What has the time come for? (I know, it drives me nuts when people write super long blog posts without getting to the point, too.) The time has come to write up our report (or the first part of it; we'll see how far this goes) of our trip to Disneyland with Little Sister No.2!
This time we did join people the night before the fated trip, not because of any favoritism, but because Sarah's middle child has developed a strong fondness for Denny's, and there's a Denny's that's a lot closer to us than Paradise Pier is. Although if we'd known how hard of a time we would have working when we got back, we might have reconsidered this plan, because our work schedule suffered very dearly for our having not gotten more work done that day. On the other hand, it could have been a problem that was 100% our own making, because that was also the day we took time out to record the ANN Cast podcast we guested on.
Dinner was mostly uneventful. It was madness, but not a really eventful madness. I don't know if this is common everywhere (we're told it's not really where Sarah and her kids are from), but our experience with Southern California Denny's is that you have to wait approximately a million years for your food, and the grownups had just had a long drive with three children who were continuing to be rowdy, so it was a little tense (understandably). Naturally, there were fights over crayons and water, and the children were constantly climbing back and forth under the table, and it would have been adorable if people weren't already so worn out. The best was when the middle child (4) would show us the pieces of gum he kept finding under the table. I make it sound like such a horrible experience, but Athena and I actually had a pretty good time. Mostly we just felt bad that the starving, tired people had to keep waiting.
Anyway, storytelling is going to get tricky if I don't name these children, so in the hopes that Sarah won't be deeply offended, I'm going to codename them Grawp, Hagger, and Hermy. (This is not because I think of them as little monsters, but because of the entire family's fondness for the Giants baseball team.) (Also, I'm calling the oldest Grawp even though Grawp is younger than Hagrid, but that's because we gave him the name Grawp before Hagger came along. Also, Hagrid is smaller than Grawp, so it's okay.) (I know Hermy isn't a giant, and I considered going with Diane, after the giant in The Seven Deadly Sins, but Hermy is a cuter name.)
The plan was to meet at Ralph Brennan's Jazz Kitchen the next morning, so Athena and I got out of bed, got ready, and headed on over. When we got past security and into the esplanade, we realized that the Jazz Kitchen was actually pretty far and it didn't make a lot of sense for us to walk all that way just to walk back to the Disneyland gates (we didn't realize they were saving beignets for us; beignets have kind of fallen off our radar), so we called and said hey why don't we meet in the middle. So somewhere in Downtown Disney, we met up with the party consisting of Mom, Steve, Kimee, Sarah, Grawp, Hagger, and Hermy. Hagger had already gotten his shirt wet because someone called the children's attention to the fountains, and so he refused to put his arm through the wet sleeve and was now wearing his shirt Auron-style. And yet he continued to stop at every water feature on the way to the gates.
Once we were all through the gate, it was remembered that the stroller rental was outside the gate, so Steve went to rent a stroller for Hermy while the rest of us sat down and rested. Grawp had gotten a hold of a guidemap, and was studying it carefully to find all the rides he wanted to go on. He made us some very proud aunts when he pointed at Small World and said it was his favorite.
Some people took the opportunity to stop at the facilities while we were waiting, and Hagger started to follow, but then who should walk by but Ariel, on her way to greet guests at the entrance. We later found out that Hagger had expressed a desire to not see any characters, which explains why, instead of trying to say hi or get a better look at her, he hid very determinedly behind Athena. Athena told him, "You don't have to talk to her," and Ariel added, "I'll just keep walking!"
Next we went and looked at all the magic windows, starting with the Aladdin one. This is where we found out the kids are familiar with all the Aladdin characters but refuse to watch the movie, much to their father's disappointment, as it's his favorite. Maybe one day they'll wise up, because that movie is great.
First we went to Tomorrowland, because the allure of Buzz Lightyear's Astro Blasters was strong (ah, that's why I thought Rosetta would have liked it more; Hermy, of course, was also not a fan). The Astro Orbiter was the first thing we saw, though, and these children (especially Hagger) live very much in the moment, so anytime they saw something, that was immediately what they wanted to do. I think this is an excellent approach to Disneyland, because it means you do all the things in an area while they're close, instead of walking all the way across the park several times.
And usually the Astro Orbiter is not really worth mentioning--you go up, you spin in circles a few times, you go back down. (Although I think it does have a special place in Grawp's heart, because it's where he realized he wasn't afraid of heights anymore during his last trip to Disneyland. (Personally, I think what most of these kids think of as a fear of heights is actually a fear of the dark.)) But this time it was a little more thrilling. Athena rode with Hagger, and she tells me he was extremely eager to get going. He was all, "I'm gonna sit in the front! And YOU sit in the back!" And she was like, "Okay, if you insist." (For safety reasons, the ride has signage that tells you, "larger passengers ride in the back.") And after we waited and waited and waited (I'm not sure if it felt longer or if it really was longer, based on what happened), we finally went up! Woohoo! We're flying!
...Until we weren't. Not that we came crashing to the ground or anything (thank goodness), but the whole ride just froze. Of course, Hagger was so excited, he took their rocket ship all the way to the top first thing, and this ride doesn't balance out like the Dumbo ride, where you're always level. On this ride, you travel at an angle, so if you go all the way to the top, you are leaning pretty heavily to the right. And Athena had to have the seatbelt loose so Hagger could reach the controls, so needless to say, she was rather nervous. As for me, I thought it might be fun to just sit there in the air for a while (Grawp and I weren't as high up, and his legs are longer enough that we could have the seatbelt normal).
Fortunately, we were not stuck there for two hours--only a minute or two. They had one of the maintenance guys come along, and they had us all exit the ride (they gave us special boarding passes so we could get right back on when it was ready), and then it was only a few more minutes before they let us back on. This is when I started to get nervous, because I didn't see anything that looked like running diagnostics or that resembled fixing anything. I had no idea what was wrong to begin with, and I saw no signs of any change, so I was exactly keen on getting back on, but I did want to get on the ride. Well, we went on it again and we all made it off safely, but it was slightly terrifying. Especially because Hagger really liked going up and down, and the rocket always changed directions with an uncomfortable jolt. Oh my goodness, I hope that ride is okay.
So we went on Astro Blasters and the boys were really excited to blast bad guys. As previously mentioned, Hermy was not so thrilled. But we still emailed all the pictures to Sarah. We thought Hermy might be a little more amenable to going on something out in the open and not up in the sky, so off we went to Autopia! ...But Hermy begged out of that one, too, darnit. So Sarah and the grandparents sat out while the boys and the aunts (Kimee included) went on the ride. In line, Hagger informed us multiple times that we sound the same. He also liked to take our Sailor Moon pendants and say, "Abra cadabra!"
...And I feel bad that all the stories are about Hagger, but Grawp was just mostly a chill kid, and Hermy was mostly just cuddling whoever was carrying her. I do have something to say about Grawp, though. Athena and I wore our Chip and Dale hats, and Grawp got into the habit of taking a hat to wear. We came up with the theory that he specifically took the hat of the twin he planned to go on the next ride with, based on when he switched hats, and also on the fact that it was clearly very important to him to be wearing the specific hat he was wearing, because when Hagger tried to take a hat off Grawp's head instead of one of ours, Grawp would get very angry. It's cute in a way.
Autopia was fairly uneventful as well. I rode with Grawp again, and when riding with small children, the general strategy is for the grownup to man the gas pedal while the child gets to take the steering wheel. This is because the gas pedal is ridiculously hard to push down. When Honda took over as sponsor of the ride, they did improve that somewhat, but it's still a bit of a workout. So at one point in our drive, Grawp decided he wanted to push the gas pedal himself. It wasn't long before I took over again. In Athena's case, Hagger was ready to do all the driving himself. But while his legs were long enough to reach the pedal, they weren't long enough to allow for him pressing down on it. So Athena suggested he let her take care of that, and fortunately, he was amenable. Toward the end of the ride, she did let him try, but that didn't last long, either.
The Autopia track takes you right past the submarines, so naturally that's what the boys wanted to do next. We touched base with Hermy's party, and, rightly assuming she wouldn't like the submarines (I mean, maybe she would have liked them if she'd tried them, but we have good reason to believe she wouldn't have), those grownups decided to take her to Fantasyland for more cheerful attractions. We're told they went on the carousel, which Hermy was a little nervous about at first, but once it started, she loved looking up at the mechanism moving the horse up and down.
Back at the submarines, I remembered a less than favorable reaction to certain events on the ride in the past, so as we waited in line, we warned the children that it gets dark. I also said, "Some scary stuff might happen, but remember it's all okay." And Grawp (age seven) replied, "Yeah. It's all just fake." This is why I don't think I ever would have been traumatized to find out that Mickey is really a guy (or probably a girl) in a suit.
So we got on the submarine, and the boys were so excited. It was so cool to be under water. They loved to see all the fish, and the Darla statue, and everything. Hagger kept asking when it was going to get dark. Finally, the submarine "dove deeper," and it we were in the undersea cave. Athena asks Hagger, "It's dark now, are you happy?" "Yeah, I can't see your face!" "......"
...Okay, I think we're done cracking up enough to go on with the story. (We're pretty sure he meant it as a commentary on just how dark it was...) Finding Nemo is a story the boys are familiar with, so I think they were excited to see all the characters. Of course, we jaded adults were like, "...I'm not sure fish move that fast in real life." And also, "Okay, we get it. You're looking for Nemo. Yes. We are aware." (Marlin reminds us in just about every scene.) But anyway, the boys were having a pretty good time until we popped one of those balloons the sharks warned us about. (Nice of the sharks to know we were listening in.) (Also, good job, navigator. Gosh.)
So then there were explosions and it got really dark, and Hagger was ready to get off. Grawp seemed to take it in stride, but he was sitting on the other side of Hagger from us, so we didn't get all of his reactions. But from that point on, Hagger just kept asking when we could get off. Aww, poor kid. As a grownup, when I went on that ride for the first time, I thought it was cool and exciting, but I can definitely see where it would be exciting in more of the Bambi sense for a kid less versed in the ways of show business. And now as a jaded grownup, I just think the storytelling could use some work, and I wish they'd make more rides for the easily scared kids.
Once we were safely off the submarine, we headed over to Fantasyland to meet up with the rest of our group and go on fan favorite, Storybook Land. This is where Hagger displayed his penchant for getting into everything. There's a lighthouse at the entrance to the queue, and the lighthouse has a door, and even though the area is chained off, Hagger saw no need to take this as a "stay out," and he just reached over and opened the door. My main reaction was, "Oh, better close that! ...But remember it's unlocked so you can take a picture of the inside when you get a better chance." Sarah even peeked inside before she closed it. I guess now we know where Hagger gets it.
He was no less inquisitive on the actual ride. The kids ended up sitting towards the front of our canal boat, where there's a little door thingie covering what looked like where they put the fuel in? Of course I only know this because as soon as Hagger saw the door, he opened it. Ah, kids.
But anyway, Hermy was very nervous at the beginning of the ride, because, as some of you may know, it starts out with us all getting swallowed by a whale (Monstro, to be precise). I used to always love this part as a kid, because they'd tell us how Pinocchio and Geppetto got swallowed by Monstro, so they built a fire to make him sneeze, and Monstro sneezed so hard it blew his tail right off. And for some reason, as a child, instead of being horrified by this concept, I thought it was hilarious. And that's how the doorway was opened to Storybook Land. I get the feeling that very few people know this origin story anymore, because our tour guide did not tell it. It was just like, "Okay, we're getting swallowed by a whale, and now here's Pinocchio's village." (That's not an exact quote.) Our tour guide also mentioned Wendy, Michael, and Jonathan Darling. (The middle Darling child is named John.) All in the details, indeed.
Once the danger of whale ingestion had passed, Hermy was much cheerier. So, ignoring the tour guide, we enjoyed the lovely canal ride through miniature houses and castles, and it was quite lovely. And it had a bit of a dramatic ending when Hagger opened the little cover thing at the front of the boat for the zillionth time, only this time not only caught the tour guide's attention, but also managed to get his hand inside before we could stop him and close the door. I admit I'm probably mostly responsible for this, because as I saw him constantly opening the thing, I kept thinking about it, and I reached the conclusion that I was never going to get an opportunity to take a picture of what was under the cover without an inquisitive child who could more easily get away with opening it, so instead of reaching over to stop him, as soon as I saw him at it again, I got ready to take a picture.
I feel bad, because the tour guide snapped at us, because what looked like a funnel from my angle was actually a sort of hook thing that was part of the mechanism that kept the boat on the track. Now Sarah felt really bad for not keeping her kid in check, and I feel annoyed at the tour guide for not expecting this eventuality on a ride with a bazillion children, and you know, come to think of it, if the boat does get off track, it's still a boat. It still floats. Anyway, I'm sorry for not stopping Hagger (but I did get the picture).
By now, people were starting to feel hungry, and so we embarked on lunch adventures. Of course lunch adventures are always more adventurous when dealing with picky children who don't all want to eat the same thing. I supposed our mistake was pointing out that there were both chicken nuggets and pizza to be had within the park, because Grawp insisted that he only wanted chicken nuggets, which is why we went to the Stage Door Cafe, but Hagger wanted pizza, which you have to get at Red Rose Taverne. Well, Athena and I are always okay with procuring pizza, so while Sarah waited in line in Frontierland, we headed off to Fantasyland to get pizza for ourselves and the two youngest. ...And I'm realizing that there's really not much else to say about this, so let's move on.
Someone had alerted Hagger's attention to a ride with animals, so he kept asking when we were going to go on that, but! Pirates of the Caribbean was within clear view of where we were eating, so the grownups all wanted to go on that first. Athena and I were rather wary, because of all of the reactions children had been having to dark rides since the beginning of the month. We figured Grawp would be okay, because he already knew it was all fake. In fact, his mother told us that when they're watching movies, he'll ask about the special effects and things and what was real and what was fake. We're like, "Maybe you should take this kid to Universal Studios. He might actually be interested." After the submarines, we were a little worried about Hagger, who was chanting about ice cream. The idea had been put into his head and he was going to make sure it became a reality. Hermy, of course, would be sitting out with Aunt Kimee. (Sarah eventually stopped the ice cream incantation by promising Hagger they would get him some later. After that, he still wanted to go on the animal ride...or maybe the really slow ride with the angry caterpillars, and showed no interest in Pirates until we made it into the ride building and he saw the boats. Then he was interested.)
We did our best to prepare the children for what we feel is the scariest part of the ride. We asked, "Do you like slides?" and when the kids said yes, we told them that we're going to go on a boat, and the boat would go down a slide. There was some discussion about whether or not we would get out of the boat to go down the slide, but we clarified that we would go down the slide in the boat. Now Hagger was a little worried that he would get wet, so we promised that whatever grownups were in his row would make sure to shield him from the water. Athena says, "I got wet. Mom got wet. Steve got wet." And I know Sarah and I both got wet, so I think that makes all the grownups, but I don't remember either of the kids complaining, so I think we were successful.
Once the scary (to me) part was over, it was time to see how the kids reacted to the other scary stuff. I think, because Walt Disney makes everything so lighthearted and joked about everything, that it's easy to forget that what the pirates are doing on this ride are terrible, terrible things. But I also think that most of those things may not seem so scary if you don't understand the full significance of them. Still, the pirates are mean and scary and dirty, and there are skeletons.
But the boys just looked around wide-eyed at everything. It was really cool to see, actually. The looks of amazement and wonder they just had at everything. They didn't seem scared at all, and neither of them asked when it would be over or when they could get off. So as long as they don't start romanticizing the pirate life ("Give me a career as a buccaneer♪"), I think it was a success!
And now I have been typing for a long time, so our Adventureland exploits will have to wait until next time.
Ah, good times. Today I'm thankful for more fond Disneyland memories, Grawp's no-nonsense attitude, not dying on the Astro Orbiters (or falling out of them), Singing Time going okay today, and the day of rest.