Thursday, September 24, 2009

Personal Growth

Quite apart from enjoying rides, smiles and warm experiences with my kids, Disneyland caused me to grow, and not just at my mid-section, though the proliferation of fried food likely also contributed to that.

We were at the parking lot at the airport in Vancouver and waiting for the machine to spit out a ticket and Jackson told us he was tired of waiting, and the wait was about 10 seconds. We still had to wait for the shuttle to the terminal, wait to drop off our bags, wait for security twice, wait for customs and then wait to board the aircraft and then wait to take off. And that was all before we darkened Mickey's door. WHAT HAVE WE GOT OURSELVES INTO?

However, the traveling went surprisingly well. I might even go so far as to say that I am no longer afraid to travel with the kids. Both of them were model citizens during the flight. I did have to remind Jackson about 372 times not to press his feet against the seat ahead of him, something the parents of little Liam sitting behind me neglected to do -- I believe I could have made his shoe impression from my back by the time we arrived at LAX. But the J Boy actually listened about 370 of the times. A man in the row ahead stood up at the end of the flight and said he didn't even know Jackson was behind him! High praise indeed.

We were all a little impatient waiting for the "Disneyland Resort Express Shuttle", at LAX, not to be confused with 5 other kinds of shuttles with the words "Disneyland" emblazoned across the door. Our shuttle was scheduled to come every 30 minutes and as luck would have it, we waited 29 minutes. But the drive in was faster than we expected so we arrived at our hotel earlier than I had anticipated.

As I was checking us into the hotel, I felt such a high. It had all come together. Here we were, at the quietest time of the year at Disneyland. The traveling day had been superb. So I pressed my luck "is Disneyland busy this time of year?" I asked the hotel clerk. I know, I was really fishing.

"Not today but from Sunday till Tuesday it will be very busy. A HUGE conference is coming into town." Our three full days at Disneyland were Sunday till Tuesday.

I was deflated.

We got to our room and realized that we left one DS stylus on the bus. We wondered how we would cope with one stylus for 2 DS's for 5 more days. In 5 minutes, it felt like the entire vacation had turned south. The kids were hyper and non responsive as we tried to get them into shorts and pack our bags for our first taste of Disneyland. Husband and I oozed stress.

We entered the gates per my detailed, personalized touring plan and were surprised to run into the parade, which was on my list but I had not yet pencilled in how we would see it. We watched a couple minutes and then headed as planned for Tomorrowland where we found ZERO lineups for 2 of the most popular rides (Buzz Lightyear's Astro Blasters and Star Tours). We then waited close to 30 minutes for Autopia (where the kids drive cars). We found having just done 2 attractions with no lineup, the kids tolerated a lineup just fine. They were surprisingly good amusing themselves.

We then jumped on the train to head to Fantasyland (which I hadn't yet figured out was 20 steps away from where we were). We planned to get dinner and discovered there is no food in Fanstasyland, so we exited at New Orleans Square and grabbed a very expensive supper even before you factor in the fact that we ordered too much and had to throw a lot away.

We headed to some attractions in the vicinity only to find that Pirates of the Caribbean was closed temporarily. So was the Dumbo elephant ride and a couple others. When we discovered that even the railroad was shut down we imagined a glitch in the Disney power grid. Unfortunately, by then the Girlie Goo was done walking. We had taken a lot of extra steps to find these rides shut down so our frustration built. Husband offered to take Sydney back to the hotel (on his shoulders).

I must admit it felt like everything was spiralling out of my control as I definitely did not have "Sydney return to hotel at 6 pm" written on my touring plan, which by the way I referred to a lot, having brought it in a page protector, much like 4 different maps and my precious list of "MUST DO's".

It was here that I took a deep breath. I had the J Boy with me and we decided to do some rides that Sydney wouldn't or couldn't go on. We headed to Indiana Jones and the 40 minute lineup, which is short by Disney's standards, but was the longest we waited. I held the hand of my excited 7 year old and truly savoured the experience of being with him. For those that do not know this ride, there is a long underground tunnel and is much like the tunnels in the movies, before you get to the ride. There are tikis, skulls and carvings in the stones. It's all very realistic.

Jackson thought that the walk through the tunnel WAS the attraction. And here's the best part: he was THRILLED!! I was bursting with pride that what seemed like a mile long walk underground, had him spellbound as opposed to complaining. He was beside himself when he actually took the ride. We then found our way to Pirates of the Caribbean which had no line up since it had been closed for about an hour.

Sunday morning we followed the advice to arrive early to the park and enjoyed the Finding Nemo Submarine ride with no lineup. It is the hardest ride to get on. We got in a few more rides before the lineups started to accumulate (it was Sunday after all). We then divided into boys and girls with the boys heading to roller coaster type rides while the girls did the princess thing. At noon we headed back to the hotel for a long break.

Late afternoon we went to the California Adventure parkand experience what I can only say was magical timing for the rest of the day. We saw the Pixar parade, then the Monsters Inc. ride with no lineup. We got to see the Aladdin show with minutes to spare, with Husband getting Fastpasses to the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror (Fastpasses entitled you to enter a very short line but only one is available at a time). After Aladdin we did the Tower of Terror and then just snuck into the Disney Animation shows just before the park closed. We then returned to Disneyland and arrive just in time for a 3D movie, Honey, I Shrunk the Audience. We jumped on the train to see the laser light show, Fantasmic and got the last seats available. We enjoyed the fireworks as we walked through the park.

Monday was more of the same as we saw everything we wanted to in California Adenture, with no lineups except 15 minutes at the very popular and new Toy Story 3D attraction.

Then we headed back to Disneyland via the Monorail for the Jedi Training Academy. This is where they pick about 30 kids from the audience to train them to be Jedi. Jackson DESPERATELY wanted to be chosen which of course meant Sydney DESPERATELY wanted to be chosen. I had consulted some other Disney Moms and read some tips on how to be picked. Have kids wear hats or something distinctive so they can say "boy in the chartreuse baseball cap or girl with the lavender boa". Of course we had no such distinctive clothing on us.

We took our space in the front row and hoped for the best. I must admit, even though I try not to pray about trivial things, I did pray that they would BOTH be picked (I might add, the reason I don't pray about trivial things is not because I believe those things aren't important to God, but because it's important for ME to understand and appreciate the things that really matter). Husband and I were sitting in the front row as well and then decided, as it was getting very crowded, we'd back up to leave room for other children as neither of us had any burning desire to become Jedi (or at least that we would admit to).

As it turns out only one boy took our spot so our kids were standing almost on their own and were easy to pick out. They were picked 4th and 5th and some of you on the West Coast may have heard or felt my sighs of relief. I might add that I did not, nor would I have under any circumstances, stand up and jump and point to my child's head screaming "PICK HIM!!!! PICK HIM!!!!", as did the lady next to me.

By the end of Monday we had only a few things left to do, and some of them were repeats as Jackson was adamant that Sydney see Pirates of the Caribbean with him and Daddy wanted to enjoy Indiana Jones with his son. We easily accomplished these last things and more on our last day.

I must say, for as much as some might mock me for my uber planning, research and page protected materials, it paid off. When we ran into rides that were closed, or that had longer lineups or tired children, I accommodated that into our plans. I also had carefully planned some movies or shows where we could sit in air conditioned comfort (it was in the 90's F while we were there). This allowed us to spread out Sydney's limited walking time with adequate rests in between. Coming at a quieter time of year meant fewer line ups and when we did find a 25 minutes wait, it was no big deal.

Every evening I ticked off things on our MUST SEE list and studied the maps to recalibrate the next's days adventures. In no time, I knew where every shortcut was and every attraction. Sydney and Jackson also became fixated on the maps and insisted on consulting them even when I knew where we were going. Jackson did this to my perpetual consternation as he would walk slowly and watch the map when I wanted to travel quickly to beat a lineup.

When all was said and done we did everything on my list, some things twice and several things that didn't make my list.

So to recap my personal growth experience:

1. I can fret less over vacations now that my children are now at an age where traveling is easier (and thank goodness for the good folks at Nintendo for creating the DS)

2. I can enjoy the experiences and fret not when hotel clerks speaks of crowds that do not materialize.

3. Even near disasters like losing a DS stylus just don't matter as my kids can share and make do without quite without parental intervention.

4. Don't let a broken down pirate adventure get in the way of enjoying the rides that are open.

5. It is just fine to be a little obsessive about the research and the planning because it pays its dividends to understand judicious use of the Fastpass and which rides are your best early morning choices.

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