Disneyland, Day 2

We wrapped up our winter trips to Disney last weekend with our second trip to Disneyland. This time, we joined the Turner family at the “happiest place on Earth.”

After arriving at the park – after lunchtime! – we went straight to Micky’s Toontown so that Vivian could ride Gadget’s Go Coaster with Ben. Toontown was overrun with kiddos and so, so many people, so we skipped out after the rollercoaster and went to Fantasyland and rode “it’s a small world.” This was Lillian’s first time on this ride and she loved it! Her head was constantly swiveling to see all the sights inside the ride and she was so thrilled that she clapped and clapped. It was so fun to see her having so much fun!

Lil’s First Ride on “it’s a small world”

While in Fantasyland, we took the kids on Pinocchio’s Daring Journey and then tried to take them on Snow White’s Scary Adventures, but the ride broke down two riders ahead of us – boo! Our little Snow White was all ready to ride it, too!

Happy Little Snow White with Mama

Happy Little Snow White with Daddy

We switched lands after the Snow White disappointment and went to Adventureland so that Vivian and Dan could ride Jungle Cruise (Lillian had fallen asleep). Afterwards, Vivian and Ben had a blast playing with bubbles (these were all over Disneyland and a huge hit with all kids!).

Bubbles!

We went on one last ride as a family and with the Turners – Pirates of the Caribbean in New Orleans Square. I was a little worried that Vivian would be freaked out by the drops, but she loved it. She even said it was her favorite ride! (She’s been on it before, but wasn’t old enough to fear the drops. Lillian rode it the first time on this trip and wasn’t phased by the drops at all.)

Family Photo Opp in New Orleans Square

We left the park before it got dark and everyone melted down. Dan bought Vivian a giant $9 balloon on Main Street, U.S.A., and then we walked to our car via the Downtown Disney District. And, once again, Vivian had to shake her groove thing for the live band playing.

I got a huge smile on my face watching Vivian dance and Dan dance with her. My smile got even larger when I realized that the band playing was the Doo-Wah Riders. Dan and I saw this band, with his parents, seven years ago at the Bankhead Theater in downtown Livermore. Back then, we were only dating; now, we are happily married with two little girls. Seeing this band again was a nice reminder of how sweet life can be sometimes – and how circular!

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It’s All About the Princesses

I am not a girly-girl and no one in my family or Dan’s family is. We have never called Vivian a “princess” or bought her any clothes or toys that say “princess.” But, somehow, just like so many other little girls, Vivian is obsessed with princesses! She managed to absorb the princess craze in this world and so, of course, we support and indulge her (although we still don’t call her a princess or buy her princess clothes and toys). She has some hand-me-down princess dresses that she asks to wear all.the.time. She has also seen a few Disney movies with princesses (The Little Mermaid, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella) and she loves them – she loves watching them and loves singing all the songs from them. So…when we bought tickets that allowed us to spend a day at California Adventure, I also made a reservation for us to have a “princess celebration” lunch at Ariel’s Grotto.

It was a rainy day in SoCal, but a good day to be at California Adventure, because the rain diminished the crowd size. It was also a good day to go to a princess lunch because although it was pouring rain outside, we were snug and dry inside the restaurant. Before being seated at our table, we took a family photo with Ariel. Despite being so excited to see princesses, Vivian was at first extremely shy around them, even covering her face with her hand when she was close to them.

Family Photo with Ariel

Family Photo with Ariel

We sat down at our table on the edge of the dining room and immediately, the first princess was announced. Throughout our (extremely overpriced – a kid’s meal was $24!) meal, Rapunzel, Belle, Cinderella, and Tiana were presented and then paraded around the dining room, kindly stopping at each table for a chat with the kiddos and a photo opp. Again, Vivian was extremely shy at first, but as the meal went on, she warmed up and eventually talked to, touched, and took pictures with the princesses. Lillian was just along for the ride and mostly enjoyed feeding (or, making a giant mess) herself.

Vivian and Rapunzel

Vivian and Rapunzel

Both Girls Loved Rapunzel

Both Girls Loved Rapunzel

Vivian and Cinderella

Vivian and Cinderella

The Princess and the Cucumber

The Princess and the Cucumber

Vivian got to eat her meal with a real “dinglehopper” – just like Ariel did in The Little Mermaid.

Lunch via a Dinglehopper

Lunch via a Dinglehopper

We also started Vivian’s 3-year birthday celebrations a little (two months!) early and sang to her and let her eat a chocolate cupcake. She was in heaven!

Happy Early Birthday!

Happy Early Birthday!

After lunch we circled Paradise Pier, zoomed through Cars Land, and ended the day in “a bug’s land.” Whew, we did and rode a lot:

King Triton’s Carousal – Loved by Both Girls

Glasses On – Ready to Ride Toy Story Midway Mania with Dan

Flying on Golden Zephyr

Lil on The Little Mermaid

Viv Petting Mater

We had a full – and long – day, but a very good one! We have one more day left to use on our three-day passes and we’re going to spend it at Disneyland. So, more, coming soon!

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Snow Angels, Balls, & Sledding

We have gotten pounded with much needed rain this winter and the mountains have received feet upon feet of snow, even our local SoCal ones. We had hoped to take a weekend trip to the mountains, but the reality of that faded and so we decided to just take a day trip to play in the snow with the girls. Next year, though – weekend trip, for sure! We want to get Vivian on skis for the first time next winter!

We timed our trip up to the mountains so that it wasn’t directly after a big snowstorm. We didn’t want to deal with traffic and we also didn’t need the most fresh snow to play in. So, last Sunday, we drove up to Snow Valley Mountain Resort and all bought tickets (Lillian included – infants weren’t free here!) for an afternoon of snow play. It was about 40 degrees out with some wind, but the sun was shining, so it wasn’t bitter cold. Our tickets and time on the mountain allowed us to take four sledding runs. We had to wait in line to get on the chairlift, ride the chairlift, and then wait in a long, slow line at the top of the hill before being allowed to sled down it. Only two sledding runs were open and the staff was regulating the number of sledders allowed down the hill at one time.

Sledding Sisters!

Sledding Sisters!

Vivian Sledding

Vivian Sledding

Lillian Sledding

Lillian Sledding

Both girls did very well waiting around so much. They both enjoyed riding the chairlift (their first rides – and, yes, 9-month olds can ride chairlifts!) and sledding. Vivian also made snow angels, threw snowballs, and made a mini snowman. She was soaked and tired at the end of the afternoon, but we knew that she had had a blast because despite her deteriorating attitude, she still wanted to keep sledding.

Vivian's First Chairlift Ride

Vivian’s First Chairlift Ride

Infants Can Ride Chairlifts, Too!

Infants Can Ride Chairlifts, Too!

Snow Angel

Snow Angel

Sledding Bear

Sledding Bear

Do You Wanna Build a Snowman?

Do You Wanna Build a Snowman?

We stopped in the lodge long enough to drink a beer and regroup before our drive home. Even though Lillian was fairly quiet throughout the sledding activity and she was carried around the whole time, she was apparently exhausted from all of the time outside and all of the activity around her. She fell asleep minutes into our drive home and slept right up until bedtime, only waking briefly to eat!

Fun in the Snow

Fun in the Snow

Family Snow Picture

Family Snow Picture

So, sledding this year, but skiing next year!

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Disneyland, Day 1

For the first time ever, we actually purchased tickets to Disneyland. We took advantage of the SoCal Resident prices, the young ages of the girls, and packed food and drink to minimize the impact to our wallet and it worked out well. We prepaid for access to a park (Disneyland or California Adventure) for three days prior to the end of May and used our first day last Sunday. The last time Vivian went to Disneyland, she was 20 months old. And this was Lillian’s very first time to Disneyland!

Disneyland!

Disneyland!

Unfortunately, a bunch of the rides that we wanted to take Vivian on were closed (Jungle Cruise, Pirates of the Caribbean, Disneyland Railroad, and “it’s a small world”). But, she really enjoyed the rides that we did take her on and we all had a lot of fun.

The first thing that we did when we finally got into the park was walk through Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. Vivian has been enthralled with Sleeping Beauty lately and she’s seen the movie a few times. She even got to see Sleeping Beauty walking through the park and afterwards, she couldn’t stop talking about seeing her in her pink dress.

Sleeping Beauty's Castle

Sleeping Beauty’s Castle

We spent the first half of our day in Fantasyland, riding the Storybook Land Canal Boats (Lil’s first and only ride of the day), King Arthur Carrousel (this was Viv’s first Disneyland ride when she was 1 month old, which may be why she loves carousels so much!), and Dumbo the Flying Elephant.

King Arthur Carrousel

King Arthur Carrousel

Dumbo the Flying Elephant

Dumbo the Flying Elephant

After a churro snack, we left Fantasyland and walked to Mickey’s Toontown.

Churro!

Churro!

Vivian had a BLAST in Mickey’s Toontown. She leved every part of it – Gaget’s Go Coaster (her first roller coaster!), Chip n’ Dale Treehouse, Donald’s Boat, Goofy’s Playhouse, and the lollipops that she got to share with Dan!

Lollipops in Line

Lollipops in Line

After Mickey’s Toontown, we quickly visited Tomorrowland and took Vivian on Autopia for the first time. She steered the car while I pressed the gas pedal and even I was surprised at how well she “drove” the car.

2 Going on 16

2 Going on 16

From there, we boarded the Disneyland Monorail back to the Downtown Disney District to begin our walk back to our car. We’d had a very fun day and didn’t want to overstay our welcome.

As we were walking, the Downtown Disney Live! band was playing and Vivian was mesmerized. She LOVES to sing and dance and so we had to stop to join in on the impromptu dance party.

By the time we made it back to our house, both girls were fast asleep – the sure sign of a fun day!

Our Sleeping Beauties

Our Sleeping Beauties

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Great Day in Griffith Park

Some days, honestly, are just crappy. They’re hard, long, exhausting, and frustrating. Kids will do that to your life. But, man, some days are so, so good. They are peaceful, enjoyable, fun, and heart-warming. Kids will do that to your life, too. Last Saturday, we experienced one of those great days that we will fondly remember forever.

After Vivian’s gymnastics class, we drove up to Griffith Park in Los Angeles. There are a lot of fun things to do there, especially with kids (pony rides, train ride, carousal, zoo, etc.), but we decided to visit the observatory and hike to the top of Mt. Hollywood (both of which I’ve done before, but Dan and the girls hadn’t).

It’s a giant pain to navigate the traffic and find parking near the observatory; luckily, we snagged a spot off the side of the road just past the tunnel and below the observatory. Also, luckily, both girls napped on the drive up and arrived happy and well rested.

We walked up to the very crowded observatory and walked in and around it, taking in the beautiful architecture of the building, the swinging pendulum (which Lillian loved watching), and the sweeping city views. They only allow children under 5 into their first show of the day and we had missed that, but we were happy to simply walk around inside and outside. When the kids get older, we’ll take them to see the planetarium shows.

Outside Griffith Observatory

Outside Griffith Observatory

In Front of Griffith Observatory

In Front of Griffith Observatory

We then left the crowds behind and began our trek up Mt. Hollywood. Because of all of rain we’ve gotten recently, everything was green, green, green! The hills/mountains and terrain were gorgeous! Dan pushed Lillian in the B.O.B. stroller and I carried Vivian on my back in the Ergo carrier. The hike is about 3 miles with a 500 ft. elevation gain. Although the weather was cool and the girls were bundled up, Dan and I worked up a sweat carting them (and ourselves) to the top of the mountain!

Girls on the Trail

Girls on the Trail

Dan and Lillian Hiking

Dan and Lillian Hiking

Hollywood Sign Views

Hollywood Sign Views Along the Trail

We arrived at the top shortly before sunset and took in the amazing views below and around us. Because it was a cooler, winter day, and because of our timing, there were very few people on the trail with us and at the top.

Climbing to the Top!

Climbing to the Top!

On Top of Mt. Hollywood

On Top of Mt. Hollywood

Lillian and the Hollywood Sign

Lillian and the Hollywood Sign

As we hiked back down the trail, the sun set and then all the city lights below us turned on. Our view changed, but stayed just as awesome as our daylight view on the hike up. We arrived back at our car just as darkness enveloped the park.

While Dan started driving back down to the park entrance/exit, I looked up a nearby place where we could eat. We quickly decided upon The Morrison Pub, just off the 5 and Los Feliz. We again lucked out with parking by snagging the last spot in their parking lot. And, we lucked out with getting a table right away, despite not having a reservation, when a party ahead of us was a no-show. Service was fast, the food and drinks were good, and although our kids were crazy, we were all happy.

Lillian Wants a Drink!

Lillian Wants a Beer!

After dinner, we drove home – in peaceful silence again as the girls slept. Back at our home, we were able to successfully transfer Vivian from the car directly into her bed for the night. Lillian woke up during her transfer, as expected, but I was able to quickly nurse her back to sleep.

So…all in all, a very fun family day. We never could have done all of this four months ago when Lillian was still colicky and we are still so thankful that she is happy and we can get her out (and on top of mountains) to see the world (and the Hollywood Sign)!

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MLK Weekend: Flying, Reading, & Bouncing

We did a few new, fun things with the girls this past weekend.

Santa Monica Airport: On Sunday, I participated in a paid research study in Barker Hangar at the Santa Monica Airport. While I gave my opinion on concept cars, Dan took the girls The Museum of Flying. He said it had quite a few interactive exhibits that both girls enjoyed. When I met up with them after my study ended, one of the museum workers was unlocking a fire truck so that Vivian could climb up in it and turn the sirens on.

My Pilot and Co-Pilots

My Pilot and Co-Pilots at The Museum of Flying

After we all left the museum, we walked over the observation deck at the airport and watched the planes take off and land. We were standing only feet away from the runway, so we had a primo view of all the activity. The airport had a playground and garden on site and we walked through those, stopping to play and smell the flowers, on our way back to our car. The entire outing was fairly low-key, but fun, and easy to do with the kids. It was also a bit unexpected, because we originally thought that we would go to the Santa Monica Pier. In the end, it was much easier, less stressful, and probably more fun, to spend the afternoon at the Santa Monica Airport. Plus, we’d never been to the airport before and it was neat to check it out.

Vivian Next to the Bronze Sculpture of Donald Douglas and His Dog, Bar

Vivian Next to the Bronze Sculpture of Donald Douglas and His Dog, Bar

Once Upon a Storybook Book Store: Although I had MLK day off work, Dan didn’t. The girls’ daycare was also closed, so the three of us spent the day together. In the morning, I took them to an “Itty Bitty Storytime” for toddlers at Once Upon a Storybook in Tustin. We sang, read, and bought a new book – Iggy Peck, Architect.

Storytime

Storytime

Scooter’s Jungle Indoor Play Yard: Then, we went to Scooter’s Jungle in Aliso Viejo so that Vivian could run, play, and bounce for 1 1/2 hours. When we walked into this indoor play yard full of toys and bounce houses, Vivian’s eyes got huge. I could hardly contain her long enough to give her some simple instructions. She had a blast bouncing, sliding, climbing, and playing.

Even Lillian got in on the fun – and she certainly enjoyed watching all of the activity around her.

Almost Sitting!

Almost Sitting!

Big Chair for a Little Girl

Big Chair for a Little Girl

Odyssey Park: We returned home in the afternoon for naps, and then set out for a walk and some park play.

It was one of my best days with the girls yet. It was sooooooooo much better than my crazy maternity leave days. Now that Lillian is older and happier, I don’t have to stress about car screaming (and screaming in general). I didn’t have to constantly nurse her, and, in fact, only nursed her once during our outing. And now that Vivian is fully potty trained, I didn’t have to stress about her peeing or pooping herself. Everyone was happy and had fun. And that made me happy. It’s really too bad I can’t take six months off work now to be with the girls!

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Chilled

Since I spent much of New Year’s weekend preparing for – and then cleaning up after – our New Year’s Eve party, I wanted to get out of the house last weekend and do something fun. On Friday afternoon, I purchased discounted tickets for us to go to The Queen Mary’s CHILL event. We’d never been to this event before and I didn’t research it ahead of time – I just thought that it would be a fun thing to do to close out our holiday celebrations.

We arrived at the event after dark, which was good, since it meant that we could view the Christmas lights that were still strung outside. As we walked to the main portion of the event, we passed wooden holiday decorations in poor shape that lined the walkway. Already, this event seemed kind of hokey. A group of singers was singing and dancing on a stage, and Vivian loved that, so we stopped to listen to them for a little bit. Then we entered a large dome, which I later read about in years’ past used to actually be “chilled” and contain snow, ice sculptures, and additional tubing. This year, it contained a super small carousal, which we all rode, and an Alice in Wonderland walk-through exhibit, which we did not walk through after other guests told us that the line was over an hour long and the exhibit was not worth it.

Merry-Go-Round

Merry-Go-Round

There was ice tubing inside the dome, but Vivian was too small to do any tubing. There was also a martini bar, but, alas, Vivian was also too small to drink. So, after one ride on a pathetic carousal, we left the dome through the nearly empty gift shop (the only way to exit, of course!). There was a set of swings outside of the dome that used to be at Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch, but, again, Vivian was too small to ride them. Instead, she bounced in a very small bounce house, and then we called it a night.

Candy Playland Bounce House

Candy Playland Bounce House

The ice skating and paint ball activities cost extra (not that we would have participated in those anyways). There was a 4-D Polar Express movie experience, but the wait was too long. And there was also the “world’s largest rocking horse,” but the wait was too long for that too (and it looked super lame).

So…final review: LAME! Check this off the list. Would not go again! Not worth $18 in parking. Not worth the price in tickets. Not worth the drive or time. But…Vivian did have fun and she was very happy. She wasn’t old enough to understand how pathetic the entire event was.

Our tickets to CHILL also included admission to The Queen Mary, so we boarded the historic docked ship and ate (an overpriced) dinner at the Chelsea Chowder House & Bar. We did have stunning views of the Long Beach skyline from our dinner table, though, which was cool.

Aboard The Queen Mary

Aboard The Queen Mary

Soup and Dinner with a View

Soup and Dinner with a View

Overall, although the CHILL event was lame and overpriced, we did have a nice time together as a family. The girls were well behaved and happy, the drive wasn’t full of infant screams, and we did get out of the house and get to experience something new. After we got home, we put the girls to bed, and were happy that our plans for the following day were more low-key and closer to home!

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