That Walt Disney - he really knew what he was doing! Wow! Disney Land really is magical! For me and Cameron that magic might have come from watching the kids, though. For the kids it was true magic.
I love these smiles! It's funny, he never talks, but he gets his point across! He kissed Isaac's head and the boys thought that was hilarious. Mickey got a little embarrassed when he dropped Austin's pen, but a high five from Austin made him feel better :)
Did you know Disney has a "guest of the day"? Neither did I. When we pulled into the parking garage the worker gave us free parking, a certificate, buttons, and an escort to a special spot right next to the tram that takes you into the park. We cheered like it was the best thing that ever happened to us!
Yes, this place has magic running through the water, blowing in the air, singing in the music...
The big boys - especially the biggest one - were looking for thrill rides. The rides at Disney are built for atmosphere more than thrill, that's for sure. We did make sure to find some thrills and even a few scary moments for our biggest boy (and our littlest! Austin enjoyed the thrills as much as the rest, but he loved all the rides.) I think the kids were at perfect ages for Disney Land. Landon was still young enough to enjoy being transported into a cartoon through a ride, and Ella was old enough to go on most of the rides and really get into them. If you ask her what her favorite part was she'll say, "PRINCESSES!" She was star-struck by the girls in gowns. Landon's favorite was Screaming California. Austin loved Space Mountain and Splash Mountain best. Issac's favorites were the Toy Story rides (there's 2 and both have laser guns involved - and I have to agree, they are pretty cool rides) and Space Mountain - the boys and Cameron rode it 3 times.
We found the BEST place to watch the parade. The crowds were very low so we took turns riding Alice and Wonderland, Tea Cups, and Matterhorn while we saved our parade spot - seriously the lines were less than 5 min. long - we were amazed. Our spot was on a narrow bit of road where the characters could get up close and personal. There was no one on the other side of the street so the kids got all their attention. Watching them watch the parade just about made me cry (a little cheesy, I know;). ) They were just so excited with bright eyes full of wonder and real joy. Even for the 10 year old. Pluto licked Isaac's head, and the princesses went crazy for Ella. Each blew her a kiss. She was star struck, in every sense!
We were able to ride every ride in Disney and California Adventure (except for two that were closed for renovations). We hit the parks hard. We got there before opening and stayed until closing - honestly, we sucked out every ounce of fun we could!
Cars Land - amazing. It really feels like you're in the movie. We loved it.
Ella wore this Monkey backpack like it was her job. She loved the thing. We had a stroller too, that she was happy to ride around in, but when she was out of it she wanted her backpack on. I think she liked the security of knowing she wasn't lost but she liked not having to hold someones hand too. Best Disney investment - and I'm not kidding.
I wish I would have had my DSLR camera for these pics but there was no way I wanted to lug that thing around. I still love these pictures. Ella was in HEAVEN when she saw a princess. She had no fear - she just ran up to them and handed them her book (it was a good icebreaker for her) and then threw her arms around them like they were her best friend. Each one talked to her like she was an important princess too. I hope she has some sort of memory when she gets older. If not she'll have these photos at least.
She hopped up and down when she saw Jasmine - and Jasmine started hopping right along with her. I know they're "actors" but she really seemed to be telling the truth when she told Ella, "You are so adorable!" "Tangled-Repunzel" (as Ella calls her) talked to her so long I was nervous we'd get in trouble for holding up the line! I love the picture where Ella is pointing to herself, like she's telling Repunzel something about her. I wish I remembered their conversation. I think she was telling her she forgot her autograph book - or she was telling her she didn't like Flyn Ryder because he was a boy. I know they talked about both of those things. Flynn said it was ok she didn't like him and offered to let her wear the "stolen crown". The picture of Ella shrugging her shoulders is her looking at me like, "do I HAVE to wear the crown?" (she's anti-boy right now - even if he's prince, I guess)
Ella talks about when she met Belle a few times a week. She LOVES Belle. She ran right into her arms. I was pretty surprised. After her time with Belle she ran right over to Tiana and sat down on the ground like she was in awe of her. She loves the movie, "Frog Prince". She also met Cinderella and Snow White but they were quick visits - no time for a picture, just enough time to blow her a kiss.
The boys weren't into meeting princesses BUT I was surprised at how excited they were for Ella to meet them. They were so sweet with her and really happy that she was happy. Ella is one lucky girl to have such amazing brothers.
The boys had their chance to be star struck too. Ella and I went to ride Dumbo while the boys ran off to Space Mountain. On our way back to meet up with the boys we saw they were about to begin Jedi Training so Ella and I sat down to save the boys a spot. Thankfully, all three of them were chosen to be padawans.
During their training there was a disturbance in the Force and Darth Vader and Darth Mal came to challenge the Jedis and Padawans.
I love how brave Isaac was. I could tell he was nervous but that kid DOES NOT back down from a challenge. The Jedi Master kept telling him the Force was strong within him. I love the picture of Vador holding his fist up and Isaac with a little smirk on his face - he REALLY believed he had the Force and he wasn't afraid. He thinks he's a real Jedi now. He even uses the "Force" to help me push the grocery cart and sometimes drive the car ;)
Landon was a little worried he was too old for Jedi Training. He was one of the tallest kids there. I love how he had fun with it though and smiled through the whole thing. This kid is growing up before my eyes. I love how he still does "kid" things though. He has a great attitude.
Austin gave Darth Mal a run for his money. He took this Jedi stuff serious. He followed all the commands from the Jedi Master like his life depended on it - and maybe it did ;) I love his smile.
Ella even got in on the show, a bit. This is a picture of Darth Mal pointing right at her. I thought she'd have a heart attack! Luckily, Cameron was holding her tight. She didn't cry, though, just snuggled into him and kept her head buried the rest of the time. If Cameron's holding her she knows she's safe. I love that she trusts him like that.
Ella was my buddy. Because of the patch in my skull I can't ever ride a REAL roller coaster again. Ella and I rode this lady bug ride about 8 times while the bigger kids were riding the roller coasters.
The kids loved our hotel too. Musical beds, doughnuts for breakfast, swimming pool, what's not to love? The night we got home Ella said, "I just want to go to the hotel."
We stayed in Las Vegas on the way there and the way home. The kids think it's the "coolest" city ever! They want to live there. I admit, there's excitement in the air. And we ate at MGM the first night we were there and the kids thought they were eating at the coolest place ever built. On the way home we looked around Old Town and one walk through a casino that offered $7.99 buffet was enough to cure me of ever wanting to go back! We walked in, gagged, and headed for Applebees...
This vacation was a success. Worth every penny. Little conflict and LOTS of fun! I think Disney really is magical and I think we may have brought a little home with us in our memories. The kids are still talking about it, almost every day. And if you see Ella with the neck of her shirt pulled down around her shoulders, don't worry, she's just trying to look like Belle ;)