the fireworks and make our way to Fantasmic. We got to see a bit of the show while we rushed along the course they had laid out, but I was definitely bummed to have missed it – somehow we always sacrifice the fireworks for something else. The sad part is that we made it to the first showing of Fantasmic and managed to find great seats. Matt & Lynde were supposed to have met up with us for the first show but got lost, so after it, we grabbed even better seats, and guided them to us – battling a lady over the seats that tried to take them from us long after we had claimed them. Only Matt & Lynde didn’t stay for the second show! So much for the tug of war of the seats. Worked out for her in the end I guess and we still had our great seats so we watched it twice that night!

In between shows I told Cameron how I was disappointed about missing the fireworks. He’s promised me a trip back, probably just the two of us, just to see the fireworks. Looking back, he wasn’t even sure why he rushed past them to get to Fantasmic since he loves fireworks too.

It actually did turn out to be a good thing to stay and watch the second Fantasmic show. At one point in the show the dragon from Sleeping Beauty shoots flames from its mouth. Only in the first show, the liquid didn’t get ignited so the dragon looked like it was only shooting water. It definitely makes a difference in how the show comes across. Plus, I always love the end when the Black and white Steam Boat Willie Mickey comes out driving the River Ferry with all the characters dancing. By the time we made it back to the hotel we were exhausted. And again it was too late for the spa.

Dec 12, 2011

Disneyland - Day 2

Day 2 at Disneyland was our first full-blown day in the parks. And it was a Magic Hour morning for us as well since we were staying at a resort hotel – basically we got to get into Fantasyland and Tomorrowland and hour earlier than people not staying at a Resort for Friendly neighbor hotel. Cameron’s mom, Joe and Connor were staying at a hotel across the street of Disneyland that also offered Magic hours, so we all met up at the Entrance and headed for Tomorrowland. First up was Buzz Lightyear’s Astroblasters. I love this pic of the three of us on the ride – Cameron and I look so serious and you then barely see London sitting in her daddy’s lap.

From there, we left London with Vicki so my parents, Connor, Joe, Cameron and I could get a chance to go on Star Tours. Vicki had already been on it once with Connor and Joe, and admitted the ride made her a little motion sick. I’m sure she didn’t mind the private time with London either. Star Tours was great, as it’s been updated with new adventures and technology. I definitely jumped at the end, thanks to the new 3D effects. London and Vicki went on Astroblasters for a second time while we were occupied. From there we decided to hit up Autopia as Cameron and I had expected this to be London’s favorite ride, given she loves to get behind the wheel when we drive in our neighborhood.

Unfortunately, Autopia is not part of Magic hour, and a line was already forming. So we thought we’d wait the 10 minutes for the ride to open. 10 minutes turned into 15 as they were relatively late in opening the gate. Mind you waiting in any line without a stroller with a toddler is difficult. Cameron ended up walking around with London until the line started to move. Then we had to wait for the cars to get started, with many stalls occurring before our time came. The worst part – they wouldn’t let London sit on a lap so she got stuck between Vicki and I and didn’t get the driving experience we had expected for her – poor thing couldn’t see a thing, so the wait and the ride were really a bust.

With the rest of the park open, we headed for The Haunted Mansion to see it all dressed up in Nightmare Before Christmas style. It was fantastic and London wasn’t scared at any point during the ride. By now all of us were quite hungry and I knew there was a food location just up the way in Critter Country some more, but it wouldn’t open for another 4 minutes, so we headed for the Winnie the Pooh ride and it was open when we were finished. There was no wait at Winnie the Pooh so we walked right on and all of us were able to ride in one beehive. After our meal, Cameron and I ran over to Splash Mountain since the line was short and it was a nice day – we weren’t sure how the weather was going to hold up the rest of the trip. I ended up getting stuck in the front of the log. Not recommended. I got soaked. Cameron said I looked like Alice Cooper right after the big drop as my mascara was running. We figured London was ready for a nap so we could go freshen up back at the hotel any way.

Nope. London was going full steam after lunch and Matt & Lynde had just arrived for the day, so all 10 of us headed for the Jungle Cruise. We made a detour to stop in at The Haunted Mansion again, and this time, London did jump and cling to me a bit when the stain glass made a cracking sound in the elevator that takes you down to the ride. After the Jungle Cruise, we all split up. My parents and London were ready for a nap, so they took her back to their room, while Matt, Lynde, Cameron and I hit all the adult rides in Disneyland – Indiana Jones, Matterhorn, and Space Mountain and then hit up all the adult rides as California Adventure – Tower of Terror, California Screamin, Goofy’s Flight School, Soarin’ California.

By the time we got through all these rides, it was time to head back to Disneyland to meet up with everyone again, including some SoCal friends, Heather, her daughter Kendal and another friend Katie. My parents got there early enough to get some prime seating for all of us. After a high school marching band performed to open the parade, the group sitting on the curb in front of us left, which allowed Cameron, Lynde and Connor to sit up front, and London sat on her daddy’s lap for a little while. Duing the parade, London learned to wave side by side, watching Heather’s Kendal for the how-to. Before, London waved by opening and closing her hand. Now she has the side to side wave down. It was just adorable to watch her watching the parade. She was definitely entertained, though it did at times, move at a slow pace and she would grow restless.

This was nothing compared to waiting for the parade to start, which was delayed by 15 minutes thanks to technical difficulties. I tell you, waiting extra was the theme of our day. Cameron and I did our best to entertain her while we waited, which involved walking up and down Main Street and walking through the Emporium. It even involved bribing London with a new Timon plush animal. She and I walked into the Emporium and she of course found her way to all the stuffed animals. She picked up Bullet from Toy Story at first and would not leave it behind. I ended up running with London obviously upset from being torn from her new love get my purse and ended up back in the shop with Cameron and his wallet. London calmed down as soon as we were back inside and letting her make a selection again. This time she selected Timon. He actually was the perfect size for her and kept her entertained for a little while. London’s actually growing more and more interested in stuffed animals these days, cuddling and playing with all my Christmas stuffed animals from over the years. Her favorite seems to be the little doe reindeer that McDonald’s used to sell this time of the year.

At the end of the parade, Cameron, London, my parents and I tried to go on It’s a Small World before Cameron and I needed to leave to get to our dinner reservations at Steakhouse 55 inside the Disneyland Hotel for a date night. First, we got slowed down by the crowd, then the parade finishing up behind the attraction and then again by the crowd. Seemed everyone had the same idea. Of course just as we turn to head back to the gate, all the lights went out for the lighting of Sleeping Beauty Castle. Once those lights were back on, it began to “snow” and then the light display at It’s a Small World started, which stopped us in our tracks again, as it was pretty entertaining with the music and scenes being flashed across the attraction façade.

Finally, we headed back to the hotel to freshen up. We dropped my parents and London off in Downtown Disney, where they dined at Ralph Brennan's Jazz Kitchen with London enjoying some good old mac and cheese. My parents were kind enough to take London for the night, so Cameron and I enjoyed a leisurely dinner at Steakhouse 55. It was delicious and great for a date night away from London. I would never take her there until she was much older, but there were all ages dining there as well. Cameron ordered a fantastic porterhouse while I had the rack of lamb. Cameron also discovered a very good jalapeno margarita> He had originally meant to only have one cocktail with our salads and bread but it was so good he ended up having two more, which left me with an entire bottle of champagne, not that I minded. Good thing we were walking back to our hotel. We took so long to enjoy our dinner that we got back too late to sit in the spa at the hotel – we never would make it to the spa during our trip. Oh well, next time when London is old enough to want pool time.