Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Remain Horrified at All Times

I'm having a hard time getting back into the flow of normal life.
I guess this is always how I feel after the holidays and the start of the new year.
Sort of like - NOW WHAT?

I put so much time and energy into planning our trip to Disneyland that now that it's over I feel unsure of what to do with myself.

I took down the Christmas stuff and the HOUSE even looks confused now.

The trip was great with a side of crazy as all family vacations are.

I plan for it, though, so I'm not too thrown off when something happens that would make most people's eyes bulge.

We left the morning after Christmas at 4:00 am. I think I slept an hour that night, I was so excited.
Our intention was to get the kids into the car still asleep so that they'd sleep a majority of the way.
The moment their butts touched the car seats their eyes flicked open and they wanted to know where we were going and why was it dark and how long would we be in the car and could they have their sippies.

They did great, though.
Better than I'd expected.
Even with what seemed like a dozen bathroom stops at every conceivable McDonald's bathroom down the center of California, it still only took us 8 hours.

When we got there, Alena pushed the giddy little girls on the hotel luggage cart in the parking lot while we untied the luggage from the luggage rack. This was no minor feat. My dad had given me a full knot tying tutorial complete with a trial run and the wearing of a headlamp the night before, so that luggage was TIED.

I am now somewhat of a master at creating mini hitch posts out of tarp, rope, and small river rocks.
You'd think that was a skill you wouldn't really need, until you have it and you wonder how you ever tied anything down without it.

What felt like 2 hours of untying later, we were set and on our way into the hotel.
Well, that is, AFTER I comforted a sobbing Chloe who now had a black eye from Tessa head butting her in the face.
I think that may have been some sort of record.

We walked into the lobby and the girls pointed out the giant statue of Mickey Mouse, but I was too fixated to look at what they were pointing at.

My eyes were, instead, focused on the details I had failed to pay attention to when booking the hotel.

The open atrium style.
The 10 stories straight up.
The glass elevator.
The very tangible possibility of one plummeting to their death from the door to their room and landing on the hotel diners below if there was a strong enough wind.

This was not the hotel for a person deathly afraid of heights.

The girls thought the glass elevator was wonderful.
They thought it was one of the rides I'd been saying Disneyland had.

I just plastered myself to the back side, closed my eyes and prayed for my life every time we went up.
In order to survive, I had to just not even LOOK at the kids as they zipped around the hallways. I mentally measured the space between the metal railing and the width of each child's head to be positive there was no way they could accidentally slip through and plummet.

I saw one kid on the 10th floor zooming around on his Heely's and almost had an aneurysm.

Thankfully, once we were safe in our room, I could just not think about how high up we were.

The hotel was great. We just relaxed that night. We all swam and went in the hot tub and went to bed in prep for our early morning at the park the next day.

I packed up stuff and was so prepared. Mostly.
Coats and mittens and water bottles. Snacks and diapers and the ever necessary pacifier. And the child harness that I said I'd never use but that probably saved us from Tessa ending up on a milk carton.

I was NOT prepared, however, for the crowd that day.
It took forever to just get in the gates, and when we did, it made trying to get away from the scary Queen of Hearts character even that much harder as Chloe screamed and clung to Justin's hair and he shoved through people blindly.
I thought that might be a bad sign for how the rest of the time would go, but apparently the Queen of Hearts was the main focus of her fear and all the other characters were A-OK. What's weird is she's never even seen that movie....

The first day was more of a learning curve.
We learned that we did not need 5 layers of warmth each and that if we packed a little less, the girls might actually be able to SIT in the stroller, instead of us looking like the only homeless family at Disney.

We learned to use the fastpass and to make an itinerary. We learned to make sure Justin gets food regularly lest he dive into a hypoglycemic pit of despair and yell and fume at us all causing a giant scene. Yeah.......

We learned that Tessa really REALLY likes cotton candy.

But perhaps the most important lesson we learned that day was to never ever leave your stroller parked by the water if a light show of any sort is coming in the next several hours.

We parked it, then went on Splash Mountain where Alena coined the "Remain horrified at all times" phrase, and to the Haunted Mansion, and when we came back, our stroller was nowhere to be found.
We then noticed we were not the only ones looking for our stroller, and when we asked about it, we were told, "Oh. Yeah. Any strollers parked there get moved for the light show. Did you try over there? Or over there? Or did you look up in Adventure land by the Indiana Jones ride?"

It hadn't dawned on me that if I parked my stroller here by the water that when I came back in an hour it might be parked 2 miles away in the pitch black where I will never possibly find it.
Call me crazy.

We searched for that thing for hours.
A search that ended with me, the girls and my mom sitting freezing on a bench in the center of the park at almost 10:00 while Justin left a missing stroller report with security. Something which I heard all of, since his cell phone kept dialing me from his pocket and I could hear him giving the description of the stroller and what was inside.
That being our warm sweaters.

The cherry on top was that while we sat, the air was filled with a smell of sewage, which I explained to my mom was most likely stagnate water from the water rides or something. Gross.
Turned out my explanation was totally wrong. Something which we didn't find out until we were on the shuttle going back to the hotel and we were STILL smelling it and only then realized it was TESSA.
That "sewage smell" was coming up the back of her pants.

And what in the heck were we supposed to do in Disneyland for two more days with two kids under the age of four with no stroller? I wasn't about to pay $400 or whatever they charge per day for a stroller rental.
I'd rather rent a lark and stuff Tessa in the basket.

At least that sounded kind of fun. And zippy. And I heard you don't have to wait in lines if you're with someone in one of those.
(Don't think we didn't think about renting one just for that fact alone.)

We spent so long the next morning dealing with lost and found. But, amazingly, a few calls later and out came Rebecca from Guest Services with our stroller.
By the time we got all that settled, however, they had closed the gates to the park and weren't letting anyone else in for the day, tickets or not. It was only 10:00am and there were already over 100,000 people there.
I guess the fire Marshall has never had to pay for three day park-hoppers for 6.

To make it up to us, Rebecca handed us a wad of ride vouchers to skip lines and free popcorn vouchers and VIP seating to one of the shows. It was awesome.

We spent the rest of that day in Downtown Disney eating the world's most expensive Mexican meal and trying to reign Tessa in.
She was losing it. I was so focused on correcting her attitude, that apparently, I walked right past some man on the ground with a completely bloodied head surrounded by paramedics.

Now THAT is true maternal focus.

Justin and my mom were commenting later on "That poor guy" and "I wonder what happened" and I was clueless.
I had been too busy saying, "No, don't eat that." and "Get up off the ground, you're going to get stepped on" to notice a massive head wound.

We decided to spend the rest of that day "resting", which actually turned more into swimming and sibling fights and going to the Cheesecake Factory where we parked what felt like 6 miles from the restaurant and walked carrying a sleeping Tessa all the way there. Very restful.
Justin looked like he was about to cry he was so tired.

We had walked for 2 solid days and we still had 2 days left.
We should have gotten sponsors and worn numbers.

The next day we got there bright and early to make sure we didn't get shut out again, but that ended up being something totally unnecessary because it was POURING.
Sane people stayed home.
We were all soaked from the time we got from the shuttle to the park.

The shuttle which was, I think, Tessa's favorite ride at Disneyland.

We made the most of it. We bought ponchos for all of us and even one for our stroller and went for it, because GOSH DARN it, we paid for this vacation and we were going to ENJOY it even if that meant hospitalization for pneumonia.

We drove cars with puddles where the seats should be, we sat on sloshy Dumbos, we visited Tinkerbell in a big wet bog called Pixie Hollow.
It was actually great. The lines were short.
Too bad we were too hypothermic to care.

My mom was almost blue.

We went back to the hotel mid day to change into warmer clothes and when we took Chloe's jeans off they had to have weighed 3 pounds from sheer water.
Poor thing.
No wonder she was making that face all day......

It ended up being one of our best days in the park, though.
Exhausting, but good.

World of Color was amazing. Too bad both little girls were passed out before it started. I tried to wake Chloe up for the show and started to worry I might need a medic with how soundly she was sleeping. I shook her and smacked her cheeks and shouted her name and nothing.
Finally her eyes rolled around and I told her to look and she mumbled something about Ariel and went back to sleep.

I'm also pretty sure I became known as the Itinerary Nazi in the family.

I had written out a schedule so we'd be able to make it to all the shows and rides we wanted.
Justin kept asking if he had time to go to the bathroom.
If that was "allowed" on the schedule.
I told him we could try to work it in tomorrow but right now we were due for our fastpass to Soarin' Above California.

We were all at the absolute height of our fatigue when we called home to our friend who was dog sitting to check on Phoebe.

This was when she told us that she was HOPING she was fine, but - and she didn't know how to tell us this - Phoebe had run away.
She'd dug out of the fence and just run while our friend had been at the store.
The neighbor had seen her get picked up by a lady in a white van and that's all she knew.

That dog might be one spinning, neurotic mess, but she's OUR spinning, neurotic mess.
It was two days of hearing nothing. No new news. Two days of Alena bursting spontaneously into tears in lines for rides and people looking at her like she must be crazy. One lady said, "That's how my daughter was on this ride the first time, but now she likes it."

After all, it's supposedly the happiest place on earth.
It was a sort of torture for me to try to have fun and still enjoy our vacation while the whole back of my mind was on the dog and where she was and was she getting fed and where was she sleeping. I was hoping she wasn't somewhere throwing up on some one's Flokati.

I made Alena feel better by telling her no one else would WANT to keep Phoebe because they'd think she was insane and want to get rid of her ASAP.

Finally on the last day in the park, we got news that they had found her wandering Hall Road and someone had turned her in.
Come to find out, she'd dug out from our friend's house, dug out from the lady in the white van's house, and been picked up by a totally different family later who turned her in.
She didn't have her tags on, either, so it's a miracle she was found.
We were relieved. Alena cried when I told her.
Stupid dog. I wanted to kick her and hug her all at the same time.

And OH MY GOSH - we have never eaten so many french fries in all our days.
None of us wanted to ever see a potato product ever again.
Except for Tessa.
She's still a fan.
By the end of it, we were all fantasizing about just gnawing on entire crowns of broccoli.

It was fantastic, though. Even the crazy moments. Every sleepy fit, every Justin scowl, Every ride that Tessa would go on but the other girls were scared of...
That type of family time is priceless.

If you can survive in a 10 square foot area with all your kids, your husband AND your mom for days on end with only one bathroom, sleep deprived and popping Advil daily for your horrendous leg cramps from excessive walking, you're doing good.
Especially if that 10 square foot area is 5 floors up in an open atrium.

All in all it was a great vacation. A success.
AND I faced two of my fears -
Heights and Family Vacations where a road trip is involved.