Wednesday, November 12, 2014

After Dizzyland

Just like last time, the next day we went BACK to the Downtown Disney district (yes, I know, we have a problem).  The Downtown Disney District is where you can go and spend money for free!  No ticket required, haha!  We had been telling the kids that they could each have $20 to spend on anything at Disneyland; a toy, a treat, whatever they wanted.  So of course at the first ride that spit us out into a gift shop they were each ready to spend.  We told them we wanted them to wait until the last day so they had more of a chance to look around and decide what they wanted. Brynn got a Sophia book and doll, Bryce got a Buzz Lightyear dart gun, Gabe got a set of planes and Camille got the world's softest Tigger pillow pet which she sleeps with every night.    I got a set of cute Halloween mugs and Marty got...??  That's typical, I bet he didn't get anything.  And then my sweet parents got our family a big light-up Mickey Mouse pumpkin Halloween decoration (it's worthy of that 8 word description).

We decided to make Rainforest Cafe a tradition also, since we had so much fun with it last time.

Yep, this is a pretty cute picture of her at the restaurant - but she was a total PILL most of the time!

I wish you could tell just how massive that dragon is on top of the Lego Store.

The kids got to build lego cars and race them.

Sometimes I think Bryce looks like me, but all of these expressions of concentration are totally Marty.

After all of BandB's hard work, Gabe came up and slapped a couple legos onto a couple of tires and won the race. :)

That night we had one last trip to the beach.

If I don't let the pictures tell the story here, I swear I will never finish these posts....

And the next morning it was time to pack up and head to our hotel in San Diego.

Black-shirt day was for SeaWorld!  We were actually not planning to go to San Diego this trip.  But then I found out my Alaskan brother was going to be there just a few days after we were leaving Anaheim.  So he came a couple days early and we stayed a day later - we really just had to!

Plus...who gets to go to SeaWorld with a marine biologist as their own personal guide??  The Johnson family, that's who!

I am crushed I didn't take many pictures with Corey.  At this point in the trip I was slipping into survival mode.  And remember, as the mom it is not just about your own survival but that of a bunch of littles depending on you.  So I let a few things go so that I could more fully enjoy the experience of being with Corey, my parents, and my family at SeaWorld.  It was SUCH a good day.

Here you get to experience what it would be like to take a crazy, adventurous, almost-unheard-of expedition to Antarctica.  I bet Corey thought it was interesting...oh wait!  He's actually DONE THAT.

I knew she'd warm up quickly.  I totally called that one.  (Like the "harness" Camille is wearing?  I never said I'd put one of those on my kids, but my friend gave me hers for this trip and it was a LIFE SAVER.)

We got to see a few shows, eat some fun food, hold starfish, see penguins (BandB love penguins), and go on some fun rides!  The rides were probably my favorite part, mainly because it was fun to hand the babies off for a few minutes and ride with Corey who hasn't been to an amusement park in years.  And partly because I wasn't sure what to expect and they were really cool rides!  We got totally soaked on Atlantis and had to go back later that night because we all, especially Bryce, thought that one was so cool.  Another ride was just like the grizzly river rapids at Disneyland and the kids were so excited to go on it. just couldn't live up to the Disneyland version so as we were getting off I was both surprised and amused to hear Bryce say, "That was SO.  Totally.  Lame."  

Another favorite memory was the dolphin show.  We sat right up front in the "soak zone."  There was a "warm-up" performance before the show started where some guy was singing about how soaked we were going to get.  I think we were all a little apprehensive about that, especially thinking about how MAD Camille would get whenever she got splashed on a ride at Disneyland (another favorite memory was her cute, angry yell she had both times she got wet on the Pirates of the Carribean ride).  But we were here at SeaWorld, I wanted to see dolphins, and I wanted to see them on the front row.  In order to miss the soak zone we would have had to go halfway up the bleachers,  and I just couldn't make myself do that!  So we got soaked by the dolphins again, and again, and again, and get the idea.  The babies were fussing and I felt like everyone was looking at me to decide if we should high-tail it out of there...but I didn't want to!  It's just a little water.  But yeah...we spent the rest of the day pretty wet and a little cold.  Meh.  

We all went to our hotel and had some yummy pizza.  We split up and the Johnsons went to our room and the kids slept like logs.  I was so worried about Camille knowing we were right there and wanting to spend the whole night in our bed, but everybody did great.

The next day we saw the Coronado Bay Bridge and we went to the Mormon Batallion Museum.  Marty and I had gone to that museum on our honeymoon the Sunday we were there, and it was pretty cool.  But since then they have redone it, and it was incredible!  SO kid friendly and held up even after all of the epic things the kids had been experiencing all week.  Marty had seen it on a young men's trip a year or two ago, and now I can see why he was trying so hard to get the kids there.  After we toured the museum, we went and ate a picnic lunch with all the leftovers we had awkwardly brought from the Dizzy House.  I was worried about our mushed bread and semi-cold everything else, but it was seriously such a delightful lunch!  The kids ran around on the grass and I got to have an actual conversation with Corey.  I know he pulled some strings to get out to CA early and I am so glad he could.

After the picnic we dropped him off at his hotel for his conference and headed back to Arizona.  The car ride home was pretty rough, but that's typical for our road trips.  Camille screamed and cried and screamed, but we made it.  I'm so grateful to have been able to make those kinds of memories together as a family.  When I think back on it, I know we worked and planned to make it there...but I also we are just so lucky and blessed.  The end!


This trip to California has been four years in the making.  When we were leaving Disneyland the first time we went, Brynn was three and asked us when we could go back.  We told her in about four years when she was seven.  Well, all of us really hung on to that and we made it happen.  Earlier this year we were afraid we weren't going to make our money goals we had set for the trip, so we got a little more intense about the whole thing and we made it!  After all of that, I was so afraid we were going to pour our heart and souls into it and everyone was going to get sick or something.  But everything went pretty smoothly and it was a great vacation!  I've noticed some people have strong opinions about Disneyland. :)  And mine is...I LOVE it!! Marty and I are TOTAL suckers for Disneyland.  The place is so magical to experience with the kids and I wish I could live there, haha!  Yep, they got me. :)

We almost cancelled the vacation after our one-night hotel disaster this summer (Camille cried all night and Marty had to take her home in the middle of the night).  But my parents, who were coming with us, had the brilliant idea to rent a house on VRBO rather than get a hotel and I'm SO glad we did.  The prices were comparable, and even though Disneyland wasn't within walking distance, it was totally worth it to have separate rooms and space for the kids to run around in (not to mention being able to let Camille cry a little at night).

We got there on a Saturday with the plan of going to the beach that afternoon, and visit some temples on Sunday.  Then go to Disneyland during the week.

Church on Sunday was kind of funny because all three of the older kids were asleep about half way through the meeting.  I was a bit nervous about what the week was going to hold, realizing that if they were this tired after the first two days, what are the next few going to be like?  After that we had a quick lunch and headed off to LA.

Here is the LA temple.  This one is incredible partly because it is so massive, and partly because of how peaceful and beautiful the grounds are right there on Santa Monica Blvd.  But if I had to do it over again, I think I might have skipped this one and hit Newport Beach.  The traffic getting there was so stressful, even on a Sunday.  The other hard thing was that we had one too many people to fit in our van so we had to just try to follow each other.

After we got back we had a fun BBQ...and I started laying out all the kids clothes to head to Disneyland the next day!!!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014


*I say "Dizzyland" because that is what Gabe had been calling it for weeks.  We had been trying to prepare Gabe especially before taking him so far out of his comfort zone, and hearing him talk about "Dizzyland" is one of my new favorite memories.

We got to Disneyland on Monday.  It's about as excited as I've ever been in my life. :)  Marty was jumping up and down like a little kid all morning.  The night before I had laid out everyone's clothes (this day was RED day so I could keep track of them all a little easier).  That morning we had somewhat of a laid-back breakfast since the parks didn't open until 10.  We bought RideMax and had been plugging in what rides we wanted to do and thought we had the perfect line-up.  It was showing very minimal crowds, but Cars Land was closed so everyone else at California Adventure joined us at the Toy Story ride which we never got to try last time because we just couldn't stand the line.  So besides waiting FOREVER in line on our very first ride, it was super hot and we were having to teach the babies what a line is.  At that point I was a little worried and disappointed.  But that was the longest line we ever waited in the whole vacation so it all worked out great!  Most lines were between 5 and 15 minutes actually, although a few were longer.

I knew BandB would love it.

I was predicting Camille would love Disneyland with all of her heart but have a hard time in the lines.

I was most worried about Gabe being over-stimulated, over-whelmed, and maybe scared on the rides.  And tell me everything was too loud. :)  So I wasn't really surprised to see him "check-out" in his very first line.

So after the first ride?  BandB and Gabe loved it, Camille was nervous and unsure.  She rode with Grandma and never cried until she was getting off the ride and spotted me behind her.  But that was rare, after she got her feet wet she mostly loved them.  I shouldn't have worried about Gabe so much, he really did great at Disneyland (with the exception of a tantrum so epic we were all forced to leave early one day).

Sometimes Bryce drives us crazy when we take him places and he poops out way faster than we think he should (we've all seen what kind of crazy energy he has).  On the first day we indulged him and then soon realized how exhausting it is to carry around the younger three.

The Pixar parade was a definite highlight for me.  As I mentioned, it was pretty hot.  We thought we'd really like to sit in the shade and watch the parade but we were having a hard time finding a spot on the curb.  Then we spotted this little hot dog joint with a table right at the window.  I was worried that being so far away that we wouldn't get any love from the characters and dancers, but I was totally wrong.  They were all so cute, waving and spraying all of us with water and bubbles.  Sitting there with the breeze and eating our hot dogs with such a cool parade was soooo pleasant.

We got to Cars Land just in time to see the lights come on.  My little boys love this movie so much and I've been watching it for years.  It was just so magical to be there in Radiator Springs.  It looked exactly like the movie and was so charming with the neon lights everywhere.  And seeing the boys light up around all the cars was totally a highlight for me.  They are really the perfect age for it, too.

We spent quite a bit of time chilling at the Cozy Cone and eating churro bites while we used fastpasses and rider switch passes to go on Radiator Springs Racers - which knocked our socks off!!  I was shocked at how awesome that ride really was, it's totally my new favorite at California Adventure.  I got to ride with Bryce and didn't realize what a thrill ride it was and I found myself digging my fingers into his little arm, haha!  He does great with those kinds of rides and I think that's the best bonding he and I had on the whole vacation.  Unfortunately, Gabe wasn't tall enough.

Tuesday was blue day. :)  This day was INTENSE.  I had been warning my parents that on our Magic Morning (we got an hour in the park before it offically opened) we were going to go completely crazy running from ride to ride before the park filled up and promised them it would only be like that this one time.  So we left our house at like 5:30 in the morning, gave the kids nutella toast in the car (big mistake for Millie) and hoped for the best.  As soon as they unlocked the gates we ran, literally, to Peter Pan which is normally one of the longest lines at the park because it doesn't have a fastpass.  When we got to the ride we were in total chaos, "Leave the stroller!  Take my baby!  Leave Gabe and wish him luck, he's too slow!!" ;)  But we got about 8 normally busy rides done in an hour so thanks, Ridemax!
Hm.  Wonder why the babies look tired?  (I think Camille is saying, "Who is Disneyland REALLY for, Mom and Dad?")

Here is another of the absolute highlights.  When we came last time and Bryce was 18 months old, he loooved Winnie the Pooh.  He hugged and kissed the daylights out of the character.  So this time after we came off of the Winnie the Pooh ride we were supposed to be booking it somewhere but we saw the Pooh characters and just HAD to meet them.  I am so glad we did!  Camille, the baby who will go to almost no one, was not shy AT ALL.  The whole time we had been holding her in line she was squirming like crazy to get out of our arms, and the second we let her go she hit the ground running and just plowed into Tigger.  She giggled and squealed and hugged and kissed and hit and rubbed and laughed some more.  This is quite possibly my favorite picture from the trip:

It was the exact same thing with Pooh.  I kind of felt bad for the people that were in line behind us because as we started to leave she got away from us and ran strait back to Pooh.  Then after I retrieved Camille and started to walk away again, Pooh stopped us and stole her back and there was more hugging and loving and kissing.  I couldn't separate the two of them, and whoever the person was beneath that costume pretty much made my whole trip!

I also feel a little bad that Gabe loves Winnie the Pooh so much (he had a Winnie the Pooh nursery as a baby) but because he is mild Camille kind of stole the show.  But he got some love from the characters, too.

I have lots of pictures like this of Camille because sometimes it was a great distraction for her when we got desperate. 
 After Pooh Corner we headed over to Jedi Training.  Brynn said she'd rather do Jedi Training then meet the princesses and Daddy was just fine with that, although I was a little sad to see her growing up so fast.  Anyway, at that point it was getting pretty hot and everyone was wiped out.  So GandG and the babies and I enjoyed some ice water (Dizzyland gives it out free pretty much everywhere if you ask for it!) and our second round of churros courtesy of Grandpa, the churro king. :)

We had heard that the Jedi Trainers look for kids who are dressed up or who are really animated trying to get picked, so we put a hoodie on poor sweaty Bryce.  Brynn, being a natural born ham, didn't need much help getting picked. 

The show was way cooler than I was expecting!  I didn't know the floor would raise up and all those actors would be there.  BandB got a chance to have a lightsaber duel with Darth Vadar (Dark Vadar, if you ask Gabe), and got an official Jedi certificate.

Because we had gotten there so early that day, we went home in the afternoon for a little nap and some lunch and came back later to Bugs Land.  What I remember about this ride was having one of our longest lines for what was definitely our shortest ride. :)  But it was sweet.  BandB wanted to ride just the two of them.  Stuff like that makes my heart melt.

That night was the hardest part for me.  I was really disappointed that we didn't get to see the World of Color show last time so I was totally determined to see it.  Even though we were all pretty tired, I pushed for it but had no idea what I was getting myself into.  The whole thing was really flawed.  They know children are going to be there, but there are no seats.  There was plenty of room on the stairs, but the ushers only allowed us to stand on them, not sit.  So the kids couldn't see at ALL and so for the entire show we were stuck holding at least one kid, sometimes two, including the big kids.  I got new shoes and cortisone shots in my feet before we left, but by the end of that night my broken feet were about as bad as they've ever been.  The other reason that was so hard was because I knew I was going to have to take it easy the next morning.  But I didn't want Marty the Machine (I swear, NOTHING slows that guy down) and the big kids to have to miss out because of me.  So my parents and the babies and I tried to take it easy the next morning and just meet up with Marty at the park whenever we felt ready.  Because the babies had been up so late, I was hoping to get them down for a morning nap, but it was just NOT happening. So we made it there sometime after lunch only to realize we had forgotten the tickets!   Well, you would think Disneyland's employees had never had anyone ever make it to the park without their tickets with all the hoops they had us jumping through.  We rode a couple of rides, saw Disney Junior, went to the Aladdin show, and about two-thirds of the way through it my two-year-old had the meltdown of all meltdowns.  I had to run him out of the theater screaming bloody murder and it continued until well after the show had ended.  There was nothing any of us could do to help him.  Gabe is a mellow kid, but on those occasions he has a tantrum, he can go on for FOREVER.  Eventually we just gave up and took him home.  That was around 5:30 and I was SO frustrated at the feeling that I had basically wasted a day at Dizzyland, having only been there for a few hours.  But I just had to remind myself that I knew what I was getting into bringing two toddlers there.  Things won't always go according to plan.  The bathroom trips are more frequent, the stopping to rest is more frequent.  Trying to entertain them in lines is exhausting.  It would have felt fabulous to sleep in at some point.  You have to cart around 50 pounds of who-knows-what in the diaper bag and they are constantly throwing and/or losing stuff.  The double stroller is cumbersome. And you can't get them to eat that hot dog you just spent eight bucks on.  BUT.  I would take my toddlers again in a heart beat.  The frustrations just do. not. compare to the excitement/magic/enthusiasm/gratitude/bonding that you feel when you are with them!  I always say a baby brings something special to a family, and that holds up even at Disneyland.  Marty and I have talked about how much our thrills have changed since we've had kids.  Last California trip we skipped out on a day at Disneyland and just let GandG take BandB and we went to Six Flags.  I'm glad we did it and it was super fun and exciting, but we couldn't believe that the excitement of the thrill rides just didn't really hold up compared to what we'd just been experiencing with our kiddos at Disneyland.

So without further ado, here is yellow day!
King Triton's carousel.  I really don't care too much about carousels at Disneyland, but the kids sure do.  I always happen to get a lot of pictures on them because there is just plenty of time for it, I guess.

Waiting for a spectacular production of Aladdin.  I don't get my older kids to live theaters often enough. Hm.

Both of the Aprils fell asleep on Marty.

Every day got pretty hot by the early afternoon.  Thanks for the ice cream, Grandpa!  Would you believe Millie's shirt is still alive and well after that?  Marty and I left the kids with GandG to run and try out California Screamin.  I got plenty of thrill out of it, but Marty was hoping for more. :)  

Oh, Camille has Brynn's hair...
That's quite a grip...

Still reaching for it...

Just smile, everybody!

By the way, thank you to GandG for the adorable matching Mickey and Minnie shirts!

Millie loved Sully so much we had to go back a second time.  And that was the inspiration for her Halloween costume (more on that later).

The favorite ride all around was probably the grizzly rapid run where you are in a big raft.  Brynn especially loved it, and she told me later that the biggest reason was because we all got to sit in a big circle and talk to each other during the ride.  She's my social kid.
After each ride I would wait for Bryce to say, "That was AWE-sommmmmme!  Can we do it again?"  That's how I could tell which rides he really loved, or which he was less into, or which rides were too scary!

BandB were dying to take their grandparents on the rapids.  My mom wasn't too keen on getting wet, but I hadn't gotten very wet so I told her she would be fine.  I told her to just lean in and stand up when the raft was about to hit the water.  The babies couldn't go on it, so Marty and I took them to the Little Mermaid ride and met back up with my parents to find the my mom was probably the most drenched I have ever seen anybody come off of one of those rides.  Head to toe, hair dripping, sopping wet.  Heh heh, sorry mom...heh heh...heh?

Marty and I really wanted to go on Indiana Jones, so one day we stayed in the afternoon with just Brynn because she was the only kid tall enough for it.  Here we are that same afternoon waiting for Cruisin' California.  Brynnie must take after her dad because she just did NOT tucker out.  She was always up for one more ride, ready to walk, ready to run.  We'd all be dragging ourselves to the parking lot at the end of the day and she'd be skipping.  On the one hand Marty and I wanted to praise her up and down for being so tough, but on the other hand we didn't want her to realize she was being tough and not getting the same perks (rides in the stroller, piggy-backs) that her siblings were getting.  Now that we are home...Brynnie, that was so COOL!

The Nemo Subs - the absolute last thing we HAD to do.  It is one of our favorite memories from when Bryce was 18 months old.  Camille loved it to, but not as much as baby Bryce!

On our last night when it was time to go Marty and I yet again reacted more like kids than the kids did.  We ran to get our last churro (courtesty of Grandpa again!), ran to make it on Pirates of the Carribean once more, and then Marty ran off that ride to beg the Jungle Cruise people to take us on that one, too.  He made it just as they were closing the line and managed to persuade them.  And that jungle cruise was so fun!  By the time we got out, the park had already been closed for a while, and true to our inner-child, we said we were not going to leave until they made us. :)  So we wandered around for a little while until security caught up with us and we were kindly ushered toward the direction of the exit.
Then Marty asked me to take one last picture in front of the castle on the way out.  See you again in four years, Dizzyland!

A few other random memories:
  • One day as we were driving home from Disneyland I told Gabe we were going home and he said, "To the Dizzy house?"  I told him yes and then he said quietly, "But I want to go to the Mommy house now."  I actually really liked that. :)
  • Gabe was trying so hard to get me to understand something about jam. Finally I figured out that's what he thought the tram was called, so obviously we were referring to the "jams" for the rest of the trip.
  • We lost Gabe once, just for a few minutes, but enough time to make my heart stop.  Of course we found him in the Buzz Lightyear souvenier shop (where else?), and instantly knowing we were looking for a blue shirt actually really helped.
  • The house we rented was totally made for kids going to Disneyland and was so perfect...and I miss that house!  The first thing we did when we got there was to try on all the fun costumes in the closet.  Having an actual kitchen was amazing, too.  Before we left I mixed up a big batch of refrigerator muffins and brought those and chicken salad (of course).  We lived mostly on food that the kids are totally used to eating, and no vomiting on this trip, hooray!  We had lots of green smoothies, salads, fruit, and real meals which I think helped us a lot to be able to keep up.  Oh, but we still had plenty of "fun" food.... :)
  • One thing that I've been sad about since we've been home is that I didn't push Brynn to go stand in line and meet the princesses.  She was adamant that she didn't care about seeing them and was way more interested in the Jedi stuff, and Camille doesn't care about princesses.  But after we got home I remembered that she spent half of her summer making color-coordinating  bracelets to give to the princesses at Disneyland.  If I had remembered her doing that I would have insisted.  But I'm guessing she went back to school after the summer and remembered that princesses aren't really cool in second grade.  Darn school, and darn getting older.   
  • One of the favorite activities for the older kids was to go to the Animation Academy with Grandpa (the cartoon artist) and have an art lesson with a pro.  They went back to a second class and the teacher signed his art and gave it to Brynn saying, "That girl hasn't stopped smiling since she walked in here."  Brynn loves to draw, especially with Grandpa.  And Bryce surprised us - his abilities with a pencil have totally taken off since he started kindergarten.  
  • While BandB were at the Animation Academy, I fell in love with my favorite room at California Adventure.  It's this huge, open room with couches all over and screens of various sizes covering every wall.  They are constantly broadcasting Disney music with different coordinating videos and images from the songs on the screens.  I love Disney music SO much and I kept wishing I could just live in that room.