Friday, September 19, 2014

One of those days

I talk about Mia a lot. Too much? I dunno. No one has given me a template on how to grieve for a dead daughter.

She is a part of me. It feels natural to bring her up and include her as part of my life. I am fully aware that this is not comfortable for some people. I don't know what my reaction would be if someone brought up their dead in conversations. It may not be polite, but her existence is too important to me.

Mia is my phantom limb. Everyday I feel her, as if she's there, and then I remember that I have to function without her. I am fully capable of living without her, but there is always that feeling of something that's missing. Something integral.
If I was missing an arm or leg people could see that I wasn't whole. They would know that extra effort was made everyday to continue on. Dead children aren't that obvious.

It's her time of year. Day of the Dead is almost here, and then December, her death day. Sometimes I feel like such a failure that I couldn't even give her a birth day. She was already dead when she left me. The regret and helplessness is overwhelming at times. Sad on top of sadness covered in melancholy dressing.

Then I have Leeloo who is loving and demanding and awesome. She fills me with this bursting kinda happiness. Everyday she is also her dead sister's echo. A reminder of where Mia would be, of how she would have grown. Such a burden that I can't shake off of her.

I have a lot. I am grateful. I am 95% happy most of the time. I am done with trying to wait for this sadness to fade. It is me. I have two daughters that teach me everyday. I have two daughters.

I will love will my whole being. I will live with every cell. I will move despite the ache that fills me, I will move because of it.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Disney Vacation Day 2: California Adventure



After our first day without breakfast I decided room service was the way to go. 6:30 am and we had a full cart in our room. The kids were all still asleep until Leeloo saw the food and yelled out "Yum yummy time!". She was delighted.

Total immersion in the Disney theme.

Looking rough at 6:30 am.
California Adventure was significantly less crowded for Magic Hour. Unfortunately, we spent a lot of the time trying to find the rides that were open. We were successful with a couple of things in Cars Land. Leeloo especially liked the Mater ride (akin to Tilt A Whirl), so we rode that a few times in a row. By nine, Bugs Land was open, and that's where a lot of the chiquita-sized rides lived.

Mater


Luigi's Flying Tires

You had to lean to make them move.

First time on bumper cars!

She loves Sulley, but she was totally intimidated by his size.
 While the boys jumped on Tower of Terror Leeloo and I wandered around and explored. We ran into Sulley, who was so sweet, but the chiquita just froze, she was a little frightened of Mickey too. They are giant compared to her, it's no wonder.

 One of the best places in California Adventure was the Animation building in Hollywood Land. It was great to get out of the sun and be surrounded by screens upon screens of favorite Disney moments. The chica was totally enthralled. We went there a few times during our visit just to chill and relax.


The Animation building also contained Turtle Talk with Crush. It's an interactive experience with Crush, the sea turtle, in Finding Nemo. Right away Crush singled Leeloo out and had a conversation with her. I'm sure they thought she was older than 2&1/2 (as most people do), so I had to translate. He dubbed her "Riptide Ripley" and spent the subsequent minutes mesmerizing her.

Crush.
The one thing I planned for our Disney trip was a character lunch at Ariel's Grotto. This way we could meet the princesses one at a time and without waiting in line. This all sounded good in theory, but the reality was a little different.

Our 6:30 breakfast fed us early, but also meant by 11:30 Leeloo was ready for her nap. Originally I had planned a mommy & me experience, but everyone else decided to join (which changed the price significantly). D convinced me to not worry about the cost and we signed up. It was fun, but kinda a fiasco.

We arrived with plenty of time for our reservation, so we had a few moments to wait. Leeloo wanted to go to the potty (she's not potty trained yet, but she's obsessed with trying). Of course they buzzed for us as soon as she went away. We were the first in line, but lost our spot because she was gone. By the time she emerged, the stairwell that led to Ariel (the first princess to meet), was filled with young girls and their families. They graciously didn't make us go to the back of the line, but there was such a crowd and a sense of rush that the chiquita got stage freight. Sigh. Off to the table.



 We were seated outside, which had a beautiful view of the boardwalk. However, it also faced the roller coaster that the boys were so eager to ride. Suddenly neither of them were very hungry. Ugh. If I would have taken a moment, the best thing would have been to excuse them from lunch all together. But, since I am imperfect I just let myself get annoyed. Anyone over 9 years old is considered an adult ($40), and the adult menu is a little fancier than your average Disney fair. The boys chose to order off the kids menu. Which meant they both had $40 chicken fingers. Insert eye roll here. When lunch did come they just picked at it (the same growing boys that usually eat us out of house and home). I was fuming.

Sigh. So again, I'm imperfect. All in all, lunch wasn't that bad. The boys did have Crab Bisque, and of course they finished their dessert sampler. They even finished those very expensive chicken fingers after they rode their roller coaster 5 times. Alright. Maybe now I'll get over it.

Our lovely but distracting view.


Lobster tail with greens, bacon and quail eggs. Actually quite good.
Mac & Cheese, Goldfish & Hot Dog with fruit and broccoli. Seems oddly simple, but was badly cooked.
Everyone's favorite. Dessert. 
Another strange thing about Ariel's Grotto was that the princesses come while you're eating. So you have to stop eating, grab your camera, clean up your kiddos face, try to get them to pose, say hi and get an autograph without getting the precious princess autograph book dirty. On top of all of this, when we sat I realized that I had forgotten to charge and download my camera, which means the whole time the battery was blinking and I was deleting things haphazardly to make room. Terrible.

Despite all this, the chiquita did get to meet a fair amount of princesses. Was it worth a quarter of our food budget? No. But I would totally do it again as a mommy and me treat. Like I wanted to in the first place (all snark intended).

Cinderella


Aurora

Snow White

Belle


After lunch Leeloo and I headed back for nap time. She slept while I downloaded and charged the camera, and recharged myself. The boys headed back (after many roller coaster rides and some pool time) to finally eat their lunch. By early evening we were all set, physically and mentally, for our second round of Cali Adventure.

The boys were so excited about riding California Screamin'. D had spent all afternoon on it with them, so it was my turn. I don't think I've ever been on a proper roller coaster. I have been on several carnival rides, but nothing as big as Cali Screamin'. All in all it wasn't bad. In fact we rode it twice (so I could sit once with each boy). Our evening was all about the fun again.



In line

Crazy monkeys.

Leeloo rode the Merry-Go-Round while we were having our fun.
Next up was Mickey's Fun Wheel. I was more hesitant about this than the roller coaster! It's so very tall. Also, the boys didn't want to ride in the stationary car, they wanted the one that swung to and fro while the ride was in motion. It seemed entirely too grown up for the chiquita. I was sure she'd be frightened. Of course, I was totally wrong. She completely dug it. 

Mickey's Fun Wheel. 

One of the longer lines. Devices, Dum Dums and PlayDoh had to all be utilized.

Our evening consisted of dinner, Cars Land again and World of Color. World of Color is pretty amazing (check video), but very long and crowded. The chiquita was into it, but the boys were kinda dragging by that point. To their complete joy, when the show was over at ten, Leeloo begged to go back to Pirates of the Caribbean. I think we only rode it twice that night. Maybe three times, by midnight it was kinda a blur.


Cars Land is so pretty at night.



Beyond tired.


Monday, September 1, 2014

Disneyland Vacation: Day 1


It has happened. I have drunk the Kool-Aid. I officially converted to the cult of Disney. I had never quite understood the appeal, but now I feel the magic coursing through my veins. Blessing or curse that it's only an hour away?

 I have been wanting a family vacation for a while. We take lots of trips to visit relatives, but we never have taken the time to hang out as a small family unit. D was on board and he suggested Hawaii. We have a friend with a house there, so all we needed were plane tickets. Hawaii. In the summer. The tickets I found were just under $7000 for all of us (round trip)! Crazy talk. I just wanted something simple, that we could all do together, and wouldn't make me feel like we were wasting valuable college funds. Immediately I thought of Disney.

 It's been 25 years since I've been to the Magic Kingdom. D had wanted to wait until Leeloo was older (5-ish), but with that comes older (and probably more angst-y) boys. D also suggested that we only drive up for the day. I wanted a vacation. Time together. Non-rushed, relaxing time together. I looked up packages and found that for nearly a third of the cost of Hawaii plane tickets, we could spend a week in Mickeyland. D was in.

 We drove up on Monday evening after D came home from work. The traffic was great and it only took us an hour to get to Disney's Grand Californian Hotel. The hotel is a little extravagant, but my main concern was being able to easily access a room at nap time. This hotel isn't near the park, it's practically IN the park, there is even a private entrance to California Adventure. It was ideal.

The Grand Californian is beautiful. It's rustic and impressive. And, of course, so much is tailored for the kiddos. As we checked in the kids were seated in small rockers watching Disney cartoons. There is also a resident pianist that plays all the favorites in the lobby. Check-In took a little longer because they didn't have the room we requested right away (that included a Queen, Bunk Beds & a Trundle - 4 beds in all), but they were quick to alleviate the situation and we were settled in in no time.

All ready for the trip!
Beautiful doors
Kids lobby corner.

Grandiose.



The First Night:

Our first priority was food. Downtown Disney was right out the door, so we headed into the melee to find a restaurant. I was fairly amazed at how well Disney immerses you in the experience. There were lights, music, and everything just seemed fun. We wandered and smiled, and Leeloo pointed out every character picture she recognized. The boys pointed out everything they thought was "so cool". All of us were feeling the buzz.

The boys chose to eat at ESPN Zone (with TVs and a full size arcade). Luckily, we sat outside so we weren't too bombarded with stimulation. It was great to hear the music and people watch. We were already tallying how many girls were princesses. The dinner wasn't fantastic (food was really an issue for me the whole trip), but it was edible.

That night we played games, shopped around and saw the Disney fireworks for the first time. It was a perfect way to start our trip.










The Super Lego Store



Wall of Legos. Every brick, every size.


Racing Lego cars.

Day 1 (the first official Disneyland day):

Another Disney hotel perk is Extra Magic Hour. All guests get to enter the parks one hour early. It was so nice to start the days off without ginormous lines!

Our first stop was Fantasyland. Right away we rode a handful of "dark rides" without a wait. I have to admit that I don't understand these rides. Especially Snow White and Pinnochio. They are terrifying! Even Mr. Toads Wild Ride ends in Hell. What's up with that Disney? The kids liked them though, and the chiquita found her favorite word for the trip: "again!".

We also rode the carousel, Dumbo, and Casey Jr.'s Circus Train. All without more than a 15 minute wait. The only drawback of Magic Hour is the timing. The gate opens at 8am, so to get the full hour you have to be there ahead of time. That means getting three kids up, dressed and fed by 7:30 (and without a kitchen). The first day we decided to head over and then eat at the park. It sounded like a good plan until we kept getting distracted by rides without lines. Eventually we opted for packed snacks and fruit.

Playing with princesses.



Waiting for the carousel.



Dumbo.

Casey Jr's Circus Train



Just after nibbling we met up with some friends who drove up to spend the day with us. Kiddie time was over. It was boy time! They all got fast passes for Space Mountain, then we headed to Pirates of the Caribbean. Little did we know that Pirates was gonna be Leeloo's favorite ride in the park. We rode it NINE times during our visit. Nine. Every morning she wakes up and asks, "Mami, arg?", and I have to explain to her that the Pirates are far away for now.

Pirates of the Caribbean.

So excited about her first Pirates ride!

Yo Ho, Yo Ho!


We finished our afternoon with the Haunted Mansion and the chiquita and I left the boys to catch a nap. We caught the train to the entrance and she rode the stroller back to the hotel. Again, staying at the Grand was our best decision ever.

Sleepy girl.


Mommy's treat: wine and Netflix.


The chica took a 3 hour nap and I enjoyed air-conditioned quiet time. As soon as she was up we headed back to find the boys. They were in Tomorrowland and just about to jump on Star Tours (which Ripley is too small for), so we headed towards the Buzz Lightyear ride, Astro Blasters. Ripley loved trying to shoot the targets, even if she had a high score of zero!

Buzz is one of Ripley's favorite characters.

Dum dums - mommy's long line distraction.

The boys were then ready for something sweet, so we went back to main street, and in perfect time to see Ripley's absolute favorite - Elsa and Anna! (There is actually a whole Frozen meet and greet, but the lines were always around 2 hours long! I didn't want anyone losing that much time!)






The Frozen float was such a highlight for Leeloo. I don't know if I've ever seen her so starstruck before! We finished up the evening with It's a Small World (longest ride ever - it goes on and on and on), Toon Town, and Pirates yet again.  Not bad for our first day.

Back at the room we turned on the TV and Snow White told us a bedtime story.