Remember Christmas? A long, long time ago? Back when Amy's parents told the kids they were going to Disneyland and the kids said, "Eh... whatever. Let's fight over this toy."
It has finally come to pass.
Even though the story starts on February 2 the prep work started weeks earlier.
Step 1: Get the kids excited. But not too excited. They still have to function in the cold wasteland that is North Bend in January. Start by locking away White Christmas (thank goodness!) and bringing out Disney movies. Lots of Disney movies.
Really, they're good movies. Except they have songs that take up residence in your head like an ant that crawls in your ear, decides he wants to be president, and then directs your life to make his dreams come true. (That really happened. I heard a song about it once.) My least hated favorite song was the chimney sweeps' song from Mary Poppins. Probably because Lilly kept referring to it as the "chim chim chiminey" song. Plus there's that bit about the hotentots. How can you not laugh about that?
Step 2: Get the kids ready for the reality of the Happiest Place on Earth (TM). Truth is there's more crying per capita in Disneyland than in any other 160 acre hunk of the world except maybe at our exit where skiers were being turned back because the epic snow was so epic the plows and avy crews couldn't keep the freeway open. So be prepared for fits and tantrums and cars blocking the road. (And maybe some pouting in Disneyland, too.)
How to accomplish this? Four words and a number: Jon and Kate Plus 8
In terms of truly embarrassing recordings on the old TiVo Jon and Kate Plus 8 probably don't rate up there with "The secret lives of nose hair pickers" or "Inside Edition," but if anybody asks I'm saying Henry was just mashing on the remote and we wound up with this. Conveniently, though, the couple and their eight kids (yeah, eight -- twins and sextuplets) drove from somewhere in the middle of the country to Disneyworld. Sure, it's the wrong side of the country, we're flying not driving, and there were not quite as many kids in our party, but it was a good lesson in reality.
Plus it introduced a variety of great new phrases:
It's just 19 hours until we get to Disneyland. (Clara as we pulled out of the driveway.)
That's yucky. Just yucky. (Pretty much anyone over four about pretty much anything.)
A thorn in my side. (Me referring to the camera.)
A side of my thorn. (Clara referring to me. "Yeah, Dad. You're a thorn!")
Step 3: Pack. Big kudos to Amy and the folks at Ziplock. Each kid had 10 days worth of clothing. Each day of clothing was self contained in a Ziplock bag labeled with the contents and the wearer. The 10 days were distributed among the checked bags so loss of as much as 75% of our luggage wouldn't impact the kids other than they'd have to stand next to really stinky parents. As a bonus we earned a complete playground set by turning in the Box Tops to the local school.
Amy really did think of everything. When I suggested we use the vacuum sealer thing to really compress the bags she pointed out we wanted air in them so we weren't tempted to over-pack our bags. Each bag could be up to 50 pounds. The weights of the two biggest bags were, and I'm not making this up, 48.7 and 49.3.
(Sadly, TSA didn't decide to open any of our bags. EVERY other flight I've been on recently has had everything all scattered around and the crumpled note in bottom saying, "Thanks for letting us rummage through your undies. Seriously, you should buy some new boxers. Those are gross." This time? Noooo.... of course not.)
BTW: Did you know that the x-ray machines supposedly randomly super-impose images of contraband in bags to keep the screeners on their toes? It's true! I heard it on teh interwebs.
So there we were, finally at the airport. Nearing the very joyous destination we had been longing for. Yes, that's right. Starbucks. As Lilly will attest, "No coffee makes Daddy go crazy," so getting me properly caffeinated was critical. That done we looked out the window at planes and realized we'd be pedaling the props ourselves when our plane pulled up to the gate and they had to lower the walkway. So much for flying _____ class. (It doesn't matter what you fill in there. We were below that.)
The flight itself was actually a non-event. The girls colored and ate and poked each other through the seats. Henry slept for part of it and provided some birth control for the stewardess who paraded him up and down the aisle like a bag of peanuts, which he clearly wasn't since peanuts can kill so now we only get tiny pretzels that are probably cheaper anyway.
I gazed out the window at the never ending clouds hoping to see a mountain poke through, but only when the clouds turned brown and smoggy did I see some hills and they were not interesting enough to hold my attention since the Frapacino was wearing off.
On the ground in LA we decided we'd wander over to Delta to meet Nicole, Martin, and Molly. If you've ever heard that people don't walk in LA it's because they make it really hard. We finally found a route to get from the United terminal to Delta that involved a two mile underground tunnel. Better yet, it actually said, "WARNING: Steel curtain doors close without warning. Keep entire party together." Lovely.
When we emerged we found their gate and waited and waited and then pow out came Molly like she was fired out of a cannon. I think Nicole was still clutching chunks of hair that Molly surrendered in order to launch herself at Nana and Papa.
Our bus was the Cinderella bus (of course) and the trip to Disneyland was about an hour long. Wee... freeways. Pulling in to the hotel we saw the big Mickey and a million conference attendees waiting for their shuttles to the airport. Life must be rough when your business is in the Magic Kingdom.
We checked in and quickly found dinner in Downtown Disney, which is a little strange. Kind of like you're in any downtown business district except every other store has a mouse for a logo and the restaurants are all vaguely familiar from rides you went on when you were a kid.
The kids crashed out at the hotel after dinner (and I include Martin in that group because he apparently hadn't slept in three weeks of constant hospital duty) and Nana and Papa were close behind. Amy, Nicole, and I shouldered packs and trekked to the nearest grocery about a mile and a half away to get supplies.
Lesson 1: Don't listen to the hotel staff when they give you directions about how to get somewhere unless you confirm your mode of transportation. They sent us a round-about way when we could have cut the distance significantly by walking through rather than around.
Lesson 2: Disneyland isn't in a magical kingdom surrounded by adoring fans. It's in the middle of a city with good parts and not so good parts. I felt fine until we saw the guy yelling at the lamp post. Seriously. (He was probably driven to that state by the nightly fireworks display we could see over the tall walls surrounding the wonderland.)
Crawling into bed we dreamed of a brilliant start to the week and all the fun we'd have watching the kids experience worlds of fantasy and adventure. And then Henry woke up and we started the usual cycle of "Kid A wakes up Kid B. While we soothe A and B Kid C wakes up and needs to potty. Adult A needs to help because Kid C is actually still asleep and if Adult A wasn't being vigilant enough Kid C would pee in the garbage can like Adult B did when still very young (or drunk)." (Yeah, yeah, I know. At least Adult B never tried to pee on a fire, but that's a whole different story.)
And if you were hoping to get the whole story in one reading... fat chance. We had three still cameras and two video cameras for eight days. After throwing away all the blurred shots and pictures of closed eyes and the same scene shot from three slightly different angles I still have something like 1,200 photos and two hours of video. So be patient. (And we will be selling a box set on DVD for only $29.95. Talk to Amy for details.)