Mwa ha ha. Brian and I are so sneaky. Back in fall, we made arrangements to take our kids to California over Midwinter Break to visit our cousins in Los Angeles and also to take a spin through Disneyland. But we decided not to tell our kids about it up until the moment we got in the car to leave — to surprise them. I threw a so many red herrings at them (“you want to go to the cat cafe? Sure, maybe during midwinter break”) that I was slightly worried that they’d be upset at the news.
Seriously, they came home from school, asked why their bags were in the back of the car, and then this happened:
(Jeff was majorly concerned when he saw those packed bags — he thought I was divorcing Brian and taking all the kids away! My poor lil’ anxious guy.)
Katie looks happy in this video, but to tell the truth, the news was all a little overwhelming for her, and five minutes after I turned off the camera she was bawling. “I won’t get to hug all my stuffiieeeeees,” she wailed. “And I’ll miss the sunset in Seattle every day!”
Fortunately, she cheered up by the time we got to the airport (although . . . she pretty much cried all the way there) and was perky and happy all the way through security, even when I got picked by the TSA to have a pat-down (blergh).
I’m not going to bother posting about every single moment of our trip — that’s better suited for a photobook — and besides, I took well over a thousand pictures over the week. Here’s the highlight reel:
Visiting Grauman’s Chinese Theater with the cousins! Sarah and the boys were very excited to match palms with the cast of Harry Potter.
Eleanor, on the other hand, was over the moon at finding the cast members from West Side Story.
Meanwhile, I was baffled to explain who some of the other celebrities were. “Whoopi Goldberg? Um . . . she’s the voice of one of the hyenas in The Lion King?”
Cousin-pile-up! You can see the “Hollywood” sign on the mountains in the background.
We had a bit of a jolly time visiting the merry-go-round in Griffith Park (it is so old-school that the horses’ tails are made from horses’ tails and it goes super-fast. Feels like a real gallop, I loved it!)
Also, we spent time playing in the abandoned Old Zoo that is in the park. No fewer than two amateur fashion/album art photo shoots going on there during our visit. Oh, L.A.
Yes, we made another trip to Diddy Riese ice cream . . .
. . . and of COURSE I made sure to hit up Lemonade. Ugh, I’m already craving the coconut-apple-kefir-lime drink! (Kathryn, if you are reading this, Lemonade is SO your kind of restaurant. Gourmet veggie salads galore, it’s glorious.)
We took a quick trip to Cabrillo Point in San Diego . . .
. . . collapsed in front of the temple . . .
. . . and toured the Mormon Battalion exhibit with the fam. (Did I not mention that Grandma Suzie & Grandpa Jeff came along with us? It rocked, but somehow I have hardly any pictures with them.)
Also, LEGOLAND WITH COUSINS! How great is that?
My favorite part was the Mindstorms workshop. The kids had to program a tiny robot Indiana Jones to retrieve treasure from a tomb.
And then we said goodbye to the cousins and headed off to Disney the next day.
Good grief, I had forgotten how much I love Disneyland. Our kids are seven years older than on our previous trip, and we could really hustle our way across the park.
One thing I did this time was save up all of the $5 Target gift cards that the store gives away for buying multiples of toilet paper and tissues — and then used them to buy Disney gift cards, which can be used in the theme parks. Over the last six months I hoarded enough gift cards to be able to give each of my children a $50 Disney card, which they could spend any way they wanted. This was my strategy to curb any begging on the part of my kids.
“Why can’t I get a soda with lunch?”
“Well, you can use your own gift card for that.”
I was surprised that each of my kids decided to buy a pair of Mickey ears with their cards — the girls chose Minnie ones with big red or purple bows, and the boys found Star Wars themed ears (Jeff’s looks like BB8, Wim’s like R2D2). Then they each had enough left over to buy a toy. The boys chose to get a custom “build your own lightsaber,” Katie after much deliberation chose a stuffed Ewok (she has named it “Chirpa”) and Eleanor picked out one of the glow-in-the-dark Mickey bubble wands that so many kids were carrying around. She blew bubbles all over us while we waited in line for rides, it was great.
We rode Big Thunder Mountain Railroad six times. Star Tours seven times. We terrified Katie to tears on the Indiana Jones ride exactly one time and that was enough.
So much fun. There was a lot I hadn’t been able to do during our previous Disney trip seven years ago, like taking time to visit with characters. Eleanor collected autographs from twenty different characters. She liked that it was a nice round number. (Katie collected a few extra while the big kids rode the California Screamin’ roller coaster, but it wasn’t a contest.)
Or trying all the many, many Disney treats. (Word up: the pecan brittle is AMAZING. And my kids are all addicted to Dole Whip now.)
The three younger kids were able to sign up for the Jedi Training Academy (Eleanor was juuuust young enough to still participate). William took his lightsaber duel with Darth Vader SO SERIOUSLY.
I think this is also part of why Katie was so talkative during our “visit” with Darth later on. She clammed up during every other character visit, but with Vader she was all, “Nuh-uh, we’ll never join you, Darth Vader!”
I personally found the Cars Land section of Disney California Adventure to be my favorite part of the visit — which I would never have predicted. But this place oozes so much charm.
And yeah, the kids convinced me to get this Mickey sorcerer’s apprentice hat. It was partially for fun, and partially to make it easy to find me in the crowd. (Whenever I took it off, they insisted I put it back on immediately.)
Okay . . . I could easily spend the next several hours waxing on and on about every anecdote about the trip, but I need to stop now. Almost every day this past week I’ve spent a few minutes looking at the pictures from our trip and sighing, sad that it’s all over. Yesterday morning Eleanor woke up sad because she had had a dream that we were going back to Disneyland but it ended before she got there.
The only thing that kept us from crying as we packed up to go home was the revelation that LAX has a Lemonade. Which meant more kale-kumquat salad and white truffle mac & cheese so I was okay.
My sister will still be in L.A. for the next few years, so we’ll have to make a point of going again before she leaves. I’m already saving up my Target gift cards to get ready!