Monday, February 6, 2017

Part 4 of 4 Last Days - Courageous Carter

Wednesday night late, my dad and brother-in-law flew in to join the party. So Thursday was our first day ALL being together (well - all except my sister-in-law, Radene and her son, Carter since he couldn't come because of his Leukemia treatment). We decided to all wear our Courageous Carter t-shirts and try and take some group pictures so we can send them to Carter and let him know how much we were thinking about him all week.  We went back to California Adventure park and got there early again to get fast passes for Radiator Springs but then headed out to the pier to ride some of the rides that had no lines... like the swings and the ferris wheel etc.  We saw Woody walking to his picture spot and followed him to be one of the first groups to get a picture with him. The workers noticed our matching green shirts and asked about them. (a group of 31 people in the same bright shirt is pretty noticeable) We told them a little about Carter and they were so touched by his story and our efforts to 'bring Disneyland' back to him.  One worker wanted to get a little surprise together for us and Carter so after talking with people on his phone he told us he could get us a private meeting with some of Carter's favorite Disney characters.  Then he walked us across the park to meet Lightning McQueen and Mater. Then he told us he had one more surprise for us and to meet him by the pier at 3:00.

So we rode some more rides: Radiator Springs, did some rides in Bugs Land, the Jellyfish, the Zepher, and watched a Chinese New Year Parade.  Then met back up at the pier at 3:00. The worker guy met us and had a big bag of gifts for Carter that he presented to Justin: a tshirt COVERED in signatures from disney/california adventure characters, a mickey ear hat with Carter's name embroidered, a signed Captain America shield and free access to the pictures they've taken of our group earlier that morning. It was so kind and thoughtful and brought Mom and I to tears (remember the crazy emotions I'm dealing with). The rest of the day we rode some more rides (the boys rode Screamin' with me a couple of times in a row thanks to extra fast passes) and went shopping and again came home early.  It was a very nice without any stress or rush of getting in certain rides since we've mostly ridden everything we wanted to plenty of times.

Our last day was back in Disneyland. Whew.  It was forecasted to rain and be overcast and a little chilly. We happily thought this meant fewer crowds. Wrong.  Our plan was to go straight to Peter Pan since we hadn't ridden that one yet and it has the longest line. Even though it said 20 min when we entered the line we ended up waiting over an hour for it since it had to temporarily shut down twice while we were in line.  Plus it was raining. But it was first thing in the morning so the kids were still fresh and it wasn't too bad.

Then we went rode some more rides and watched a show at the fantasy land theatre, Mickey's Magical Map. We had great seats and it was really good.  We had to say goodbye to Mom, Dad and Hailey since they're flight left that afternoon. Then we visited Toontown and rode the rides there. Freddy fell asleep and I walked him around in the stroller. When he woke up, everyone was on a ride so I decided to take him to Mickey's house since he still wanted to meet Mickey.  The line was super short and Freddy didn't cry or run away (like he did with Minnie). So cute. Then we rode Star Tours again and got dinner and treats at the nice restaurant at the end of Main Street.  The rain had gotten worse and kids were tired and cranky so most families split up after dinner to head home (they were going to Harry Potter World the next day and wanted to get good rest).

The kids each got one treat a day and then could spend their own money on more treats or souvenirs. They each had $50 plus whatever smiley-face money they've saved up over the past year. Gwen had quite a lot and hardly spent any. Charlie had a decent amount and most of it (mostly on snacks). Alec had a decent amount too and spent most of it too.

We stuck around with Jordan and Estefi and Sarah and German. We rode Splash Mountain some more, and did the Jungle Cruise. Then we waited at the front of Main Street to try and catch a glimpse of the Electrical Parade... but it was canceled because of the wet conditions. So we booked it to our car (we had parked that day to help us get home fast). We got to the house around 9:30pm. and then loaded up the car (we had packed all our bags in the morning) and by 10:30pm after 5 full days at Disneyland we started our 31 hour drive home to Mississippi. 

The drive home was..... terrible. Chris took the first shift driving and made it to Arizona by 2:00am and we stopped to sleep for a few hours. I woke up just after 4:00 and decided we'd better get going and drove until lunch or thereabouts. Then we switched back and forth driving till we couldn't and trying to sleep when we weren't driving. The kids were tired and cranky too and when I wasn't driving I felt like a MONSTER.  I had no patience for whining or fighting and didn't parent very well. :( We pulled into Dallas, TX around 2:00am Sunday. Then crashed at Thom and Brittany's until 7 or so. We wanted to stay and play but needed to get going. We wanted to stop by a sacrament meeting somewhere and found a chapel outside of Dallas at the right time on our route. We drove the rest of the day and got home around 7:00pm Sunday night. And got up at 6:30 for school and work the next morning. UGH. It was so brutal. But totally worth it. At least, I can say that as I'm typing this a month later!

It really was worth it to be able to be a part of such fun memories with their cousins. Our kids don't get a lot of cousin time, and to feel like they belong to a part of an extended family is SO important.  It was a sacrifice of time and money and sanity but it was totally worth it and full of fun, sweet, family moments.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Part 3 Disneyland

On Tuesday we used our Magic Morning that came with out 5 day passes to get into the park an hour early. We were about 2nd in line in one of the park entrances, and then waited near the front of the rope drop again at the end of main street.   Our first objective was to sign the kids up for Jedi training so we booked it to Tomorrow land and were able to sign all the kids up for the first session at 11:00 or something. Then we really wanted to make the most of our magic hour and got Fast Passes for Space Mountain and most everyone got inline at Star Tours. But it was still a 30-45 min line. (and Freddy couldn't go on it) Chris was frustrated to have to wait so long. He wanted to maximize the number of rides we could go on and wanted to choose some smaller rides to just walk on and ride lots of times or something.  The thing was there were NO short lines anywhere. SO many people were there for Magic Morning that the lines filled up. We choose to do Finding Nemo because the Disneyland App said it was only 15 min. .... and  it must have filled up fast because we had to wait 25 minutes.  I was a little upset because we had broken off from the family and were STILL having to wait in line.  After we talked about it and Chris realized that I didn't care about maximizing rides, I cared about maximizing time with family...we got on the same page.  The Nemo ride was sorta interesting and long. Gwen and Freddy didn't really enjoy the dark parts or being stuck under the water and they were anxious for the ride to end.

 After that it was time to meet up again with everyone to go on Space Mountain and then get the kids ready for Jedi Training. First I watched the babies with Sarah so everyone else could go on Space Mountain. Even Grandma, Hailey and Gwen went. Mom somehow didn't realize it was a fast roller coaster until she was nearly on it and in charge of Gwen so she bravely continued!  Gwen didn't really like it, and Alec was nervous about it being in the dark but ended up thinking it wasn't too scary. I was able to go on Space Mountain twice in a row because we had extra fast passes and the line was super short. That ride is one of my favorites! The kids LOVED Jedi Training. Alec almost didn't sign up because he's so nervous about new things and being infront of people. Gwen and Freddy didn't do it.  The kids learned a series of moves to do with a light saber and used the force to unearth a temple. Then they each got a turn to fight a bad guy and then used the force to banish the bad guy and lower the temple. Super fun. Alec, Charlie and Freddy each bought a light saber and were doing the moves they learned all week long.

After that we had fast passes for the lazer shooting ride. Freddy loves Buzz Lightyear and enjoyed seeing some big, moving, talking versions of him.  So many of the rides require anyone younger than 7 to sit with someone older than 14. So it was tricky to somehow match all the kids up right. Luckily most of them are over 7 (even though they don't all look it!) but Gwen isn't and she liked to sit with Lynae a lot, so I often sat with them on rides. 

After that we were all ready to branch out of tomorrow land and headed over to Adventure land to do Splash Mountain and Pirates and Haunted Mansion.  Tiffany's toddler, Henry, was pretty challenging and fussy but LOVED meeting Tigger. He just started laughing and petting Tigger and Pooh. It was so cute. Gwen was starting to really throw some fits. She didn't really enjoy going on Splash Mountain and was really wanting to buy something with her money but she was having a hard time deciding.  I took her shopping while Chris and the boys did Splash Mountain over and over again. As it was getting late the line was super short.

Once Gwen decided to buy the bubble wand that her cousin had gotten the day before she was like an entirely different person. She happily skipped and walked all the way home. The boys loved to try and pop her bubbles with their light sabers.  Another day but not quite so long. We left early enough to try and get dinner at the house. It was fun to have so many days ahead of us still that we didn't feel pressured to stay every minute in the park and try to get to all the rides (although we rode a LOT of them after just 1 day in each park).

We went the Disneyland again the next day.  Having been a little disappointed with the lines in the morning, we decided to take it easy on Wednesday and not get to the park an hour before it opens. We had a nice breakfast at home, (Chris even went for a run!!.. crazy guy) and then packed up lunches (a yummy sausage/spinach/pasta salad) got to the park 30 minutes or so after it opened. It was really nice, actually. We saw Minnie and Mickey at the front of the park and Freddy wanted to see Mickey but they had closed his line, so we got in line to see Minnie.

Then we sorta waited around main street for the rest of the families to arrive and sent Chris off with the fast passes to get some for Star Tours. When the rest of the people came, they didn't feel like doing Star Tours and went to Adventure/Frontier land.  We storta broke off into different groups and ended up doing almost the same rides just in different orders: Big Thunder, Matterhorn, Star Tours, Autopia, Monorail, etc.  It was hard to meet back up. I felt a little sad about all this.  I mean the large group is difficult to organize and make decisions and takes so long to go from place to place but at least I don't have to deal with my FOMO feelings when we're all together. I often worry about 'missing out' on whatever the other group is doing. I was just emotional this day because of other stuff too. I found out that morning that I was slated to ovulate that day which meant, we wouldn't be able to be in Birmingham, Alabama the next day for an IUI... so we'd have another month to wait on before we could even hope to get pregnant.

We met up for a late lunch/early dinner at the Mexican food restaurant by Big Thunder.  Sarah was my pregnant/not-pregnant tracker buddy and she shared an extra dessert with me to try and eat through my crazy emotions.  Somehow in the shuffle of fast pass getting, we lost Gwen's park ticket and Chris had to take her to main street to get a new ticket.  Then the boys went on Splash Mountain again while some took the little girls to see a princess show.  It was really funny and well done.

We planned to do a bunch of Fantasy land rides as it got late, thinking the lines would be shorter as people with younger kids headed to watch the Electrical Parade and go to bed.  They were still about 10-15 min long but it was fun to be together again. We did Dumbo, the carousel, and some others. Then Chris took the kids home and let me stay out till the park closed with Tiff, Sarah, Estefi, Hailey and Mary. We rode the tea cups and ALMOST rode Indiana Jones again but then it was closed temporarily so we walked fast to ride Pirates again before the park closed... planning to shop at the nearby shops after 8:00.  We were wrong to think the shops stayed open after 8:00. I guess only the shops on Main Street.  We had fun walking through the stores without strollers or kids and called Chris to come pick us up at the end of downtown disney around 9:30 or so.

I'm pretty sure I went to bed as soon as I got home. The other nights we sorta sat around on the couches/chairs talking about the day and planning the next day but I was so tired. Mostly the kids would fall asleep pretty fast. Just the 'big boys' - Cameron, Dylan, Tyler, Andrew, Alec, Ethan, Charlie, and William - who all shared a bunkbed room - sometimes stayed up too late laughing and talking.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Disneyland with the Betteridges! part 1: pre-Disney

For more than a year, we've planned on and been saving for this Disney Betteridge Reunion.  Chris and I and all the kids went without birthday or Christmas presents from each other and we made pizza most Fridays instead of buying, and we didn't travel home to Washington for Christmas....because we wanted to be with all my siblings and their kids for a week long Disneyland party!  We all went in together and rented a 6 bedroom house within a few blogs of Disneyland! 

Once we found out that driving to Anaheim, CA is only 2 hours longer than the drive to Provo, UT, we knew we could for sure make this trip happen, financially speaking, because we could drive instead of fly. So... we undertook the 31 hour drive from Mississippi to California with our 4 kids.   We are all experienced car trippers, but we added a few new things for this beast. We used the car top, even though we could've fit everything IN the car. Having some extra space between the kids and each other and the floor, etc... was a really good decision. We also decided to let the kids be in charge of their own snacks. They each had their backpack with a few books/toys and snacks clipped with a carabiner to the head rest / handle bar in front of them.   Having the backpacks off the ground and easily accessible was a great idea... Freddy didn't really get the concept of putting things BACK into his bag, but at least he could get stuff out himself. We also purchased a clip around soft tray holder for Frederick so our cookie sheet trays (that we always use for meals) and his toys wouldn't slide off his lap. It sorta helped. We left on Thursday around 3:00 pm, and drove through the night stopping for bathrooms and stopped once for breakfast on Friday. We pulled into Pheonix, AZ about 4 on Friday afternoon. We met my cousin and her kids at a park for a bit, then checked into the hotel that my Dad helped us get. :) Then we went over to one of Chris' friends from high school for dinner.  We were back in the hotel and all asleep by 9:00.  We slept great and headed off for California in the morning after I did some service at a nearby temple (Can't pass up a chance to make it to the temple when its only 5 minutes away!!) then we all had a leisurely breakfast at Waffle house before driving 5 hours to Anaheim. 

We pulled in around 4 at the house and met up with a lot of the cousins and my siblings. We got settled in our room and then had a great time hanging out, chatting, talking about plans for the week. 

The next day was Sunday. We attended a nearby ward for Sacrament Meeting (and filled up 3 whole rows!) and then went back to the house to have our own Primary with sharing time by me, and singing time by my mom. After some lunch and quiet time we went to walk along the beach. We knew most of the kids would get completely soaked no matter what they wore, so a lot of us let our kids wear swimming suits. (I found out later, that this is one of the things Gwen told her piano teacher about ... "we went swimming at the beach.... on Sunday!" haha)  It was SUCH a beautiful day and SO SO fun to be all together with my family. (only missing my dad, my brother in law - German, and of course, my sister in law Radene and her son Carter because of his Leukemia treatment). I really enjoyed this slow paced, peaceful day. I especially loved sitting by Chris at church, and playing spike ball with Sarah, Jordan and Estefi at the beach. 

We had a delicious BBQ chicken and salads and whatnot for dinner. Tiffany and Ashley meal planned the whole thing and all I had to do was show up, help out a bit, and pay some money. It was SO NICE (for me).  We put the kids to bed kinda early (the time zone and beach made that sort of easy for my kids) and tried to plan out the strategy for California Adventure the next day. Tiff, Todd, Jared and Ashley had done some good research and determined a loose itinerary of which rides and shows to try and hit when. Again, I totally lucked out. Then Tiff, Sarah and I painted our nails - Disney style.