October 8, 2004 AM/Disneyland

Amanda Aaronson

You know you had a good time on a vacation with your kids to Disneyland when you awaken after only 4-5 hours of sleep, can't go back to sleep for the "Small World" theme running through your head, and find that you're dissappointed to be home and not at all irritated at the inability to shake that insipid music.

Some happy thoughts:

I found that Disneyland still held magic for me, and that it was only heightened by the magic that it held for my children. Now I get to see it through their eyes.

Phoebe, at four and a half, CAN be reasoned with about the "gimme's". It took a lot of work on our parts, but she ended up perfectly happy with a princess hat and a light-up toy. Piper got a winter hat with princesses on it, and a car with Minnie Mouse.

While she recognized that the animal-like characters are just in costume, Phoebe BELIEVES that the princesses are real - and Piper is brave enough to approach them at 22 months of age.

My girls already had favourite rides, and were happy on the last day to go on them repeatedly - and the lines were not so long as to make that prohibitive. Phoebe loved Peter Pan, Goofy's Bounce House and the Gadget Go-Coaster (and I loved going on them with her!). Piper loved the carousel ("Horsies!") and the Mad Hatter's Spinning Teacups ("Teacups!"), and they both liked the rocket ships - the latter two were best at night with all the lights on.

The Snow White musical show was amazing. But what else would you expect from Disney? The sets, the costumes and the performers were all incredible. Phoebe was totally entranced - but Piper just wanted to climb the bleachers, and I ultimately had to take her out to change her diaper and let her run around.

Some funny thoughts:

Okay, the autograph books, and the mad frenzy with which parents insisted their kids meet every princess, were a little odd. It's pure marketing genius that Disney is selling these books (and the accompanying fluffy, bright, beaded pens), and little girls about the ages of 5-10 seem to be into it, but the sub-five year old group is entirely parent driven, and since we went mid-week, that was mostly what we saw. A few events stuck out in my mind.

1. The moms who stood in line while their kids did other rides, and as they got close they either got on their cell-phones and called the other parent, or grandparent, who was with them and they were brought over. A new form of parent-deprication?

2. The kids who have their favourite princess, and dress up in costume like that princess (and sweat their tiny little brains out for the whole rest of their time in the park), but who honeslty enjoy the visit with that magical character - who's parents held the books and handed them to the princesses to sign.

3. The moms who are fulfilling their OWN passion for Disney by insisting that their kids see every princess, dress in costume, and have their pictures taken with all of them. Okay, so we only saw one truly fanatical mom this way, but it was quite the scene. Her three daughters were dressed one each as Belle, Aurora, and Cinderella. It was the latter who was the "problem" (although, in reality, I think the mom was). Lil Cinderella was about two years old, and wanted NOTHING to do with the Cinderella she was meeting. The mom and the nanny pinned her down and got her costume on her (she was having a great time running up and down the steps nearby) while she wriggled and writhed, and they then tried desperately to get her to sit for a picture she was clearly terrified of. She screamed, kicked, cried and was only consoled when the nanny sat her on HER lap next to the Cinderella (a real gem who never lost her smile and tried to offer helpful suggestions and console the unhappy girl the whole time). But mom couldn't have NANNY in the picture, so nanny tried to smoothly slide Lil C off her lap and next to Cinderella. No go. After about 10 minutes of this, and with a rapidly growing line of impatient little girls behind her, mom decided it was enough to have Lil C on Cinderella's skirt, Lil Aurora laying on her back on the ground in front of her looking at the sky with her arms and legs outstretched, and Lil Belle looking off to the left. Having held MY kids at bay that long, I let them go as soon as that mama said she got a picture she was content with. One of our pics of the girls approaching Cinderella still has Lil A and Lil B still mulling around in it - Lil C couldn't get out of there fast enough! I just hope she wasn't traumatized off princesses for life!

I was also amazed at the staking-out of places to watch the ~15 minute parade. We only caught it one day, the last evening we were there, but we ended up wtih great "seats", and the fairy, then all the princesses, looked directly at Phoebe and waved. We were on the teacups when we first saw the fairy, and then by the time the princesses came through we were to the side of them, but we were able to see everything, and we didn't have to wait over half an hour for our near front-row view!

Piper, going on some of the slightly scarier rides (i.e. Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion), rode bravely like a champ - but was too happy to declare "ALL done!" when they were over... But she was willing to go back into the Haunted Mansion again a couple days later! Disney did an amazing job transforming it for Halloween/Christmas with "The Nightmare Before Christmas" theme... wow.

Our first couple of days into the park we found ourselves going around the set-up of what turned out to be a temporary two lane swimming pool. It appears that Michael Phelps made an appearance, although we didn't bother ourselves with it. What was impressive was the speed at which it came down after the brief stunt was completed. Quite the hullaballoo for a little publicity.

The negatives of the trip:

It's just a REALLY long drive down. Ouch. The girls were amazingly good - we only had a few hours of movie viewing (but we made a Pooh fan of Piper!), in actuality, and only three potty stops in each direction - with one big one in the middle of each direction for running around. Oh, yeah, and we now have a sticky, blue-Pooh-lollipop-covered baby asleep in her crib upstairs. Oh well.

We had a four-and-a-half year old and basically a two year old, melt downs will, and did, happen, there were lack of listening moments, and "Mommy, can I have that?" was a frequent question (and "No" was not well received on many occasions). All-in-all they were good girls, we just wondered who replaced them with little devils every evening somewhere between 4 and 6 PM.

Well, those are all the negatives *I* can come up with. Not bad...

One more note - and while it's not really a negative, I can't think of where else to put it. We had a "park-hopper pass" which let us go between Disney and California Adventures. I have to say that California Adventures, to me, was a nice amusement park. Pretty fun stuff there... and had it been around here, like Great America, I might have explored it a little more. The Bug's Life stuff was very cute. But it didn't have that "magic Disney" feel... it just isn't Disneyland. So we spent one morning there for a couple of hours, but the rest of the time was spent at the main Disneyland park. I wouldn't pay any extra for the park-hopper option, but it came as part of their ticket promo-deal, and was actually cheaper than buying individual one park day tickets.

Now if only I can shake this minor case of ride-induced vertigo!