Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Disneyland!

We decided to take advantage of my last few weeks of maternity leave to spend a few nights at Disneyland. Since I'm going back to work right before Alice's birthday, we figured this would be a good time to celebrate that a little in advance. 

We've been talking about this trip for a while, trying to make a plan to do everything she wanted in one day, and Alice got really into it. The hotel sent a little guide book when we made our reservations and she confiscated it and took every opportunity to consult the map and "make a plan" with Marie. She was also really into "packing up" and filled up her little suitcase and our mesh packing bags for many days leading up to the trip. Jon and I actually wrote down our plan and our packing list but Alice?


We headed down on Thursday morning and were surprised that they actually had a room ready when we checked in early around 11am. As soon as we pulled up to the hotel, Alice started talking about pushing the button. She probably said it about 10 times in a row as we were pulling our bags out of the car. And as soon as we got into the room:


After dropping off our things in the room, we headed down to the pool. We chose to stay at the Disneyland Hotel because they have the best pool for the littlest kids. It has a zero depth entry so little ones (and their parents) can lounge comfortably, fountains that bubble up, waterfalls that rain down from the Monorail water slides overhead, and a little bitty water slide for the little big kids. 

Unfortunately, the kiddie pool was closed. I was pretty disappointed, since that was a pivotal part of our plan. I suppose I could have asked when I booked the reservation, or even checked in, but it just didn't occur to me. I was glad that we were able to get into our room so early this time, but the Disneyland Resort hotels have a long history of ruining my plans in uncanny ways like this. Apparently, they were cleaning the decks and were hopeful that the pool would reopen by the end of the day, or by the next day at latest.

So we hung out at the bigger pool instead. We floated Ivy around for her first swimming experience but  it was just a little bit windy and chilly so she didn't stay in long. She and I retired to a lounge chair to eat and snooze while Alice had a great time splashing around the big pool with Jon. She loved wearing the complimentary life jacket for a while and bobbing around like a cork.

We were back in the room by mid-afternoon and gave everyone a post-pool bath before Jon ran out to the new (to us) Earl of Sandwich in Downtown Disney. He brought a feast back and we all had a picnic on the floor before putting the girls to bed. Despite Alice driving me slightly crazy, I thought it was a fun memory that I would remember fondly for a long time. 

We hoped that all the pool fun and sun had worn Alice out so she could have a great night's sleep before our ambitious play schedule the next day, but alas, my plans were foiled again. Alice was in bed well before 6, I think, and didn't fall asleep until after 8. She read and jabbered and tossed and turned in her tent forever. We started out watching TV with the lights on low and resorted to laying silently in bed in the dark until she fell asleep. At one point, I dragged her little tent down the hall toward the hotel's closet and door and threatened to leave her there for the rest of the night and she could sleep or not sleep. She promised she would sleep, so I dragged the tent back. I think it was after that when she finally conked out and I blasted off this tweet. But then she and Ivy took turns waking each other up for the rest of the night, and Alice (and I) must have been awake for 2-3 hours in the middle of the night. I think all told, I got around 4 hours of sleep. So none of us were in great shape to have the most fun possible...

We were all up at our usual, embarrassingly early hour, because infants and toddlers do not sleep in even when they are exhausted, and we were out the door by the time we were hoping to be. We headed to California Adventure to take advantage of the early morning magic hour and hopefully ride the new Radiator Springs Racers. We tried that on our last visit but it wasn't operating (technical difficulties) and I was pregnant and couldn't ride. This time, we were totally in luck and it was awesome! It looked amazing and was super fun, and I got a little teary thinking about how excited Walt Disney would have been to see that beautiful world brought to life in such a convincing and epic way. Jon and I took turns sitting with the girls while the other blew through the single rider line. 

Jon & the girls waiting while I raced through Radiator Springs.
We hit the Cozy Cones for a breakfast snack of scrambled eggs in a bread cone, which was one of the most delicious innovations I've had in a long time. Then I got to experience Mater's Junkyard Jamboree with Alice before she and Jon learned how to drive Luigi's Flying Tires. Despite hearing that the tires are really hard to control, Jon did a great job hovering all around and it turned out to be one of Alice's favorite rides from this trip.

During her planning sessions with the map, Alice became quite obsessed with Mickey's Fun Wheel. We weren't sure she'd actually like it but the line wasn't too bad, so we decided to give it a try. I waffled a bit (I'm not a big fan of heights and didn't relish the idea of being that high off the ground with a potentially miserable infant and toddler) but finally decided I'd ride, too, with Ivy in the Ergo carrier. So we waited in line. They were just starting a new loading cycle and we were maybe 4-5 cars away from getting on when they announced that they ride was closed and asked us to reverse our position in line. Cue massive meltdown. It was pretty heartbreaking but I was pretty sure we would have seen even more tears if we'd actually made it into the swinging cars that Alice chose. And it was a good thing we didn't get on a bit earlier because those people were stuck up there a looooong time. Yikes!

So we tried to console Alice with her first ride on King Triton's Carousel and then a quick jaunt through Ariel's Undersea Adventure, which turned out to be Alice's other favorite of the day. So all was not lost. 

It was about lunch time then so we decided to grab a quick bite before heading over to Disneyland. We'd had a great morning, but that's when things took a turn for the worse, as it so often does at mealtimes. We were excited to try the newly reopened and relocated Lucky Fortune Cookery. I really liked my Thai coconut curry chicken and rice, and the orange chicken should have been a slam dunk for Alice but she basically refused to eat. She finally ate enough to secure a few sips of a milkshake treat, but she had to share with Jon, and was so tired we thought we could squeeze a stroller nap out of her as we walked over to Disneyland.

No dice there, either. Instead, we pretty much made an epic tactical error by offering her an ultimatum and ended up letting her "choose" to skip the evening portion of the plan to head back to the hotel early instead. Major parenting fail. She kept crying that she wanted to get out of the stroller and go on rides, so we finally tried to compromise by letting her ride rides as long as she could hold it together. If she got too sleepy and cranky and couldn't behave herself, she'd have to take a nap in the stroller or go back to the hotel. So, we continued on our merry way; all of us hot, exhausted, utterly annoyed, and determined to have fun.

The first stop on our plan was Gadget's Go Coaster. I wasn't sure she'd want to ride it, once she was looking at it in person, but Jon said she showed no hesitation or trepidation and hopped right on. I was secretly hoping that it would be so, um, exciting that she'd need a nap afterward. Inspired by a friend who filmed his three-year-old's very expressive first ride (she loved it!), I asked Jon to do the same. And though I know a certain friend who is probably going to think I'm a monster, I won't lie: this video is a little bit cathartic for us, given the battles we'd been fighting to have a good time up to that point. Rest assured, despite what it looks like, she was not traumatized. She says the ride was "fun" and "exciting" and that she doesn't need to ride it again...

Alice's first roller coaster from Growing Up Senge on Vimeo.

She seemed energized after she got off the ride so we continued on riding rides, trying to boost our spirits and get the plan back on track. We rode 'it's a small world' next, and Alice told me as our boat floated under the clock tower and into the ride, "This makes me a happier girl." How can you argue with that?

Ivy needed a diaper change and nap, so Alice and I headed over to ride Dumbo together. She was looking pretty wrecked and I had my camera's light metering set wrong, but I really love the dreamy way these photos turned out.
As we were exiting the ride, we sort of got crushed in the wave of the next riders scrambling to claim their favorite colored Dumbo. I turned back to steer Alice away from the elephants just as she turned her head to look in front of her and run SQUARE into one of Dumbo's massive ears. She started to wail and I scooped her up immediately and threw her over my shoulder and booked it out of the ride area. I fully expected a river of blood down my shoulder and back, a bloody nose, a fat lip, or a chipped tooth at best, but she appeared to be physically fine. I was trying to calm her down when Peter Pan happened along. There wasn't anyone else around so they got to have a nice long chat while I tried to get some good shots. She hasn't seen the movie yet (really need to track that one down) and was pretty out of sorts, so she probably wasn't as excited as she might have been under normal circumstances. Plus, he's a boy...
we got a frozen treat and then tromped around Tom Sawyer Island for a bit, and then took a cruise on the Mark Twain Riverboat before the last boat sailed. I sat and rested and fed Ivy and Alice made a fast friend with the sweet little girl peering through the railing next to her. She and Alice chatted and played and held hands (adorable) for the entire journey, the only awkward moment being when Jon glanced over to see both of Alice's hands around her neck in full-on throttling position. I think it was more of a curious/loving gesture, rather than aggression. Alice doesn't have a good grasp on personal space, she likes to poke me in the eyes, nostrils, ears, etc...
We visited our feathered friends in the Tiki Room before having dinner - slightly more successful than lunch - and went to stake out a spot for the parade. Ivy and I had some great giggles while Jon took Alice to the bathroom.  
A street sweeper took a shine to Ivy and even brought her a "1st Visit" button, which was pretty thrilling for her.
And while Alice was on her way back from the bathroom, she happened to cross paths with her very favorite big guy. 
And then I took Alice to get a birthday button. She wasn't sure what to think when Goofy called to wish her happy birthday.
Talking to Goofy and looking rough.
And then we watched the parade! Alice even pronounced the 'p' instead of saying "huh-rade" as usual!
Ivy was into it.
 Alice waves at everyone as soon as they're in sight and she got lots of waves this time. Maybe it was the birthday button, but she got a lot high-five, and some one-on-one time with a monkey, too.
After the parade, we stopped into the hat shop to get Ivy a traditional first visit souvenir. I really miss the good old days when they would write your name by hand, backwards...
We got some ice cream and decided to call it a night and head back to the hotel. We were hoping to make it to the fireworks, and maybe even Fantasmic!, but Alice was so exhausted I don't think she would have been able to wake up to watch if she could even fall asleep in the stroller, and we were equally exhausted. So we enjoyed our ice cream with a running, stream of consciousness commentary from Alice and then left, grabbing some beers to go from the Earl of Sandwich.

Luckily, both girls slept great that night until nearly 7am the next morning, which is pretty rare. So we were able to enjoy some leisurely morning bed snuggling, packed up without any stress, and even had a photo shoot, in the spirit of Alice's first trip to Disneyland.

 We gathered up our things and rolled them out to the car so we could check out and play at the pool until we were ready to leave. We made Alice pull her own weight this time...
When we got to the car, we discovered that a light had been accidentally left on when we parked it and the battery was super duper dead. Awesome. We spent nearly an hour having a bit of a kerfuffle with the Subaru tow service before realizing that the hotel security could jump it for us. So we decided to play at the pool and then jump it right before we left, so we could juice it up on the drive home. 

We hit up Downtown Disney for some delicious beignets and a souvenir before we headed to the pool. Alice picked out a "baby Marie" who is now somehow simultaneously baby Marie AND Marie's baby sister, depending on when you ask her. Now she just needs the slightly larger stuffed Marie and the Marie mink-esque boa with the scarf-length tail, and we'll be all set.

The kiddie pool was finally open and it was so wonderful to just splash in the sunshine and lounge with my littlest one, enjoying a coconut-y beverage and the awesome Summer-y Spring weather. We stayed until we were tired and tan and ready to go home. 




Alice reads to baby Marie about espionnage.
I fed Ivy in the lobby and Alice watched cartoons while Jon got a jump from security. Alice befriended this little British girl, totally a kindred spirit with a stuffed white cat wearing shirt and pants meant for a doll (or baby?) just like Alice's. Alice was all up in her business, playing with her skirt and touching her face and headband, but the little girl didn't seem to mind. Fortunately, neither did her parents...
We had a pretty harrowing ride home - the car drove like it was a little bit possessed, thanks to some mysterious start-up procedure we didn't know we were supposed to do after messing with the battery (read your manual, kids!). But the car started up and drove fine once we got home, and the battery showed fully charged when Jon put it on the charger. So all's well that ends well. And both kids were asleep before we were all the way down the on-ramp, so it could have been worse!
On Thursday night and Friday, I swore I would never do anything fun with Alice again and certainly didn't ever want to take her back to Disneyland. We had a little post-mortem discussion on Sunday morning and during the drive back (realizing how our actions negatively influenced things), and we weren't home but five minutes when I told Jon that I wanted to take her to celebrate her birthday for real and give everyone a chance to do it over - including take some proper "first second trip to Disneyland" photos with Ivy. If we do again, we probably won't stay overnight, but I'd like to give Alice the magical day at Disneyland that we were so looking forward to, and the chance to do all her favorite things (we only squeezed in a few, with our morning at California Adventure), free of tantrums and ultimatums (on everyone's part). We'll see what happens, though...

Whether or not we get a do-over soon, she had a good time and came back with some great memories and a great new friend, and that's all that really matters.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Let's go fly a kite


The Easter Bunny put a kite in Alice's Easter basket and Jon was really looking forward to flying it with her. He always found kites in his Easter basket growing up, courtesy of his grandmother. Apparently, kites are often associated with Easter. We don't know if Grandma Senge associated kites with Easter or if they were just plentiful in the spring, readily available for the Easter Bunny to add to Easter baskets. In any case, it just might become a tradition at our house!

While we were visiting Jon's parents the other weekend, we wanted to take advantage of the beautiful weather and the ocean breeze for the kite's inaugural flight. We found a nice little park and had a lovely afternoon playing in the sunshine and lounging in the shade. There was a scary moment when Jon almost lost the kite behind a tree in someone's backyard but he recovered it and then we called it a day.




Ivy loved watching the kite.



Ivy loves watching her sister, too.


I caught Jon in crazy mid-kite dance. Or just jumping up from sitting cross-legged.
What about you? Did you, or your kids, find any kites in your Easter baskets? We need to find somewhere near our house to take the kite for another flight. And I think we might need to watch Mary Poppins, too!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Alice in the gardens

We went to Descanso Gardens on a lovely day last week. We went straight for the children's maze, which we'd never seen before.

I followed behind Alice as she made her way through the rows of box hedges, trying to capture the curve of her smiling cheek; the sunlight on her curls, blowing in the wind and bouncing as she ran; the angle of her elbows and knees as she found her stride. 





After a while, Jon motioned me back, to where he sat with Ivy under a shady tree. He reminded me to give her the space to play alone, where it was safe, to let her experience the freedom and joy of childhood without me or my camera lens breathing down her neck. So I sat and watched from afar as she followed two other small children around, laughing shyly in their direction and watching them, playing with them without really playing with them.

I thought about how I would have loved to play in such magical gardens when I was a child, about all the time I spent outdoors collecting leaves and flowers and other treasures, living in a fantasyland and making up stories about all manner of magical things. She's still so young, she doesn't know how to play these games. She doesn't really want to play with me now but some day, she really won't want to play with me. And I want to be with her, to soak up every eyelash and dimple, to catch it all inside my camera so I can keep it with me wherever I am when I'm not with her. So I follow her. But I know that she needs time to herself, to learn to find her own magic and delight in her own company, so that when she's old enough to play those games without me, she'll know how. 
watching her.
She wanted to look at this fountain so we stopped here for a while. She would have stayed all day, laying on and over the side, dragging her fingers through the water. Now I know where to bring her when she needs stillness in her heart.