Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Green, Green Christmas!

I don't know why it was so important, but I really wanted to get Christmas on the blog during the right year... so here it is, not a day too soon!

You may know that since last Christmas, my family (at Dad's request) has been planning a trip to Disneylad for Christmas time. We had a year to plan, but you know how these things sneak up on ya, and things got a little crazy there for awhile trying to work out lodging, etc, but we made it happen with only minor bumpage. We (19 of us) ended up staying at Jeff's and my condo in two 2-bedroom units. It was actually very comfortable (and great if you ask me,) not to mention we were within walking distance of Disney and could see the parks and fireworks from the rooftop viewing deck. The weather was absolutely perfect while we were there, ranging from about 62 to 72 on Christmas day. We all drove in at seperate times, everyone arriving sometime between 9a.m. and 10 p.m. We left in the middle of the night when Jeff got home from work so that the girls would be asleep for a lot of it. They were, and it was awesome! I way over-prepped with snacks and activities - they were great on the drive in! (This is greatly due to the Christmas gift of a dual screen portable DVD player - thanks again Chris!) We arrived before check in and had lunch at the Cheesecake Factory next door, then explored while we waited. There wasn't much room in the second bedroom of our unit when we got it, so my parents graciously gave us the master room so we'd have room for our whole family of 4. We all just hung out that night, watched fireworks and settled in. (Oh and did I mention that my brother's car was in an accident on the way there? Luckily none of them were hurt and the car drove there fine.)

The next day, we'd planned on going to see sites around LA, but never got going in the morning. Half the crew left to go see a taping of Jay Leno (well, they waited in line, but never got in,) so Jeff and I headed with the girls to see Downtown Disney. We wandered, played in the Lego Store and got Mickey shaped treats at the chocolate store (so yum!) We couldn't ride the monorail, which was lamezor, the girls would have loved that. That night, we plus Mel & Jason, Ricky, and Jaimie all went to dinner at a restaurant called Anaheim White House, while grandma and grandpa stayed with the grandkids. It was a valet-only, many dollar signs kinda joint. I don't know WHAT was in the water at that place, but we had a great time! We were laughing our heads off the entire time. I can only allude to the greatness through the following phrases... that's the way fur coat granny does it!... Cholo... accents in such a way... and cucumber coke.

Wednesday we picked up Mal from the airport (late) and then actually headed out to LA. We went first to Grauman's Chinese theater, saw some handprints and the walk of fame, then ate lunch next door at Hard Rock Hollywood. From there, we headed up to get some pics with the Hollywood sign, which was a big highlight for all of us for some reason. We also saw the Pantages, Kodak theater and a thousand terrible rip-offs of characters that wanted you to pay them for a photo op. We ate in that night.

Thursday we woke up to crazy winds of death, and headed to our Surf's Up character breakfast with Mickey and Friends at a hotel. Breakfast was a buffet and so good, it lasted us breakfast and lunch. Sis still hated the big scary characters, so she got a red balloon to warn them to stay away from her. The other kids had a blast seeing the characters, dancing and surfing with them, getting hugs and fives, and Amelie especially loved getting their signatures in her little princess notebook. Our waiter was super lame, and included a huge gratuity for himself, which most of us did not pay in full.

From there, we all headed out to Santa Monica pier and played in the sand. Mel and her crew saw dolphins - so jealous! The water was ice so most of us didn't stay in, but made sand creations, took walks, gathered sea shells, walked the pier. And of course dad had to get some seafood.

That night we headed to Medieval Times dinner theater, which we love, and got a sweet deal on. Our knight was good, he almost won. He threw both Jaimie and Amelie a flower - she totally loved that. It was a great night... right up until Sissy puked on me... twice. Awesome! That was only the beginning of our sickness woes, which still continue a week later.

Friday was our Disney day! We all only bought one day, so that made me content with going to just one park. Less things to miss out on. Jeff, Mal, the girls and I walked to the park so we didn't have to pay for parking. The park was full but not over-crowded. Once in awhile we saw a 60 or 75 min line, but more frequently waited 20 or 30. We started out with the Princess Faire that they have, where we saw Tiana, Ariel and Jasmine, then went and danced with Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella. Lise was a little scared again, but Amelie was absolutely in love. It was one of my highlights, and definitely hers. Jeff also took Amie on her first roller coaster in Mickey's Toontown, and she actually loved it (so did he.) We hit all the big rides in various groupings of family members, and my parents were awesome about taking the kids so we could go on big kid rides.

Hitching a ride with Papa!


The fireworks were cancelled that night due to "unforeseen complications" but they had great lights and we were told they still had snow during the normal fireworks time.

One of my favorites was the Haunted Mansion, which was completely redecorated to be Nightmare Before Christmas. Other highlights include Big Thunder Mountain, Space Mountain and the Matterhorn. Around 7ish, everyone decided we were pretty beat, and most everyone headed home, mom and the sibs taking our kids home in the car. Jeff, Mal, Rick and I stayed to go on the Matterhorn and then walked back. It was a super short line, so we could have gotten home the same time as them, but we decided to have a date and ate dinner at Fire and Ice. (M and R stayed for Fantasmic.)

Fire and Ice was great, a choose-your-own, cooked-in-front-of-you kind of buffet. We stopped in the chocolate store to buy some thank you's for those hauling our kids home. When we got there, we discovered that our stroller fell out of their trunk because it couldn't shut (that thing is a beast.) They searched and searched, but someone must have picked it up quick, cause it was no where to be found. It was sorta sad to lose our double stroller, but it was kinda dying anyway, and we have 2 single strollers. Mostly, I'm sad we lost Amie's signature book that was in the pocket, but you can believe this mama is recreating that! Over the course of the day, we also lost both of our sunglasses as well as Jeff's phone. Lost and Found didn't have any of them - greedy little people!

On the morn of Christmas Eve, we were all too beat from a long Disney day to get up and go anywhere.

Most of us went down to the pool to take advantage of the great weather (and hot tubs!)

Sis's contribution to the photography:

In the Eve, we all gathered for lots of good finger foods and to see the kids' program. Stacey came up with the ideas, and Jaimie wrote it out for them. She helped them practice and everything, and then got Soooooo sick, so Mal stepped in and helped them perform it. It was about a little orphan Larissa (Lisie) getting the last present of Christmas and becoming one of Santa's elves. It was the darn cutest program I ever saw (my favorite part was when Santa [Stacey] got stuck in the chimney, so the Elf [Amie] got her out with butter. The boys were reindeer.)

Notice anything funny about this picture?

Christmas Day, we all opened presents in our room, then had a late, big old breakfast while we lazed about for awhile.
Our cutie tree!

Stockings hung by the... cupboards with care.

Playing with all their Princess presents.

We had wanted to go somewhere nice for dinner that day, and decided to try Fire and Ice again, but it was closed. Almost everything around there was also closed, so we headed over on foot to downtown Disney (carrying our girls - bleh.) Place after place had either a 2 hr wait or was $50/plate. We finally settled on a little burger place that was more of an outside bar just because they had no wait. Food was good, though over-priced, and then we headed home. Jeff graciously ran and got the car for me and the sleepy/crabby girls and Ricky to ride home in.

The next day was just basically pack up and leave. We got a fairly good start time, but got a bit lost in the beginning, then Alisa threw up in the car. Once we finally got cleaned up and on the right track, we hit terrible stop-and-go traffic which lasted the entire duration of our drive while in California, and some of Nevada. The girls were awake (and sick) for this drive, so it was not nearly as pleasant. Not to mention instead of 11 hours, it took us 14.5. We didn't roll into home until 2 a.m. (Luckily my dear sister Mal came and turned up the heat in our house, so it was warm when we got there.) The sad news is, we also forgot to assemble Santa presents before we left, but we'd told the girls he left gifts at our house, so we had to put those up before we went to sleep that night.

Overall the trip was awesome! It was a great (and exhausting) week, which could only have been better if we were all healthy.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Amelie's First Performance!

Amelie has been in a performing group this season. It's not just a dance technique class, but a little singing and dancing group. At first, she really struggled with staying in class, but that passed pretty quickly. She has also had some difficulty focusing and participating in class (I mean, she wasn't even 3 when she started...) I wondered if she was ready and deliberated over keeping her in, switching to gymnastics, and waiting altogether. Obviously, we stuck with it and she has come to adore her class and teacher, Missy. Now that Christmas is here, they have a LOT of performances. The first was this past Monday at a nursing home. It was totally up in the air whether she'd actually dance or just sit there. Turns our she was somewhere in the middle. Here are a few shots of the (most adorable!) performance.

Playing games pre-performance with teacher Missy.
Yeah, that's Amie in front wandering to find her mark.
Jingle Bell Twisting it up!

"where are we supposed to go?"
Yeah, still not there, Amie... :)

Here is a (very low-quality) video, so you can witness for your very own, the intermittent staring and dancing.

So cute!!!