Our Disneyland Spring Break Vacation

We had the time of our lives on a three-day vacation to Disneyland! Last Sunday, we told the kids that we were going to a very early church service and as they were about to jump into the car we told them we were going to Disneyland instead. You should have seen their faces!

Along with my parents we arrived at the airport at 7am for an early flight to Orange County. It was Nolan’s first plane ride and besides being way too large to be a lap child, he was perfect! I’m telling you, this kid makes life with three so much fun (and actually not too difficult). When we landed, we persuaded my parents to give Uber a try for the first-time. It took a bit of convincing since my mom is certain that everyone is “out to steal her credit card” and Uber is no exception but after one ride, they are now believers.

We arrived at the hotel, dropped off our bags and boarded a shuttle to Disneyland! We were inside the Disneyland Park gates just in time to eat lunch with Darth Vader. Perfect timing! Below are some photos and stories from our Disneyland vacation. I had a hard time narrowing down photos for this post, so apologies for the photo overload.

 

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As I was waiting for Ryan and the kids to finish up a ride, Nolan and I were walking up and down Main Street. I was people watching and he was chasing anyone who had a balloon. About five minutes later, he decided to sit in the MIDDLE of Main Street. I apologized to about 50 people who had to walk around him, but then noticed that everyone smiled the minute they saw him. There is something about a cute pudgy baby that no one can resist.

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Our favorite California residents Aunt Lauren and Uncle Brian drove down from Los Angeles to meet us for dinner. About seven minutes into this plate of spaghetti I realized that I forgot to pack two important things: Nolan’s bib and my makeup bag. Looking back on this photo, the bib was missed the most.

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It took this picture just as we arrived at California Adventure Park. Since Kelsey “remembers more” from the last time she was here, she took Colton’s finger and started pointing at all of the sights – explaining to him, “this is this and that is that” – it was so incredibly cute! And, believe it or not, these two got along the ENTIRE trip. Not one fight between them. If you have two kids close in age you know how miraculous this is!

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*Colton is pointing to Cross street. 🙂

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Nolan woke up from his nap, jumped out of his stroller and strutted around Cars Land. This was the cutest moment … he looks like such a man on a mission.

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Talk about the thrill of the ride, these kids were obsessed with all of the exhilarating rides like Thunder Mountain. Which was so interesting to me because the last time we went to Disneyworld (seen here) they were more into the characters than the rides. It’s funny how quickly their interests change.

Ryan and I were riding Thunder Mountain with Kelsey and Colton – if you have been on this ride, then you know it’s a jerky rollercoaster with a lot of turns and dips – and, I don’t love rollercoasters, in fact, I’m pretty terrified of heights so I’m not the best one to partner up with. Anyway, as we were on our second dip my eyes began to water. This is new, I thought. Must be something that happens when you get old (ha!) but then Kelsey turned to me and I noticed her eyes were watering too. She and I busted out laughing and the boys just looked at us like we were insane. Guess that’s a genetic thing we do … we cry on rides.

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I love this photo. Colton’s face is so sweet, innocent and filled with joy. Ryan’s got our 18 month old on his own horse. And, if you look closely, you’ll noticed Ryan is strapped in. Yep. He is THE ONLY adult in history that uses a seatbelt on a merry-go-round horse. That’s my husband, folks. Mr. Safety First.

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I tried so hard to stay away from desserts on this trip, but when your son hands you his incredibly messy and melting Mickey Mouse ice cream and says he “is done” you kind of just devour the rest of it without thinking. And the churros … don’t even get me started on the churros.

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*That moment you realize you’re on a baby ride.

Bug’s Land was a trip. The kids loved the bumper cars but after Thunder Mountain and Space Mountain, the Bug’s Land “rollercoaster” just didn’t cut it. However, if you get the chance, do the Bug’s Life 3D movie. It was incredible and the kids enjoyed every second of it.

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*Spring was in full bloom at the park.

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* What happens when Grandpa is in charge of getting breakfast

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The kids wanted to go on Space Mountain (whose kids are these?) and Ryan snapped this photo just before we boarded the ride. Colton’s face symbolizes how he felt going in … and coming out. He wasn’t a fan but Kelsey took about 30 seconds to regroup and then asked if she could ride it again. Little thrill seekers, I tell you.

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My dad bought the kids these Mickey bubble wands. They light up at night and put out a gazillion bubbles. It added to the magic. Thank you, dad. And thank you for buying three of these things (Colton lost his first one on our last evening so Grandpa replaced it).

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I have so many great memories from this trip, but the Electric Light Parade was particularly special. I remember seeing this same parade with parents when I was little, and here I am watching it with them and my husband and three children.

I twisted my ankle during a workout the day before we left for Disneyland (good timing, I know) and about 45 minutes before the parade started my ankle gave out on me. I told Ryan I would just sit alongside the street with Nolan to save our seats while he rode some rides with the kids. For awhile it was just Nolan and I in the center of Main Street watching the sun set over the Park. It was a special moment because Nolan just lit up my heart with his giggles as he danced in the middle of the street to the music. Moments later Ryan arrived with a churro in hand (he loves me so!) and we bundled up to watch the parade.

Disneyland has given me so many magical memories over my lifetime and this is another one I won’t forget.

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*No more pictures, mom!

There is something about Disneyland that gives parents freedom from judgement. Am I right? It’s like, if your child is throwing a tantrum or screaming in the middle of the restaurant … it doesn’t matter because everyone around you is in the same boat. At Disneyland, it’s like you’re in a safe zone because everyone around you “gets it”. I wish the world was more like that, don’t you? No judgement for parents. Just everyone living for the moment.

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I snapped this photo on our last night from the top of Tarzan’s tree house. We were climbing up the treehouse when I happened to glance back and see this gorgeous sight and it’s one I will never forget.

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And that’s a wrap! The kids (and my mom) have already started to plan for Disneyworld 2019. We have plans to go back to Florida with my brothers and sister-in-law. Maybe for Ryan’s 40th birthday? He wants to go to Europe, but maybe we’ll end up at Epcot instead. Or, maybe I can convince him to invest in both. Wish me luck on that!

13 Disneyland Park Tips for Little Girls

In September, we took our 3 1/2 year-old girl to the most magical place on earth, Disneyland! My friends have been asking for some tips from our experience, so I’ll lay them out here. Have an amazing time!

1. Bring a stroller
Preferably an umbrella stroller that reclines for naps. Sure, they have them to rent but who wants to wait in a stroller line when you’re eager to get in and out of the park. Plus, if you leave for naps you’ll have to return in and then check one out again. Just another line you’ll avoid.

2. Bring a backpack
You can take them on the rides. We just stuffed ours under our seat. And our backpack was huge, filled with: Snacks, water bottles, camera, video camera, sunglasses, sunscreen, hats and a change of clothes for Kelsey (just in case).

3. Tie a balloon to your stroller
This way you can easily identify your stroller amongst the hundreds parked outside rides. No one steals your stroller. It’s like an unwritten stroller/ parent rule there.

4. See Tinkerbell
She’s in Pixie Hollow just to the east of the castle. We walked right by this place last time we were here (it’s kind of hidden). It’s worth the wait because your child gets great one on one time with the pixie. She told Kelsey jokes, let her look around her tree house and posed for pictures.

5. Get a Three-Day Pass
Because then you’re not rushed to see everything in a short time frame. And, with a three-day pass, you’ll get one Magic Hour day. This means, you get to enter the park one hour early before it opens to everyone else. During this time you can hit up all the kid rides that usually take forever to ride. See: Peter Pan, Cars Land.

6. Ariel’s Grotto is Fantastic!
We went for lunch. It was a bit pricey (I think about $100 for 2 adults, 1 kid) but oh-so worth it! Kelsey still talks about meeting Ariel and all of the Princesses (they greet every table). She met Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and Bell. They do this for breakfast or lunch only (not dinner) so book one of those times. Reservations go fast (I booked mine 2 weeks in advance and didn’t get the time I wanted). So, book early. You can email dine@disneyland.com.

7. Big Thunder Ranch Barbecue
If you love country music and good ‘ole family style barbecue, then you’ll love this place. We sat at picnic tables and food was brought to us right when we sat down. No ordering here, it’s all the same. I think. At least our neighbors to our right were eating the same food too. Country singers invited kids up on stage and put on a great show. Plus, they had red tongs on the table that kept Kelsey very entertained. Who knew.

8. Best Ice Cream at the Park is …
At Cozy Cone Motel in California Adventure Park. It’s really just ice cream cones and such, but go here when the sun goes down and enjoy ice cream in this snack area. The orange cones light up at night and make for a really pretty (and cozy) little spot.

9. Starbucks is now on Main Street
This is an obvious adult-pit stop right when you arrive in the park. Get your caffeine fix, but make it a Grande. We got Ventis and then quickly realized that you can’t take them with you on any rides. Doh.

10. Buy stuffed animals before you go
This sounds a little cheap, but trust me, it’s a good tip: Go to Costco, Target or even the Disney store and purchase a stuffed animal before you go. Little girls everywhere were carrying around little stuffed animals. It keeps them busy in line and is great for them to have and hold throughout the entire day. Plus, you’ll avoid the large markup if you were to purchase this toy inside the Park.

11. Bring a costume
We brought two. One of the days, we let her dress up like her favorite Princess. With running shoes on, she sported a Disney costume and loved the attention she got, “Here comes a real Princess” strangers would say. It was so cute. And meeting Snow White, while dressed as Snow White … well, you can only imagine her excitement there. Tip: Wear clothes under the costume because if you know three-year-olds then you know they are ‘over it’ as quickly as they were into it.

12. Check the event calendar
I checked the hours and the event calendar one week prior to our trip. This way you know when the park opens (it varies by season) and what parades or special events are happening. Kelsey sat through an entire parade! I was impressed (and oh-so grateful because our feet were killing us). Here’s a link to the Event Schedule.

13. Take it all in!
Stop to take it all in. At some point, you’ve made your dinner reservations, planned the must-see spots for the day, brought all of your gear … now, let loose. Enjoy the rides, watch your child’s eyes light up when they watch “World of Color” and really soak it all in. Seeing Disneyland from a child’s eyes is truly the most magical thing to see.

View more pictures and details from our Disneyland trip here.

Feel free to add your travel tips to this post too. We’re taking both kids to Disneyworld next year and I sure could use the tips for taking kids there.

The Working Hat: Throwback Monday

Can we pause really quick for a throwback Monday? About two weeks ago, today, I was in Disneyland with my co-workers. Half of us work in Seattle, half of us work in Phoenix – so it was decided to meet in the middle. While in Anaheim, we dedicated a few hours to run all over Disneyland.

We went on (adult!) rides, stood in the longest line ever for Dole’s Pineapple whip, saw some characters and (some of us … ahem, Dayna) got soaked on Splash Mountain! I’m not going to lie, I walked past a TON of strollers and thought to myself, I’m really happy that’s not me right now. Work trips = freeeeeeeeeeeeedom! (sorry, did I say that too loud?)

disneyland disneylandYou cannot walk past the hallmark gates and the floral faced Mickey and not get your picture. Thanks, Dayna for forcing me to stop and pose.
.disneylanddisneylandI JUST noticed Pluto walking towards us in this photo. We had more than a handful of girls with us and not one of us noticed him walk by. Dang.
.disneyland disneyland disneylanddisneylanddisneyland disneylanddisneylandApparently, there was a boat shoe memo that went out. All but a handful of us girls got the memo.
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disneylanddisneylanddisneyland disneylandOn this trip (and in this moment, specifically) I learned that Andrea has a secret talent. She can click her heels! I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so hard.

Not sure what came over us, maybe it was the music, the free pass off work or the sheer fact that she just inhaled an iced coffee, either way I loved that she busted this move. This is an office framer, Andrea.

 disneydisneydisneyland disneylandAfter a few days of back to back meetings, we were able to unwind at Downtown Disney. Where a little vino, some great conversation and (a lot) of Mickey ears were in order.
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*Meghann and Melissa, thank you for planning such an amazing regional meeting. I have no idea how we will ever top it. The speakers, the events … the location. Thank you.

The Travel Hat: Disneyland Photos

I love fall. I love Disneyland. It was like the stars aligned for this trip. Two weeks ago we went to Disneyland with Kelsey. I was there for a work trip so we decided to make the most of it.

Ryan flew out with Kelsey and away we went. We bought a three-day pass and used every minute of it. And even more exciting is seeing the Park from your child’s eyes.

We went on the Ariel ride (about 5 times) and just before our first ride, Kelsey would turn to us and say, “When we see Ursula, we have to cover our mouth so she won’t take our voice!” See what I mean. Just too cute for words.

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big thunder ranch barbecue

We went to Big Thunder Ranch Barbecue for dinner on our first night. It’s family style barbecue food (and oh-so good!). They had great country singers, we sat outdoors and there were pumpkins all around. Kelsey’s favorite part were the tongs on the table. Go figure.

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disneyland with kidsdisneyland with kidsClick on this picture to enlarge it. There’s something so nostalgic about it. Maybe it’s the guy in stripes. Maybe it’s the bouquet of balloons. Or, maybe it’s the castle in the background. Whatever it was, I really liked this moment and had to snap a photo.

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disneyland with kidsKelsey’s two heroes: Dad and Peter Pan. I’m pretty sure my daughter was the only girl in the Park carrying around Peter Pan. Two years ago, all she wanted was Mickey. This year, it is all about Peter Pan and the Princesses.

disneyland with kids disneyland with kidsdisneyland with kidsThere is something about heights and going round and round in a circle that doesn’t do it for me. But, Kelsey’s G-ma told her that she had to ride Dumbo and the Tea Cups so away we went.

For the record, I stayed on the ground and Ryan took one for the team on Dumbo. It’s a classic. You can’t come to Disneyland without riding the elephant.

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After day one, we had been on Dumbo, Tea Cups, Alice & Wonderland, met some characters, visited Big Thunder Ranch Barbecue and the nearby Halloween Fall Carnival.  And to think our day started at 2pm.

We went to Cars Land too. We had no idea who the Cars were, but the rides were so much fun. We at ice cream at “Cozy Cone Motel”. It’s this super cute outdoor eating area where the buildings are orange traffic cones. The cones light up at night and it makes for a great spot to end the day with dessert.

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There came a point during our trip, when Kelsey wore a Snow White costume and I was purchased a Dumbo tee-shirt. When in Rome, right?

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Meeting Tinkerbell was one of the highlights. But, not to be outdone by the new Starbucks that opened on Main Street the very day that we were there. They even have their own Disney cups. Let’s just say we were a bit excited.

disneyland with kids disneyland with kids disneyland with kids disneyland with kidsThe castle! Where do I even start? Kelsey loved seeing a real Princess castle up close and personal. She even threw a Princess-sized tantrum right outside of the gates. What’s that saying? Ah yes, If the shoe fits.

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cars land at disneylanddisneyland with kidsdisneyland with kids We convinced Lauren to visit us on Friday. And then a few hours later she and her brother convinced me to try the world’s best sandwich, the Monte Cristo sandwich at the Blue Bayou Restaurant. Wowza. This thing was loaded  deep-fried goodness and I think I’m still working off the calories of that lunch. You can read about the Monte Cristo here.

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disnyand with kids disnyand with kids OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThen, we waited in line for Goofy, Minnie, Mickey … the works. The button that she is wearing is from lunch at Ariel’s Grotto. If you’re going to Disneyland, I recommend the Grotto for lunch.

I’ll be honest, we spent way too much on lunch ($115 for three) but it was worth it to see her face light up as each Princess visited our table. And she met Ariel, her favorite.

All in all, Disneyland was worth every penny, every tantrum, every early morning. We just loved experiencing the “Happiest Place on Earth” through a child’s eyes. We’ll be back … next time, we’ll take baby Colton with us.

The Working Mom Hat | Travel Mania

I was just counting the amount of travel I’ve done since coming back from maternity leave in February. Looking back, I can’t believe where the year has gone. Here’s where I’ve been so far:

  • Orlando, Florida
  • Albuquerque, New Mexico
  • Dana Point, California (twice)
  • Kauai, Hawaii
  • Montreal, Canada
  • Chicago, Illinois
  • Austin, Texas
  • Deer Valley, Utah
  • Anaheim, California
  • Aspen, Colorado (coming up)
  • Vail, Colorado (coming up)

Here’s a photo from my work trip in Anaheim. Because who wouldn’t take time to sport Mickey ears while in this city. Totally normal behavior.

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The Sister Hat: That’s how you do it

Spencer won the largest dog ever in Disneyland. He was playing a baseball carnival game when he scored big! Not too surprising to me, Spencer has yet to meet a sport that he can’t excel at. He’s gifted in that way. Want to know how he did it? Look, it’s this simple.

First you wind up.

Then you point your back foot as you let go of the ball.

Keep your focus, even when your brother tries to distract you.

You win!!!! Now, go tell the man behind the counter you want that yellow dog. Yes, make sure you pick out the stuffed animal that is too large to fit in your suitcase and too large to fly home with you on the plane. (I told you, he’s really good at this stuff)

Pick up your winnings.

Congratulations. Quick, take one last photo. Proudly displaying your winnings before gifting this “Doogie” to your niece for her to love and cherish forever.

And that’s how it’s done.

The Family Hat: Disneyland Secret Spot

While in Disneyland, Ryan and I stumbled upon an amazing spot for toddlers. It’s a spot near Frontierland (Santa’s playground during the holidays). There are reindeer there, Pluto is there, but most importantly, there is a quiet resting spot for the kids.

There are picnic tables a plenty with coloring books and crayons. Why so excited you ask? Because it was a quiet little spot to escape the chaos, the crowd and the noise for just a few moments and rest. And besides, being our first day at Disneyland, these first-time parent feet welcomed a little R&R.

You can read more here.

I love the photo above because she could careless that Pluto is just steps away. In fact, Pluto came up to her many times throughout the trip and every time she would look and him, look at me and then scrunch up her nose and say, “I don’t like it.” I would look at her and say, “Honey, you don’t like Pluto?” to which she would reply, “no” followed by, “mommy, find Mickey.”

The Parenting Hat: Mommy Moments

Mommy moments are when you look at your child and think to yourself, “Life is pretty spectacular”. The best is yet to come, and I can hardly wait. Glory to God for all of our blessings and for giving us this little lady to hold onto.