Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Disneyland Vacation 2017

In Washington, they have created what is known as Mid-Winter Break during the month of February. It's meant to let people leave on vacation to escape the wet, gray, dismal winter, and find some happiness and sun. Normally, I not-so-secretly hate it. We usually don't go anywhere, and it extends school longer into the summer, when there actually IS sun.

But this year.

This year we were part of the crowd. The crowd that has an exciting, sunny destination to jaunt off to. This year we were those people. The people that went to Disneyland!! (along with half the state of Washington, seriously)

Using some credit card points and travel credits we had saved up, we were able to afford what we always assumed would be un-affordable. So we jumped at the chance. The kids found out at Christmas time and have been counting down since then. I'm the only one that's ever been to Disneyland out of us, and Brigham was just as excited -if not more- than the kids. It was also our first vacation with just our little Tappana family...well, that wasn't to Utah to see family.

The trip started out as expected. We left our house at 9:00 am, expecting a super busy airport and, after a layover, to arrive in LA around five pm.

Our first flight went pretty smoothly and we arrived in Oakland on time. We were waiting for our next flight when we learned it was delayed by about twenty minutes. No big. And then suddenly it was delayed by two hours. But, rolling with the punches, we sought out dinner at the airport and tried to distract the kids during the three hour wait.

When we finally arrived in LA, we were exhausted. We told the kids to hang in there - we made it to LA, all we had to do was get our luggage, get the rental car, and drive to our hotel. The end was in sight. Ha!

As we pulled our luggage off the carousel, we noticed our bags were pretty wet. Concerned, Brigham opened his bag, grabbed a pair of socks, and as he squeezed them...a dirty puddle of water formed on the airport floor. Praying that all of our luggage wasn't in the same condition, but just wanting to get the kids to the hotel so they could rest, we waited to collect our last car-seat.

Well we waited, and we waited, and we waited. We waited until no more luggage was turning on the carousel, and everyone that had flown with us had left. Realizing that our car-seat wasn't going to magically appear, I stayed with our other six bags and two car-seats while Brigham went searching. A while later he reappeared with the car-seat, which had been put with the over-sized baggage.

"Ok kids, we know it took us an hour to get our luggage and we promised it would only take twenty minutes, but we are so close. We only need to take a shuttle to the rental car place, pick that up and drive to our hotel. We know your car-seats are soaking wet, but there's nothing we can do."

After dragging our six bags, three car-seats,  and one baby in a stroller to the shuttle, on the shuttle, and back off the shuttle (we were a sight) we proceeded to pick up our rental car that we were supposed to have picked up four hours early. Only one problem: IT WASN'T READY.

The lady was not happy with my tone when I asked how in the heck a rental car wasn't ready. She informed me that it was late at night, so they were working off of a ghost crew and things don't happen as quickly. She only had dirty looks to give when I replied that we were supposed to pick it up four hours ago, and that I thought that was plenty of time to have had it ready for us. She had the last laugh, because it was us who waited forty minutes for our rental car to show up.

The kids, luckily, found much joy in the cement benches outside of the building and loved putting Kendrick on them and catching him as he ran to their open arms. They were happy to be able to be a bit noisy and move around after airplanes and airports.

The minivan arrived. We loaded all the bags, buckled all the car-seats in, and then buckled the kids into the car-seats.

"It's ok, kids. We know your car-seats are wet and you are getting wet, but we finally have our car and now all we have is a forty minute drive to our hotel. We can make it. Let's go!"

And then we couldn't get the key into the ignition to start the car. You might not understand how this is possible. Are we crazy dumb? Are we so worn out from our travels that we can't even function as normal people in society?

We asked those questions to ourselves, as well.

But, after we tracked down someone on the ghost crew to help us, HE couldn't get it to work either. Twenty minutes later, he figured some switch wasn't right, fixed it, and THEN we were on our way. Like for real this time.

It was ten thirty at night when we reached our hotel. We left our house at 9:00 am, and did not get to our hotel until 10:30 at night. Longest day ever. And it wasn't even over yet.

After getting everyone and every thing to our room, we opened our bags. Every. Single. One. was soaked through. Nothing was left untouched. It was like our bags had been dipped into a pool of water and then handed to us. We had a Roku (that now only shows black and white), our Disneyland tickets (luckily in so many different envelopes that only the outer two were ruined and the tickets survived), and everything else in there. The kids were begging to go to bed, but they were soaked from sitting in wet car-seats and we had no dry clothes to give them to go to bed in. Our hotel had no laundry services, so Brigham hauled all of our clothes across the street, got quarters, and went to work washing and drying all our clothes.

At 1:30 in the morning, I texted him to see if he was done as he walked into the room. We looked at each other and I could tell that we were both wondering how we were ever going to pull off three days at Disneyland with the exhaustion that we felt. But we turned out the lights, set our alarms, and crashed hard.

It's amazing what five and a half hours of sleep can do for a person. We woke up...I wouldn't say ready to go...but ready to do what needed to be done. And slowly, as we ate breakfast and got everyone up and out the door, Disneyland took hold.

Brigham dropped the kids and I off and took the rental car back. While Brigham was making his way back to the park, the kids and I went through security, picked up our remaining tickets, and entered Disneyland. Immediately, I found myself in a line to meet Ariel.

We brought one of our books that includes a collection of Disney stories so that characters could sign on the pages of their story. Collecting signatures became one of Lydia's favorite things to do. I thought waiting in line to meet a fake character and get signatures was a waste of time, but I'm not eight years old, either.

Making our way down Main Street, the kids were immediately drawn to Sleeping Beauty's castle. Not wanting to do too much without Brigham, we decided to hop on the King's Carousel.

Kendrick LOVED it. He rode with a open-mouthed grin. And it placed a fire in Lydia and Ammon for more. "Mom, let's ride Dumbo!" "Mom! What next?!"

So Dumbo it was.

During February, Disneyland is not supposed to be very crowded, apparently, until the week of President's Day. Which is exactly the week we chose. And it was CROWDED. Rumor was that LA schools were out on break as well. I heard workers saying it was as busy as though it were summer time. At first the lines and crowds overwhelmed me, but after a few lines and rides, and just going with the flow, we got into our groove.

The line for Dumbo was long enough that Brigham was able to meet up with us and join us on the ride.

And then it was Fantasyland for most of the morning, followed by an afternoon waiting in line at Indiana Jones. The ride broke down three times on us while waiting in line. Brigham hadn't even seen Indiana Jones until I made him watch the first two movies the week before our trip, in preparation. It ended up being one of his favorite rides. I ended up sorta hating it because I was stuck with the baby while Brigham and the kids were stuck in line. The area by Indiana Jones was so crowded you literally could barely move, and Brigham's phone had died (because he can't stay off it *ahem*) and so I couldn't leave the area where we had decided to meet.

Roles were reversed when using the rider-swap pass and Brigham got stuck with Kendrick, and I got stuck in line with Lydia and Ammon and the ride broke down, AGAIN.  It was Lydia and Ammon's first bigger ride after all the small ones in Fantasyland and I knew by their devotion to it, that we had some ride-lovers on our hands.

We also enjoyed the Jungle Book Cruise, and I loved watching my four favorite people take it all in.

That night we ate dinner at Cafe Orleans and had the famous Monte Cristo sandwich, which I truly enjoyed because I was in the middle of reading the book, The Count of Monte Cristo, and the kids got really into a brass band playing in the street, throwing out Mardi Gras necklaces.

I introduced one of my favorite rides to everyone, Thunder Mountain, and we hopped and skipped around to the Haunted Mansion and different smaller rides. Soon I was saving spots with Kendrick to watch the Main Street Electrical Parade while Brigham took the older two on more rides before rejoining us.

We thought we would be spending most afternoons in our hotel resting before returning back to the park. But day one we spent from open to close in the park. And that set the trend for the remaining days. Waste time going back to the hotel?! No way, too much to do and see. But we sure were exhausted each night as we finally collapsed into bed. A happy collapse. Kendrick was the only one that probably would have voiced some complaints, if he could have.

Day two we spent at California Adventure. Our hotel was just over a mile from the parks and the kids did awesome walking to and from each day, ON TOP of all the walking and standing in line once there.

At California, Brigham immediately jumped into the half hour line to get fast passes for Radiator Springs. It's a Car's Land ride that, for some reason, everyone is obsessed with and the fast passes run out in the first hour. If you don't have a fast pass, you're looking at a two hour wait in line.

While Brigham was fast-passing, I took the kids to Bug's Land and we rode on some smaller rides. Then we wasted half our lives -it felt like- waiting in line for the DUMBEST ride ever.

I don't even know what this ride was called, but it's basically a really crappy version of bumper cars, and the line took so much longer than it was supposed to. By time they finished, all the other lines were super long. We all agreed that it was our worst mistake.

Finishing up at Bug's Land, we stopped off to see the Frozen show and then stood in line at Soarin' Over the World. This ride had run out of fast passes, but knowing how awesome it is, I insisted we wait in the 70 minute line. What was supposed to be 70 minutes, turned into 105 minutes, and it took up our whole afternoon, but that ride is seriously amazing. It is both Lydia's and my favorite.

One distraction while waiting in line was Pluto stopping by. Brigham held our spots while I went with the kids to get the book signed and pictures taken. He was a pretty funny guy...er, dog.

After Soarin' we headed over to use our fast passes for Screamin' California. That is the giant roller coaster that goes upside down and and starts out by shooting you up a giant hill, before dropping you down the other side. The kids were pretty excited about this ride, but I was concerned that they didn't know what they were getting into. When I finally saw them loaded up and only half of their little heads peeping out at me, I was afraid FOR them.

But look at these pictures:

Lydia and Ammon had no idea a camera would take your picture on the roller coaster; they did not plan these faces of absolute glee (not that you can even see Lydia's face in the first one). They jumped off the ride with Brigham the first time, and were thrilled they could go with me again. Ride maniacs! At that age, both Brigham and I were chickens and wouldn't have dared to even think about rides like this. I don't know where my shy, reserved kids got this from, but it sure made Disneyland fun!

We had attempted to use our fast passes for Radiator Springs earlier that afternoon, but the ride had broken down (typical) so we returned to retry our luck at the ride that was in such high-demand. I will say the second half is pretty fun, but I don't know why it's SO popular. Maybe I need to be more of a cars fan? My kids liked it pretty well, and Brigham really liked it.

We enjoyed quite a few more rides and met Chip 'n Dale, though only Dale was able to sign our book and get pictures.

I really loved showing my family the Bug's Life show. It's short and silly, but watching my kids try to grab the bugs in front of their 3-D glasses and hearing Brigham squeal about bug crawling under his seat was priceless. Plus it's one of my strongest memories from when I went fourteen years ago.

That night, when California Adventure closed, we went to Downtown Disney - which stays open very late with restaurants and stores and bands - to meet our friends that used to live in Maple Valley but moved to California: the Garvins. They had to drive for ever to meet us and we didn't have much time together, but it was so nice to see them and catch up. We love the Garvins and our kids screamed and played together back at our hotel room while we chatted the night away. I was so grateful they took the time to come visit; we've missed them!

Because we stayed up late with our friends the night before, and the walk home from Downtown Disney was more like two miles instead of one, we were worn out on the last day. And it was our magic morning, meaning we were able to enter the park an extra hour before it opens, so we were up VERY early. But it was our last day and we were going to utilize every. second.

We used our extra hour at Disneyland to ride Hyperspace Mountain. Even though we were there right when the park was opened, the line was a 40 minute wait when we got there (the shortest wait the entire day). I waited in line to get fast passes for other rides with Kendrick and fed him breakfast, while Brigham went with Lydia and Ammon. It ended up being Brigham's favorite ride. We also did Star Tours and stood in line to meet Mickey Mouse at his house in Toontown.

The rest of the day we spent catching up on rides that we missed on Tuesday, and re-riding the ones we loved.

The kids were excited to ride Splash Mountain, but it was quite a bit colder that day so Lydia was hoping to not get too wet. Unfortunately, she was placed in the very front (I tried to sit in front to shield the kids, but because Ammon is under seven, I had to sit behind him for some reason). The people in the front get SOAKED. The first time we got wet I heard Lydia yell, "Are you serious?!" It was hilarious. When we got off the ride, she was drenched. Ammon went on Splash Mountain again with Brigham, while Lydia and I stayed with the baby to dry off. While we were waiting for them, we got to meet Winnie the Pooh.

This picture of Lydia with Winnie the Pooh is just the sweetest thing ever. I just want to remember her like this for forever.

Kendrick liked to wander around when he could, but usually it was way too crowded. In the area by Splash Mountain, there was a little more space to move so I let him wander around, get in people's way, and have a good time. One Disneyland worker I apologized to because Kendrick walked right in his way, said, "No, let him go. Seeing little ones like him happy is the reason why I work here." What a sweet guy.

After Splash Mountain we were moving onto a different area of a park. We tried to let Kendrick walk with us, because he REALLY didn't want to get back into the stroller, but it just became too crowded so we pulled over to the side to buckle him in. Unfortunately, Ammon didn't realize this and just kept walking. We also didn't realize that Ammon hadn't stopped with us.

When I looked up to continue on and didn't see Ammon with us, I turned to Brigham with horror and asked, "Where's Ammon?" I knew he was gone.

Brigham stayed with the stroller and Lydia while I combed up and down the pathway looking for Ammon. I remember staring at the sea of people heading towards me, filling the sidewalk wall to wall, and thinking, how am I ever going to find him in this? I was terrified.

I immediately started to pray, and as I prayed, something in the very center of me felt calm. I knew it would work out. But on the surface I still felt frantic and I needed to DO something to fix this. I kept imagining Ammon turning around and, not seeing us, becoming very scared and unsure. I prayed for him. I prayed so hard that he would remember the phone number we had been training him to remember just in case something like this happened. He still only remembered that phone number half the time, so I prayed THIS would be the time he remembered it all. After about fifteen minutes of searching, I went back to Brigham and broke down crying out of frustration and exclaimed, "I can't find him!"

Brigham took a turn looking and went to find a park person to help us. While he was gone, Lydia suggested we pray. I told her I already had been, but more prayers could definitely help. It had been about a half hour of missing Ammon (or more like an ETERNITY) when my phone rang, and I heard, "Is this Ammon's mom?" I broke down in tears again knowing they found him, and we rushed to get him, just a five minute walk from where we were.

Ammon wasn't too shaken up, and only shed a couple tears, but was mostly smiles thanks to the friendly Disneyland personnel. The man that was waiting with Ammon was super impressed that Ammon had announced that he knew his phone number. And sure enough, he had. I was so proud of him.

I was the biggest mess, though all of us shed some tears at some point (besides the oblivious Kendrick, who was only annoyed we weren't moving). The Disneyland helper kept offering us more Mardi Gras necklaces to help us feel better.

After this point, we were happy to be over that scary ordeal and I fervently prayed to God to thank him for helping Ammon remember our phone number, for giving me the peace to know that everything would be ok, and for the blessing that everything actually was ok.

Ammon started to lag, so the kids used some of their money to buy some cotton candy, and it's amazing how fast that perked him right back up.

Right before entering It's a Small Word. After the ride, Lydia exclaimed , "This ride is the longest ride in the park," while Ammon just declared it "dumb"
We enjoyed some Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, and Star Tours, and a Jedi Training show. Brigham got to deal with a diarrhea explosion from Kendrick during our wait for Peter Pan, and Brigham was the guy that every dad was glad they weren't as he changed a baby screaming on the top of his lungs, covered in smelly diarrhea. A little boy in the bathroom, after enduring Kendrick's screaming, announced to his own father, "Dad, when I'm a dad, I'm not going to help babies."

We watched the Main Street Electrical parade one last time, stopped for some hot chocolate on Main Street to help us warm up, and made our last journey from Disneyland to our hotel.

Disneyland really was magical for us. Our kids were so well behaved, rarely complaining and really soaking in all the shows and moments. Their good behavior and pure enjoyment of the rides and shows made every penny and second of effort worth it. We also loved how clean the park was. Sometimes I wast tempted to spill something, just so I could see how long it would take before a worker would magically appear out of nowhere to clean it up. I feel so honored to have had such a great time at such a fun place.

Our last night at the parks, we arrived, once again, back at our hotel extremely late at night and we collapsed into bed, excited to finally have a morning to sleep in. Kendrick, who we normally had to drag out of bed each morning, decided that Friday morning would be the PERFECT day to wake up at 6:30 am. Why? Why?! What internal alarms go off in babies when a mom finally gets a chance to rest? But, we were able to lounge around for awhile before we packed up and headed to spend the day at the beach to enjoy the sun.

We chose Balboa Beach as our destination because it has a playground, pier, and supposedly tide pools (though I didn't find any). And it was a perfect beach for us. We played on the playground, walked out on the pier, and then spent the day in the sand, chasing the waves.

Ammon started a shell collection and we each took turns walking in the shallow water - even Kendrick who LOVED it. Sand castles were made, people were buried, and lunch was spent on a blanket in the sand with the sun warming us from above. It was lovely.

I could not keep Lydia out of the water. I told them not to get their pants wet, but soon enough Lydia was soaked up to her waist. In every picture, you'll notice her chasing the waves.

We headed to our new hotel closer to the airport, and enjoyed some of LA's fantastic traffic. We decided to experience true LA by walking through some sketchy parts of town in the dark, in order to eat some mediocre Mexican food for dinner (the kids were disappointed - they expected it to taste like taco bell). Then Lydia and Ammon had their wildest dreams come true when Brigham took them to the pool to swim for an hour.

Knowing that we had to be up early for our return flight the next morning, we went to bed early. Unfortunately, around one am, a raving party decided to start up in the room next to ours. It felt like the walls were paper thin. Finally, after quite some time of super loud music, bad language, and craziness that was waking up our kids, we called the front desk to send security up. This pretty much resulted in a knock on the door and someone yelling, "Guys, I'm serious. You HAVE to be quite." And then no change at all. The next morning, as we walked next to their room, their garbage was outside the door with a bathrobe covered in throw-up hanging out of it.

So much fun.

We got a coupon for breakfast because of our troubles and our complaining about those troubles, and began the long process to get home. Luckily, this time it was much smoother. Still, after unpacking that night, we were all so hammered; not one of us could keep our eyes open past nine pm. Kendrick literally dove into his bed with joy at the sight of it, and slept from 8:00 pm to 9:00 am the next morning. We all slept for at least twelve hours.

But we conquered that vacation. And it was awesome. We had some hard times, some magical times, but mostly just enjoyed the adventure. And that, my friends, is the Tappana Vacation of 2017.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Tappana Times: January Hair and Snowstorms

January can be such a blah month. But looking back, we seemed to keep things alive.

First, Kendrick was starting to look like a girl with hair that was so beautiful as it curled around his ears and on his neck. I waited as long as possible to cut it, but I had to admit that everyone calling him "she" when we went out, was starting to become warranted.

These pictures don't really show of his pretty curls, but they are the before shots before madness ensued.

Here are a couple more pictures of his longer hair on a day that eating chocolate cereal made him look like a homeless boy.

Have you ever tried cutting a one-year-old's hair? So not fun. I was just going to do the most BASIC trim. Around the ears and neck, and about a half-an-inch off the rest. But with every snip of the scissors and sudden jerk of the head, suddenly a chunk was lost here and a chunk was lost there. By the time I finished "evening it out," he looked like a cancer patient.

I have never cried about a haircut. Not for any of my other children or even for myself. But for this hair cut, I cried. Boy did I cry. His beautiful hair was gone and it was a crappy cut-job to boot. The back was nice and even, but the rest....I was glad it was winter so I could cover it up with a hat. You should have heard the collective gasps at exercise class the next day I took the hat off. Literally, the whole group of ladies gasped and exclaims of "his hair!" and "what happened?!" had me almost in tears again.

Once again, these pictures don't do the terribleness justice, but just take my-and the ladies from bootcamp-word for it. Luckily, it has grown out and looks somewhat better. But it definitely has lost the baby-fine texture. He weirdly has very wirey, stiff hair now. I THINK his curls are coming back, but it's too early to tell. I mourn the day I decided to cut those baby-fine curls.

Besides haircut drama, my other two had crazy hair day at school.

I did waves of braids down Lydia's head, and then messy buns at the end, because we totally ran out of time to finish with anything cool and she almost missed the bus as is.

Poor girl didn't even get to see what it looked like before I was shooing her out the door and yelling at her to pick up the pace before the bus left without her.

It was fun to have Ammon be able to join in on the crazy hair fun this year.

Of course, there's not much you can do with shorter hair, besides dyeing it, so spikes it was. He thought it was awesome.

The weather in January was very bipolar. We'd have freezing weeks and then weeks where it felt like spring was on the way. One of the warmer weeks, I walked with the kids to the park and Kendrick enjoyed his first time playing at the park.

At first he just tried to eat the rocks, and was thrilled to finally be let out of his stroller. I could tell he felt like such a big boy. He was so happy.

Soon, Lydia and Ammon were taking turns sliding down the slides with Kendrick. They really are such good siblings. Kendrick adores them.

Does it get any cuter than that?!

From enjoying a warmer day at the park, sliding on the slides one week, to a very different scene the next week. Here is the park a week later:

We had one of the biggest snowfalls Washington has seen in a very long time. A couple inches is a big deal for us, and this was over half a foot!

Everything was shut down (people here are just not prepared for this kind of weather), and so we enjoyed a family day playing in the snow.

 My family met up with us and we took the kids sledding at the park. It was the first time my kids have ever been sledding and they had a blast. Only a few tears were shed at the end, due to some freezing feet.

By time we got home, the kids were done with the cold and wet and had no interest in building a snowman. Being a snow-lover myself, I was not even close to being done enjoying all the fun, and so I went out and created Cupid - my snow woman of love. The older kids happily played inside while Kendrick sat at the back door and watched me.

Brigham would have helped, but he had driven back to the park to help ferry people home. We walked to the park, and tried to drag Kendrick behind us in both a wagon and a stroller. We made it with the stroller, but realized we did not want to repeat the process home. Luckily, our car has 4-wheel drive and so it was no problem on all the hills.

When Brigham was done ferrying, he created giant snow balls that he left randomly in the yard.

It's been a crazy winter weather. After the two days of snow, it warmed up and rained torrentialy for a week. With all the rain and melting snow, tons of falling trees and mudslides have left the area in a mess. I find it all kind of exciting, probably since it hasn't negatively impacted me very much. It's nice to have a change of pace to keep away those winter doldrums.