Sunday, January 17, 2010

January 17, 2010: Our visit in the U.S., part four: Disneyland

I've been trying to figure out how to write this--if I go into detail, it will take three days to write (and to read), but the only shorter option I can seem to come up with is "we went to Disneyland for three days and had a great time"! But here goes an attempt at something in between...

To start with, my brother Scott and his wife had left a couple of days earlier, to celebrate their 17th anniversary on the way and to arrive at the hotel in Disneyland early and have everything ready for everyone else. That left 13 of us (my parents, my sister Ruth and her boyfriend Justin, my nephews Kyle and Alex, and the seven of us) from this area to get down to southern California. Shawn and Lindsey were flying, and Erin, Ginny, Kenneth, and Amelia were driving on their own. Even with my aunt's car (the only one with seven seats), that was going to mean three cars, and Helen is not generally the greatest traveler, so it was also likely to mean lots of stops for at least one car. So my parents came up with the idea of flying me and Helen to southern California--the gas saved by taking one less car would about cover the cost of the flight. For some reason, it didn't bother me at all to think of taking a one-hour flight with one child instead of an all-day car-ride with five...

So on Monday, January 4th, my dad dropped us off at Sacramento airport in the morning, then drove back to Rocklin, where he left one car and met the rest of the group. They had an uneventful drive down, the highlight for the children apparently being lunch at Carl's Jr., where they had never been before.

Helen and I checked in (the only luggage was the carseat), had a bagel and a yogurt milkshake for breakfast and wandered around the airport for awhile. We sat and chatted with an 85-year-old lady for awhile, who had been at her grandson's wedding and was heading home for Florida, then she caught her flight. Our flight was half an hour late leaving, because of a "loose screw on the wing", which was a little disconcerting, but the flight itself was fine. Southwest Airlines, incidentally, does preboard families with children under four, and everyone was very friendly. The flight was also only about 2/3rds full, so I had an empty seat next to me, which also made things much more pleasant. (Except that Helen was extremely happy with her own seat and not at all pleased to have to get on my lap for take-off and landing.) The man next to us had a tiny little dog in a carrier, which Helen enjoyed talking with.

Shawn and Lindsey had arrived at the same airport just a little while before we did, so they waited for us and we took a taxi (with three adults, less than the shuttle for all would have been) together to the hotel. Helen fell asleep on the way and stayed asleep for a good two hours, during which I caught up in my journal, which I haven't opened since...

Everyone else arrived in good time and we had a barbecue that evening, just across the fence from California Adventure, of which we had a great view from our hotel "villa". (Two floors, with three en-suite bedrooms and pull-out beds in both living rooms, a kitchen, a dining room, and a pool table. My parents, Scott and his family, and our family were in this one. The rest were in the slightly smaller "room", with just two en-suite bedrooms, a sofa-bed, a murphy bed, and a kitchen.) Kristy had arranged for Mickey Mouse ears for my parents with their names and "40 years" stitched on them, as well as ears for Shawn and Lindsey, a top-hat and a bridal princess, respectively. We all had buttons that said "Family Reunion", my parents had buttons that said "Happy Anniversary", Shawn and Lindsey had buttons that said "Newlyweds", and the several people who were at Disneyland for the first time had "First Visit" buttons. And we also had an anniversary cake for my parents.

The next three days we had "park-hopper" passes for Disneyland and California Adventure, and took full advantage of them. We all stayed together a little bit, but 21 people make for a pretty big group, so we did a lot of splitting up and meeting up again. Each of the aunts and uncles took each of the nieces and nephews for awhile at some point during the three days, which was also fun for all. Helen just looked bemused during the first couple of rides, but when Dumbo starting going up, she looked startled and then laughed, and enjoyed the rest. Her favorite ride was "It's a Small World", which was still decorated for Christmas and was playing a Christmas medley, to which she danced and clapped her hands both times we rode it.

I just asked the other children what their favorite rides were. Katie said, "Alice in Wonderland and Winnie the Pooh and the Tea-cup Party." Lukas's favorite was California Screaming, which, inidentally, he was tall enough for the first day, but the next day they wouldn't let him on and said he was just the tiniest bit too short! Jacob's favorites were the Maliboomer, which I doubt that I would have gone on even if I had not been pregnant, and Splash Mountain. Marie's favorites were Space Mountain (my favorite when I was 12, too, but I confess I opted out of going on it this time because of being pregnant) and California Screaming. Joern's favorite was also Space Mountain, and just to finish it off, I suppose my favorites were the Matterhorn and Splash Mountain. The absolute worst was Astro Orbiter, which Helen loved, laughing the whole time, while I barely kept from losing my lunch.

The second day was also the birthday of both Shawn and Erin (not twins--they're exactly three years apart), so they got to add "Happy Birthday" buttons, and we had a pizza party and more cake. Erin had requested "a sun, a moon, something green, and something purple." I had no ideas, but Jacob did, and sketched me a design that I ended up using: the globe (just part of it), with the sun on a light blue background on one side, and a moon on a purple background on the other. Shawn's request was just that Lukas choose the design, so he had chosen the clubhouse that Shawn had built out of our moving crates when he visited us in Cyprus in March. So that's what Shawn's cake had. I really need to figure out someday how to get photo files small enough to use them on here.

We finished up the third day with everyone going on Splash Mountain a last couple of times, as that's my mother's favorite ride, then back to the hotel to play games and collapse into bed. Actually, that third night I simply went to bed, without a word to any of the children or my husband or anyone else. The next morning I apologized to my husband, that I hadn't helped get anyone ready for bed, and had even left Helen awake, and said, "I've never done that before, have I." His response was, "Well, actually, you did that last night, too." Oh yeah, I forgot. But actually, the night before I'd been trying to get Helen to sleep, but when I realized that I was falling asleep and she wasn't, I lifted her back down to the floor and just sort of...stayed there.

The next morning started with a "character breakfast", a breakfast buffet with some Disney characters wandering in and out. The only ones I knew were Chip and Dale, the others were a bear, a raccoon, and a gorilla, all from movies I've never seen, but that didn't bother my children in the slightest. Lukas in particular was having a great time hamming it up for the camera, hugging them all and playing around. Helen was pretty wary of them, though, and screamed when the raccoon came close, but stopped as soon as he backed off.

Then we finished packing and started the journey home. Alex and Kyle weren't with us for the return trip, as they flew home to Florida with their parents, and Shawn and Lindsey also flew from LA to Virginia. Helen and the traffic were both amazing--we didn't have to stop the first time for Helen until after almost two hours and only stopped for ten minutes or so, then made it another almost two hours before stopping for lunch. She slept almost the rest of the way home, just one more stop, and we were home, with only three stops (plus one for gas), only eight hours after leaving. No traffic jams, no hours of a screaming baby. Very cool.

On Saturday the 9th we celebrated Grandma's birthday (a few days early) with her, as my parents, Ruth and Justin, and my aunt Theresa and her daughter Emily could all be there. We had pizza and ice cream cake, and Grandma and Grandpa both enjoyed it all.

Sunday we went up to Tahoe to ski and play in the snow. Lukas and Katie weren't enjoying the cross-country skis at all and my parents finally told us to just go ahead and they'd stay with them, so the rest of us took off. Helen was in the Ergo with Joern, who was using snow shoes, and Marie, Jacob, and I had skis. It was a great deal like bike-riding with my family, in nearly every way. One thing was that as soon as I was on skis, I felt totally comfortable and "right", although the last time I had skied was four years ago, and the time before that 15 years ago. It's like bike-riding, you never forget. (But although my brain remembered Telemark turns, my knees wouldn't cooperate, so I snow-plowed a bit more than I'd like to admit...) Jacob and I were way ahead, kept going back to find the others, and Marie was worried about every single little bump or slope of greater than 1 degree. And Joern was only doing it "because it was good for him", not because he actually wanted to be out there. (Of course, he doesn't bike-ride at all, so that comparison doesn't work. And Lukas wasn't along, and he's the bike-rider who is always far ahead of everyone else.)

I went down one sledding hill, very pleased with myself, then stood at the bottom looking up the hill--and suddenly was lying flat on my back. I banged the back of my head pretty hard and my glasses flew off, so I kind of freaked out for a moment when I opened my eyes and everything was blurry, but I was okay. My head did hurt for awhile, but that was my only fall.

So that was the end of our second week here, and today is the end of our last week, but we're going to play a game now and I'll need to pack, so I won't be able to write about this week until we're in Germany. Probably at 2:00 some morning while on jet lag--going east is SO much harder for me than going west.

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