Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Vacation Memories

Southern California is such a magical place. We just got back from our last trip to Disneyland for several years. It was a long trip and we had a great time -- it’s hard not to when you spend four days at Disneyland! Here’s some of the highlights of our trip:

On Friday the 10th, we picked up the kids from school at 1:00, had them put their backpacks away and go to the bathroom, then got in Clifford the Big Red Van and we were off. We did our best to find things to see and do along the way so we weren’t in the car for more than 3 hours at a time the whole trip.

We stopped at Cove Fort in southern Utah at about 4:00. We watched a video and got a tour of the grounds. The beds from that period were so small and the workload enormous.

After a few hours, we had snacks and were on our way to Las Vegas.

We spent the night in Las Vegas at a Residence Inn and DH took everyone but Harmony swimming.

Eliza is obsessed with swimming. She loves being in the water and laying her head back. When we were packing for the vacation, she kept pulling out her swimsuit from the open suitcase and yelling, “Smimming! Smimming!” That was our first taste of the rest of our vacation. Once we got to Newport Coast, I put all the swimming things under the sink in the bathroom. Every day, Eliza would run in there and come out with a swimming suit yelling “Smimming! Smimming! Suit on!” She threw a few tantrums when we tried to explain we wouldn’t be swimming until later. Even when she was dead tired from being at Disneyland or a day of museums, she insisted on going swimming nearly every night.

Saturday, we took our time heading to California. We had a complimentary breakfast at our hotel, then DH took the kids swimming again before we packed the van and went to the Las Vegas Children’s Museum. We got in free with our membership to the Salt Lake Discovery Center, and the place was really fun. They had a temporary exhibit about refugee children where the kids got to put together their own shelter and hear stories from refugees. On display were actual toys children had made out of garbage at one refugee camp – trucks made out of cardboard with milk caps for wheels, cell phones carved out of wood, dolls made out of strips of rags. I was amazed at humanity’s imagination and resiliency. In the face of so much trial, the kids are still finding ways to have toys. I also learned that the average stay in a refugee camp is seven years. Can you imagine seven years in a situation like that?

The rest of the museum was really well done. They had science displays and hands-on learning and the museum staffers were all teenagers eager to help and play with the kids. In one corner, they had a dress-up theater. The twins dressed up and danced on the stage. It was so sweet, even when Michael dressed up like a superhero and tried to crash the party. Near the theater were water tables with various channels and stop gates that could be rearranged to divert the water. Joey spent a long time there, to no one’s surprise. There were also places to make giant bubbles and a playhouse and a moonwalk simulation. It was a ton of fun, even if we didn’t make it upstairs to see the rest of the museum – we figure we’ll go back again sometime.

After an hour and a half, we were on our way to California. We stopped after two hours at the Calico Ghost Town. They were celebrating Calico Days there, so there was such a busy and fun atmosphere. Tons of people were dressed up in Old West clothes. We walked the town, did crafts in a pottery shop (necklaces for $1 each), made our own rope for $1, and then panned for gold for $1 each. It was actually fool’s gold in the pan, but the kids were just as excited as if it had been real. We watched a huge group of people participate in an egg toss. Allison & Sarah were especially thrilled to watch the eggs splat and break open on people.

A few more hours in the car brought us to the Marriott resort in Newport Coast. Our place for the next week was a two bedroom, two bath villa with a full kitchen (bigger than the kitchen than in my first apartment!) and a stacked washer-dryer. It was nice to settle in and have a home for a week. We had planned our meals and snacks well and didn’t have fast food at all, unless you count our stop at the original Tommy Burger in Hollywood on Saturday. We went swimming most evenings and had a beautiful ocean view and a small patio. There was a pull-out couch in the living room and another in the second bedroom so everyone had a bed to sleep on. The hotel provided a pack-n-play for Eliza and we brought one from home for Harmony.

Sunday, we went to church, then we went back to our hotel for lunch, rest, and then a trip to the tide pools at Crystal Cove. We saw lots of beautiful creatures and played in the surf. Allison and Sarah dragged seaweed around pretending it was their own sea creatures.

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday we spent at Disneyland. We hadn’t counted on the Columbus Day crowds, so we had to plan well and use lots of FastPasses to really enjoy the parks. Wednesday was the least crowded, and Friday the most. It seemed like half of Utah was there, including our next-door neighbors and the family down the street. We ran into both of them.

Our best memories of Disneyland:

*Lillian finally overcame her fear of the California Screamer roller coaster. It only took us a dozen trips to Disneyland to convince her to try it; in the past she’s told us she’ll go then chickened out. Then it only took one ride for her to decide it was the greatest thrill ever. She rode it seven or eight times. She and Joey got in the single rider line on Tuesday and rode three times in a row.

*Eliza loved so many things at Disneyland. There was virtually no waiting around for anyone in our family; we separated a lot for rides that Eliza and Harmony couldn’t go on, but there was always snacks to eat, lines to get in, places to FastPass, and other rides to try. The younger five kids and I rode the fishy merry-go-round five times while the older kids and DH were on the Screamer. Each time the ride would stop, I’d ask Eliza if she wanted to get off. “Again, again!” she’d shriek. She also loved the Monsters Inc ride I took her on while the others were on Soaring over California. She waved at all the monsters and cried when we had to get off.

*Sarah was so excited about the thrill of scary rides. She learned to put her hands up on Space Mountain and went on Splash Mountain twice in a row (once was enough for Allison). She and Allison both loved to Soar over California.

*Allison and Michael were both chosen to participate in the Jedi Training Academy in Tomorrowland. Both were so eager to be chosen and we only had one chance on our last day. Both fought Darth Vader one-on-one and emerged victorious.

*Michael was thrilled to get into the magic of pretend. His favorite ride was Pirates of the Caribbean. We put fruit snacks in the heel of his shoes so he could be tall enough to ride the Indiana Jones ride. He’s such an imaginative kid.

*On Monday night, DH took Lillian and Joey back for their own thrills at the park. The fireworks were canceled, but they had fun going on tons of rides together.

On Thursday, we drove to San Diego and went to two museums there. We went first to the Natural History Museum. It was fascinating. They had a special display on water that was interesting to read and very cleverly hands-on for the kids. There were also fossils, plate tectonics interactive displays, and even a few live animals like frogs and snakes.

Next was the Fleet Science Center, where the kids went wild for an exhibit called “Grossology” about slime and germs and dung beetles and the like. It was pretty irreverent, but we did learn why the cow is the gassiest animal and about how long tapeworms can grow inside your body. Highly useful information, I’m sure. The rest of the museum was tons of hands-on science stuff that was great fun. We stopped for a time in Kid Village, where young kids could work in a factory, build with blocks, set up shop in a grocery store, or play learning games on some computers. Michael kept getting frustrated because he was trying to be the grocer and organize things, but people kept playing with the things he was putting away. There were two exits to the room, so DH sat by one and I sat by the other. Somehow, Eliza got past DH and got lost, our only missing-kid experience of the whole trip. DH found her quickly because she was screaming with fright around the corner. She calmed down rather quickly, then we went to the building area. We finished off with lunch outside on the cafĂ© tables.

We thought about going to Disneyland after dinner for the evening, but we took a vote and everyone wanted to go swimming instead, especially Eliza.

Saturday morning, we packed up and checked out of our hotel. As we put the last of the gear and kids into the car, we couldn’t get the passenger door to close. We finally figured out what was wrong – the latch was twisted out of place – but we had very few tools. DH was trying to reposition it using a pocketknife and a book to cushion his hand. I tried to follow Elder Wirthlin’s advice from last conference and laugh about it. DH was not amused. I drove to the main area, where we were able to borrow a screwdriver. It still wouldn’t move correctly, so while the kids played in the fish ponds, DH worked on the door and I tried to call a locksmith. Just when I’d reached the locksmith, DH came in and said it was all fixed. We loaded the kids back in the car and were off to L.A.

L.A. was not the best choice for the last day of vacation. The traffic was horrid, so it took 90 minutes instead of 30 to get to the Natural History Musuem. Once there, we did have a great time. The place was packed with people, though, and the many entrances and exits and twist and turns in some of the exhibits were a recipe for losing children. We kept a tight watch and didn’t lose sight of anyone, but it was hard to relax and enjoy what the museum had to offer.

The exception was the first room we visited, where they had a huge display of live crazy insects from across the world: furry ants, huge millipedes, strange beetles, and more. They also had huge rocks to touch, furs of various critters to examine, and enormous shells. We had Joey partner up with Allison and Lillian with Sarah to view the room. We don’t do partners a lot since our kids are so young, but this time it worked. Joey was especially good about staying with Allison and examining each creature in turn.

Their rock and mineral exhibit was amazing, with tons of gorgeous rocks from all over the world. They even had a precious gem room that was actually in a vault and had a guard outside the door – I think some of those rocks are pretty expensive!

After this museum, we had planned to have lunch and then go to the Science Museum, but fixing the van door and traffic had cut into our day too much already, so we settled for a drive by Pinks (a famous hot dog stand where the line was out the door and around the corner so we didn’t stop) and then a drive down Hollywood Blvd to see all the freaks and eat at Tommy Burger.

Finally, we got back on the freeway and drove to Las Vegas. The first 30 miles took us over an hour, but the rest of the drive was smooth sailing. We stopped to feed Harmony once and then everyone fell asleep in the car before we got to the hotel in Las Vegas. We set up the beds and carried in our overnight bag, then brought the kids half-asleep into the hotel room to change for bed and go right back to sleep. The next day, we drove home, with a stop near Parawan to hunt for rocks. We found beautiful wonderstone and brought home many small rocks and some larger ones for our rock garden.


Freaky Wizzard MoM said...

HOLY SHMOLY!! That's enought ACTIVITY to make me tired for a month!! WoW!! And you went and did all this with newborn. You really must be SUPERWOMAN!!! Looks like you guys had a TON OF FUN!!! I've been to Calico a few times, too. And it is kind of fun. Luckily you went now instead of middle of the summer when it is a lot HOTTER. We still have yet to take our kids to the beach and see the ocean. Hopefully sometime soon.

Although I did notice you weren't in any of the posted pictures. You really ought to get a "Tripod" if you don't have one.

Dan and Marci said...

My favorite picture is of Hubby with the kids spread out along the beach--really cool!! Kaylee had the same love of that merry-go-round the first time we took her to Disneyland too! Looks like a fabulous trip--glad you had fun!

Jody said...

Wow what an amazing trip. Great photos and memories of a wonderful time had by all. I love the way you are so mindful of the children - stopping often and enjoying sights along the way.


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