Saturday, February 2, 2013

California trip 2012!

Here is a slideshow with a smattering of photos from our 2012 family vacation to California (Disneyland, the beach, etc).  I'll post the same photos (plus some) below the slideshow, in addition to some video clips and commentary on the trip...
California Vacation 2012 on PhotoPeach
(P.S. While I love the song in this slideshow I am not completely happy with the song choice for this particular slideshow...I wanted something a bit more peppy, but couldn't find a perfect match.  Between that and the fact that I already used this song on Max's birth photo slideshow...I'd love some suggestions and I can update the song when I find the perfect one!)

June 4, 2012.  We survived the drive straight through to California (and were so glad from the get-go to have my mom with us!).  Then we got checked-in at the much anticipated Disneyland Hotel.  I loved the teacup chairs in the lobby and balloons for kids upon check-in!  After getting settled we were anxious to get to bed and after a good night's sleep it was time to walk over to Disneyland!  The kids were literally bouncing around with excitement as we waited for the elevator outside our room...

A couple pictures of the boys just outside the hotel as we began our walk to the park:

 The obligatory photo just inside the gates!

Noah and Daddy.

And just for fun, I have to include a picture of Mark and Noah from Noah's first time at Disneyland 6 years prior (Noah was 8 months old).  It was taken in almost exactly the same spot too (directly behind where I was standing when I took the previous picture actually)...

Lincoln and Noah about to board their first ride...Star Tours.

Max's first time at Disneyland!

One of the highlights of the trip for us was the Star Wars Jedi Training Academy.  Those of you who know Noah (or even just saw the post about his birthday party) know how much he loves Star Wars.  He has dreamed for a long time about being picked as a participant for this exciting show, so we were so ecstatic (and relieved) when he was picked!  And we were double excited that both boys got picked!  And so the show began...

I'll admit that Darth Maul un-nerved me a bit when he came right up to the camera while I was taking these pictures!...

I am pretty sure that Noah's imagination was in overload at this point, and that in his mind he truly was a young Jedi fighting the real Darth Vader...

Before exiting the stage Noah was instructed to force-push this storm trooper...

...then the other one...

...then both at the same time!  Without hesitation Noah dropped his lightsaber and sent the storm troopers reeling.  It was a lot of fun (for him and us) and the crowd enjoyed his enthusiasm too!

Watch the video clip of Noah here:
Noah was a little mini-celebrity that day...several times throughout the day people (some kids, some adults) pointed him out in lines or passing us that he was the kid who force pushed the storm troopers.  He loved that.

Then it was Lincoln's turn!

 A great deal of bravery for a young 4 year old padawan!

Can you locate our two Jedi in the middle?...

Lincoln kept an eye on us...

Our little Jedi lined up on the stage at the end of the program.

The boys were bouncing around with giddy excitement together after the show.  It was really cute.  And it was oddly emotional too...The best way I can explain it is that it was the equivalent of the parents who get all giddy-emotional at watching their daughter caught up the magic of interacting with their favorite princess character(s).  I suppose I have a frame of reference to compare that emotion to now.  It was awesome.  And I suppose there is nothing that brings people closer together than a common enemy?  Thank you Darth Vader (just look at my boys)...

Max and Daddy.  I really do think this may actually be the happiest place on earth.

We splurged at lunch that first day and ate at Big Thunder Ranch BBQ.  It felt so good to just sit and relax, be waited on, and eat as much as we wanted.  And it tasted good too!

There is only a short period of time that you can put mouse ears on your boys and pose them for pictures like this.  They're just so darn cute...

I love this family picture that my mom took of us right in the middle of Disneyland!

The "big boys" on Autopia.

The tea cups!

6/5/12 Back to Disneyland!

With it being Max's first time at Disneyland we had to brave the long line and ride Dumbo!

At California Adventure we got to see Jessie and Woody!  Both boys enjoyed that, but Lincoln was particularly giddy.  Even though he enjoys Star Wars things with his big brother, his "thing" is still Toy Story...

 Toy Story Mania!  One of our favorite rides!

Lunch at Paradise Pier!

Noah had been asking for years (no exaggeration) to visit the La Brea Tar Pits, so we fit that in on day 2!  It was fun to take some time to do something educational together on our vacation, and the boys loved it...

6/6/12 was a beach and swimming day!
We started out with different plans, but ended up at Laguna Beach.

This was Max's first time at the beach!

Max loves his grandma!

His first time in the ocean:

Lincoln and Noah loved playing in the sand and splashing in the surf...

It was fun to watch each of their personalities as they familiarized themselves with the ocean and how they felt about it.  Noah (who is otherwise often more reserved with new things) has always been more of a fish.  He took just fine to the ocean - waves, salt, and all...

Mark and Me.

We had a picnic lunch at the beach.  Max ate (and wore) baby food.

 The boys let Mark bury them in the sand!

All the sun and water wore the baby out.  Doesn't taking a nap in a beach towel under the sun sound fabulous right now?!

After we were done at the beach we headed back to the hotel where the boys were actually up for more swimming!  We loved the pools and water slides at our hotel, and it was so nice to have our room right next to them when we needed anything.

Besides the convenience of Mark's conference being right on site at the Disneyland Hotel, we really enjoyed getting to stay there and enjoying their new pools and some of the fun little extras like the headboards that could light up and play "When You Wish Upon a Star", or taking the monorail right in to the park.  There are even hidden mickeys throughout your hotel room (subtly in the carpet design, on bathroom tiles, on bathroom fixtures, etc).  For someone like me that loves Disneyland and appreciates these little details it was a fun thing to get to stay there!

6/7/12 Mark's medical conference started this day, so he attended that while my mom and I took the boys back to Disneyland.  My mom was really embarrassed (though she shouldn't have been) about needing to rent an electric scooter.  Her knee (that needs a replacement) has been giving her a lot of pain and all the walking was too much for her.  We were glad she agreed to use one and we were all so glad to not have her in pain...and the unplanned bonus was that we did get to skip some lines with her!  Woot woot! 

Here is a quick clip of my mom right after she got her chair.  Pretty commanding "horn" huh?

This picture cracks me up...

That afternoon we enjoyed Dole Whips...they sell them over near the Indiana Jones ride.  Worth the wait in line.  Mmmm...
Once the conferences were out that evening Mark met up with us at Disneyland.  This picture of him with Max and Lincoln (both asleep) cracks me up.

We ate dinner at California Adventure that night and Noah was over the moon about getting his own giant turkey leg!

Noah and I enjoying another go at Toy Story Mania!

It may have been that night that we enjoyed World of Color there in California Adventure, but I'm not positive what night it was.  In any case, it was really neat and worth the effort to attend!  The other thing we have no photos of that we really enjoyed were the nightly fireworks.  We all loved those, but Lincoln was  particularly enamored by them.

Back at the hotel the kids never had any trouble falling asleep after such full, exciting days of fun.  Plus Noah loved getting to share a bed with his grandma and Lincoln loved sleeping between Mom and Dad and getting extra snuggles and kisses before falling asleep...

6/8/12 My mom and I took the boys to Disneyland again while Mark attended conferences.

Bugs Land at California Adventure:

Having these extra days to spend at Disneyland while Mark was attending conferences allowed us spontaneity that we wouldn't have had the boys joining in on this Phineus and Ferb street program: 

One of my favorite things from the whole trip were the few times that I caught Noah and Lincoln holding hands or putting their arms around each other.  I absolutely LOVED that...even more than Noah's sweet dance moves:

6/9/12  My mom and I had a rough time getting the boys ready and out of the hotel that morning, and once we got there Lincoln tripped on the pavement on the way into the park, cutting his elbow.  He had a rough time falling a few times while at Disneyland, including one time that his glasses skidded on the concrete...while still on his face.  This day though, we did visit the first aid office and they were really good to him:

The nice nurse cleaned him up, slapped some bacitracin and a Mickey band-aid on his elbow and we were good to go!

They even gave him cards with safety tips to look through...

Look at these three handsome, happy boys!

The boys got to participate in this army men show too!

My advice to people taking kids to Disneyland over multiple days...get the most important things done at the beginning of the trip (like we did with the Jedi Training Academy).  We kept procrastinating seeing Buzz because we weren't in the right park at the right time and we knew that we had plenty of time to do it.  The last day we were there things got hectic and it was later in the day before we knew it.  Then we found out that they'd cancelled one of Buzz's showings, so we had to book it fast from Disneyland Park to the far end of California Adventure to get there for his last showing of the day.  We're lucky that my mom had a scooter!  Anyway, we arrived and the workers weren't sure if he was going to make it since he had to be at the parade soon and I was just heart-sick for Lincoln since that was the highlight of the trip that he was particularly looking forward to.  Luckily, he did arrive and we were waiting in the right spot to be able to see him (not everyone in line got to see him before he left)!  Whew.

Mark met up with us that evening at California Adventure where we ate and rode a few rides.  This is a quick clip I took just after we boarded Mickey's Fun Wheel (the ferris wheel).  Max's smiles at my mom are just too cute (even with his poor little allergy eyes):

The next two pictures (the contrast between them mostly) crack me up!!  We chose sliding gondolas on the ferris wheel and knew when the gondolas would start sliding, so I had my camera ready.  Here was Lincoln's reaction...

And this was Noah's...

Just to reassure anyone who is concerned about our traumatized 6 year old:  He did get over the initial terror of the ride and actually went on to enjoy there should be no guilt in a good chuckle at the previous photo.

On our way out of California Adventure our last night there.  We hurried out to be able to get a good view of the fireworks between the two parks.

After the fireworks we stretched out our last night a little longer than normal and went back into the Disneyland park.  On our way out of the park, we hit Star Tours one last time.  It was the very first and the very last ride of our trip!

The boys enjoyed their traditional last-night-leaving-Disneyland suckers.

Goodbye, scooter.  We loved you.

6/10/12  Mark had a few more meetings on our last day, so there was time for wandering around Downtown Disney just outside our hotel.  The boys especially loved each of their stops at this Lego store during our trip.

Time for one last dip in the pools...

We ate lunch at the 'Enchanted Tiki Bar' right on site at the pools.  I wish that we had discovered this place earlier in our trip as it was so convenient and better priced (surprisingly) than plenty of other places.  Plus, it had food that Lincoln would actually eat (which was a struggle on this trip).  Anyway!  As we were leaving the Tiki Bar this bird landed on our table and my mom took a picture to comprehensively document our bird associations this trip!  In general Max was obsessed with birds on this trip and was constantly pointing them out.  Then one day at lunch in Disneyland he kept pointing down at where a bird had been...we finally looked down and found out that it had died!  A lady nearby had her husband pick it up and put it in the garbage while she crossed herself.  There were a few other small references also...and then we even inadvertently hit a bird on the drive home and it ended up in the grill of our van.  Birds, birds, birds.  Couldn't leave that out.

One last family photo outside the Disneyland Hotel.

We meant to have beignets and mint juleps in New Orleans Square inside Disneyland, but never did.  Thankfully there was a place in Downtown Disney that we could check that off my list!


Our last adventure was Pelican Point (at Crystal Cove State Park).  It was beautiful.

After the boardwalk ends you follow this sandy path down to the beach.  I wanted to include this picture to remind me about how Lincoln "helped" my mom along parts of the path like such a little gentleman.  He was concerned about how she was doing with her knee and so he held her hand and reassured her along the pathway.  Absolutely adorable.

I am not articulate enough to describe how much I love being near the ocean.  Whether it's a warm sandy beach, or a rocky shore I simply love it.  I love the smell, the breeze, and perhaps most of all the sound of the waves as they crash and recede repeatedly.  Dependably.  Soothingly.  And I love the sizzling sound of the bubbles popping on the sand as water pulls back away.  I always feel rejuvenated and somehow more centered after a visit to a beach.  If there was a part of the trip that I could put my finger on where the boys acted their "best" it was on our two visits to the beach too, and that alone naturally lends itself to even more affectionate memories.  This visit was in the evening and was cooler, but it was no less I am holding a bundled up (but happy!) little Max:

I love this picture that my mom took of our family.  We had so much fun scampering around on this rocky beach tide pooling and exploring.

 Mark with Max and Noah:

 I love this picture of Max with his daddy.

Low tide was going to be after dark, so we came as late as we felt we could so that we could do tidepooling and we were able to find several sea anenome and some crabs.  Here is a clip Mark took of Noah and I setting out to explore...

And here are just a couple of the creatures that we saw:

Once we were done exploring the area for sea life, the boys set out collecting shells to look at and they had a lot of fun with it...

Here is a cute clip of our beautiful almost-one-year-old boy:

Me with my baby as the sunset began to glow on us.

I am so glad that I looked over at Mark and Max during the sunset and was able to capture this beautiful shot.

When we got back to the hotel and were all cleaned up, we pulled out a couple little gifts (that we had purchased and brought on the trip with us) to give the boys.  Noah loved his Star Wars comic book...

And Lincoln adored his soft Buzz Lightyear.

Look at Lincoln's adorable expression.  Perfect way to end a fantastic vacation.
I feel so blessed to have been able to enjoy a vacation like that with Mark, our boys, and my mom.  What priceless memories.  Even though Disneyland isn't the top of Mark's list of favorite things (especially more than one day) I love that he's willing to do it for us, and that he enjoyed watching the boys love it.  And I love that Mark's work paid for a bunch of it since he was there at a conference!

Anyone that knows my mom knows that she loves Disneyland (and her grandkids), so that was a fun combination.  Without her it would have especially been a lot less fun enjoying Disneyland with the boys those days that Mark was in meetings...but it would have also been a LOT more difficult!  Thanks, Mom, for all your help and for sharing this special time with us!  I know that the boys loved having you there too.

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