We've been wanting to do this for awhile, and the time was finally here. We've been plotting and planning, getting reservations and arrangements in place to surprise the kids with a trip to Disneyland! I did lots of blog reading and chatting with my friends that have been recently, we got hotel reservations (thanks to all of Kenny's hotel points from living in them all summer for the last few years), I cashed in change we've been saving up for a souvenir budget, bought some Disney gear at the Disney outlet store in Woodburn, and got everything all packed and charged up for our big road trip. I was so excited that Faith also wanted to come with us - she was in on a lot of the planning and even got one of her friends to house/pet sit for the week. The kids stayed with Jim/Chery and Wil a couple nights before we left, which made it much easier to get everything packed and ready to go. We headed over to Wil's house to get them on Saturday, the first morning of spring break....
Graham caught on really quick, especially when he saw Faith in the mouse ears. It took a little bit more explaining to get Ellie excited, but they were pretty pumped to hear we would be leaving right then and there. Faith was taking video and you can see that HERE (once I get the video off my phone - having some technical difficulties at the moment!).
And so we got started on our big road trip - I won't lie, I was super excited to be going, but was also really nervous about how the trip would go. No need to worry though - everyone traveled so well! I had purchased some new things to keep them busy - a book series for G and a new notebook for Ellie. I also brought along some movies to watch. Between eating snacks, reading, drawing, screen time, and movie time, everyone kept pretty busy and happy.
We were all happy to see our hotel in Sacramento - the kids went swimming and burned off some energy while Kenny and Faith hunted down dinner for us all.
The next morning we got packed up and back on the road after another swim and some hotel breakfast.
Another long day on the road and we arrived in Anaheim a little later than expected. We had a quick dinner at the Denny's right next to our hotel, then it was to bed to get some rest for our first day at Disney. Kenny caught this shot of Ellie waiting to use the bathroom, looking over some reading material to help plan her day :)
I have no idea how to really tell you about our time in the parks - the three days that we were there were completely jam-packed full of activity. We collapsed with achy feet and amazing memories made every single day. The first couple of mornings we got up early and had breakfast at the hotel before catching our bus to the park. We also came back to the hotel around mid-day to have a bigger meal (we bought supplies for our hotel room kitchen at a nearby grocery store) and some rest before heading back out to the park for the rest of the afternoon/evening.
On the last day, we decided to drive ourselves to the park to get started a little earlier and beat the crowds. We also stayed at the park and had our lunch there at Award Weiners!
So glad we did some shopping and had eats in our hotel room - after that one meal in the park I realized how much money it saved us!
I've put a lot of our pictures into an album with a few words to tell the stories HERE, so I'm going to try and not share everything in this post. But it's going to be hard - there are so many moments that I just loved and want to hang on to!
Waiting in line for our first ride - AstroBlasters! It's amazing how fast those lines move, even though there were tons of people there, they really are masters of the line and it felt like you were always moving and making progress toward the ride. We did our best to make use of Fast Passes though.
So many ears to choose from - Faith and Ellie knew right away on the first day which ears they wanted. It was beautiful princess ears all the way for Miss Eleanor, and Faith chose these fun Mad Hatter ears. Graham picked BB8 ears near the end of our first day in the park and it's a good thing we got them when we did, because we heard someone trying to find them the next day but couldn't.
Love that they have so many ears to choose from - I picked a classic but glittery set, and Kenny went with C3PO ears. Also love that we all had them on for our meeting and photo op with Mickey :)
Back to the rides.....
We all got brave and went on The Matterhorn....some of us stayed more calm and brave than others. Graham was in the very front, which is why he isn't in that family selfie...I was sitting right behind him. Kenny said every time he turned around Ellie had her head in her lap and was yelling that she didn't like this ride. Kenny also had moments he didn't love on the Matterhorn, especially the pitch black tunnel.
(Faith is the only one that really understood the photo op after the Matterhorn - maybe next time!)
Graham and Faith really wanted to do the Tower of Terror, so while they did that, Kenny and I took Ellie on some tamer rides.
The next day, Ellie insisted on going with the bigger kids on The Tower of Terror (there was still no convincing Kenny or I to go) and even though she was pretty terrified, Faith says Ellie toughed it out and didn't cry. We all tried to talk her out of it, but this little one is fierce!
Ellie was tall enough for most of the rides she wanted to do, but she didn't quite make the cut for California Screamin'. Graham and Faith also went on Hyperspace Mountain without her too, so to make up for all of that, Kenny and I took her to have her face painted - 'tis one of her favorite things!
The kids and I went on the big Ferris wheel there in the background (the roller coaster is California Screamin') but Faith and Kenny were not interested in that one at all - not big fans of being that far off the ground. Graham didn't love it either once we were up there, but Ellie and I thought it was pretty awesome :)
We sent Kenny to get Fast Passes for the Cars ride on the last day - waits for that ride without a Fast Pass were up to TWO HOURS! We pretty much walked right through the line and onto the ride when it was our time. It was a fun one, but not wait-in-line-for-two-hours-fun?!
Here we are waiting for It's a Small World - I don't think the kids really loved it as much as I do, but we tried to explain to them that this is just one of those classic Disney rides that you HAVE to do!
While most of the trip went so smoothly, I'd be lying if I said there weren't moments....while Graham and I were having one of those "moments", Kenny and the girls rode the teacups!
I had a bit of my own moment on the first night in the park, when we couldn't find a place ANYWHERE to sit down and watch the light parade and fireworks. We were trying to decide what to do and I was a little bit a lot cranky and frustrated.
My dear sweet boy reminded me of a conversation we had that morning, during which I reminded them that we would be in the park for 3 whole days, and that we wouldn't be able to or need to do everything on that first day. "We'll see the parade tomorrow mom." Out of the mouths of babes, huh? And as we were walking around the back side of the castle, Ellie caught a glimpse of Tinkerbell flying over, and I was brought to tears seeing the look of sheer joy in her eyes. Absolutely magical.....she ran over to me, hugged me, and thanked me for bringing her here. Such a good reminder and lesson, that my expectations may have been too high, and that all of this was new and exciting for them...they had no preconceived expectations or pictures of how it had to be. (And Kenny bought me the popcorn that I had been smelling all day - I love my boys both so much for trying to make it all better!)
I went into night two with a far better plan, and staked out our parade seats THREE HOURS before the parade began. That's what it took to get a good seat. We all took turns guarding the spot while others went off shopping, got snacks/drinks, played games on cell phones, or made their own light saber!
Totally worth the wait though - I think everyone loved the parade. Unfortunately it was too windy for the fireworks and Tinkerbell's flight, but it was OK...the kids were ready to get back to the room and get some sleep.
Side note: The button was free in the stores - they had a bunch of different kinds to choose from. I got Faith one about graduating, the kids each got 1st visit buttons, and I grabbed this one for Kenny and I (no, we didn't tie the knot at Disney - I just thought it was sweet!)
We accidentally ran into this parade that started just as the kids came back from their ride. The parade had already started, so they couldn't cross the street to join us, but everyone did get to see it :)
On the very last day we got to the park before it opened, so we could be there to enter right away and hopefully get to meet Anna and Elsa. This was the one thing I knew Ellie wanted to do, so I was determined to make it happen. We were first at the rope to be escorted in to meet them. Not sure why Ellie was looking so blue, perhaps just not thrilled about having to wait for one more thing...
They made a really big production about opening the park though and it was really cool to be there for that. They send out guides to escort people to certain places, I guess so everyone isn't running around like crazy people as soon as they open the rope. So we were walked over to Anna and Elsa's little castle, and had to wait just a little bit longer until they were ready for us. All smiles when she got to see them though - she was shy of course, but so very happy to have met them.
The kids weren't really interested in meeting many other characters. I insisted on the Mickey Mouse one earlier in the post, and Ellie also wanted to meet Olaf - the whole family ended up enjoying that one I think.
Should also note, the Anna/Elsa and Olaf pictures were all taken by Disney photographers. I'll be posting one of us in front of the castle that was taken by them too. Credit where credit is due....though they charge by the day or picture to get copies of them, so I tried to only have them take pictures on our last day there so we could make the most of our purchase (pro tip if you're planning your own trip to a Disney park!)
By the end of that last day in the parks, we were BEAT! We came back to the hotel and the kids did a little swimming while the rest of us rested.....I don't know where they find all the energy. We went out for dinner at the Cheesecake Factory, and looked back on our trip.
In addition to the autographs Ellie had in her book (Mickey Mouse, Anna, Elsa, and Olaf) she asked all of us to add ours :)
We went back to "Downtown Disney" to do a little souvenir shopping before calling it a night. Kenny went out and got donuts the next morning while I worked on packing (we left with MUCH more than we came with, so it was a little challenging and stress-inducing!)
Only a little later than planned though, and we were on the road for home sweet home.
I was a little worried that the ride home would be tougher than the way down, 'cause we wouldn't be looking forward to the trip anymore, just heading back to reality. The kids did MUCH better than me on this one :) Shortly after we got going, Ellie went to work writing down everything she did on her trip - so awesome!
Once we got back to the hotel in Sacramento, the kids went swimming and I soaked my feet in the hot tub while Kenny and Faith got dinner again - teamwork!
On the home stretch - Graham finished his book series (there were 6 books in all!) and I at one point I heard something fall in the back seat and turned to find that it was Ellie - she had just fallen asleep while she was drawing!
I think we were all happy to be back in Oregon and back home again.
We dropped the kids off at Wil's house, and went home to unload the car. This trip was AMAZING. Someone commented on one of my Facebook photos that it looked like the trip of a lifetime....and it really was. Graham and Eleanor are old enough to enjoy and remember the trip, and Faith is graduating soon and plans to move away. It's hard to say when we'll ever be able to plan a trip like this all together again any time soon. We were confined to many small spaces together on this trip, and I had prepared myself for some ups and downs, but there were so, so many ups and I barely remember any of the bumps in the road. I am so thankful that we had this time together - we made some amazing memories.
I wrote this note to myself the morning that we first went to the park....
And I did. We all did! So very tired, but so very happy....