Friday, December 31, 2010

Blogging From Gavifornia

Gavin:  What’s the biggest hill in Gavifornia?

I have been meaning to create a private blog for Gavin for a while now.  Today I have done that.  I don’t know how often he will write on it but he’s pretty excited; once we get his email up and running so he can accept the invitation to write on his own blog!  This will be a great place for him to write his stories and learn typing skills all at once.  Don’t you just love technology?  By the way, his blog is actually called In Gavin’s World.  Although Blogging From Gavifornia is pretty cute too for a 7 year old. 

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Under the Sea

Ariel’s Grotto was an interesting experience. 

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It was something I was really looking forward to because it’s a character experience with only Disney Princesses.  Gwen loves Disney Princesses. 

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Melina and Breena do too.  We were going to have this wonderful luncheon with princesses.  The girls were going to love it. 

Originally the girls had an appointment at Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique to get all dressed up to meet the princesses.  With all the rain we decided to change the appointment to the last day where no rain was forecasted and the girls could take Disneyland home with them. 

Grandpa took Garrett and Gavin to The Golden Horseshoe for lunch and for some male bonding time.  They had lunch and did some rifle shooting and rode some rides.  You know, guy stuff.  Gavin could not have been happier.  Parker decided to stay with the rest of us and see some princesses. 

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That’s my boy!  The ladies man.  He had a lot of fun with us. 

When the restaurant was ready for us we went down a spiral staircase and under the sea.  Ariel was waiting to get pictures with each family.  Many families brought princess dresses to the restaurant and changed their girls while waiting to be seated.  That was a smart idea.  Some girls had been to the boutique and looked so pretty. 

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We went as is.  Please note the smile on Gwen’s face.  It’s the last time you’ll see it. 

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I’ve never been in an underwater restaurant before.  It was very beautiful.  The view from the French doors was of Paradise Pier and Mickey’s Wheel of Torture Mickey’s Fun Wheel.  The ambiance was fabulous.  The food was really good too. 

Ariel’s Grotto is not a buffet like Goofy’s Kitchen.  It’s a fancy sit down meal where all guests are seated before anything really starts.  Kind of like a royal undersea party.  Our family was seated early on so we sat around for what felt like an hour before our waiter came to take our order.  It’s ok.  I had Diet Coke and it was refilled a couple times. 

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The waiter also brought out some appetizers for all the guests.  Each table was given these appetizer towers with three tiers as well as baskets of bread.  Gwen and Parker loved the Jell-O slices and string cheese the best.  While we waited the kids each had a crown, coloring page/menu, and a full sticker sheet to play with. 

When it was time to order most of us ordered the tri tip, including Parker.  Heath was proud of him and said, “That’s my little man!”  Parker thought it sounded good because I described it as “meat your dad makes on the grill with mashed potatoes.”  He was instantly sold.  The tri tip and potatoes were so good.  I was very impressed.  Heath has made me a tri tip snob.  But then again the tri tip I’ve eaten from other people tastes like lighter fluid and that’s not good eats right there! 

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As we ate a page came out to announce the arrival of each princess.  Then she would make her way around the room stopping in order at each table and posing for pictures.  Note Gwen’s disgust and my last effort at enjoying the experience. 

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Gwen whined and cried enough that I stopped trying to hold her in the pictures.  Then she wouldn’t sit in her seat and insisted on sitting on my lap.  I look relatively nice in the picture but as soon as I caught Heath’s eye I glared at him and hissed, “You owe me!”  So he made her sit back down so I could take deep swigs of Diet Coke. 

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I kept waiting for the check.  We were all done eating except Gwen who hardly looked at her macaroni and cheese.  The waiter refilled my Diet Coke and said something about it being nice we didn’t have to pay for Gwen’s meal since she was still considered an infant until she turned 3.  Then dessert was brought out.  It was good too. 

When the whole experience was said and done we had been there for almost two hours.  I was so done and so ready for it all to be over.  I think I would have enjoyed the slow, deliberate agenda if it weren’t for Gwen who reminded me with her bratty behavior that I should never build something up too much ahead of time.  It’s nice to look at the pictures and see that Melina and Breena had a lot of fun.  I didn’t pay much attention to them since I had my hands full with Terrible Two Year Old. 

Would I recommend Ariel’s Grotto?  Yes I would.  It is really a nice experience, especially if you have little girls who stay excited to be there.  Just plan on being there for a while. 

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Star Struck

What’s Disneyland without all the characters?

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On our first visit it was Gavin who was so excited to be with the characters and Parker was a little hesitant.  Now it seems to be the other way around.  Gwen was only happy with the characters on Sunday when we had dinner at Goofy’s Kitchen. 

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Notice the wallpaper in these pictures.  It’s a subtle Mickey Mouse head design. 

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Loving Pluto

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One of her favorite characters, Minnie Mouse.

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Geppetto came after all the kids went back to the room.

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Parker was in heaven seeing his friends from Toy Story.  This was the second time he got to see them.  The first time Grandpa took pictures.  Gwen was a little snot because she loves Jessie and would not even look at her.  Ariel’s Grotto was worse but that’s another post. 

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I was impressed with how much time the characters spent talking to us even with Little Miss Crankypants.  Jessie and the soldier made a big deal out of the pictures we drew at the Animation Academy, which made the boys’ day. 

Rain in Disneyland–What worked and what didn’t

Normally Southern CA doesn’t get more than three days of rain in a row.  We hoped that the intense, heavy rain on the drive down would be the end of it.  Oh how mistaken we were.  Parts of LA reported over 14 inches of rain in three days and that wasn’t on the last day of the rain. 

  • I bought rain boots for the kids and a rain jacket for Gwen before we left.  I honestly thought I had wasted my money.  Nope, it was the best investment I ever made! 
  • Gavin’s little windbreaker we bought him last year thinking it was weather proof just soaked up all the rain.  No worries.  Heath and I didn’t really have weather proof jackets either so we bought the Disney rain ponchos that everyone had.  Gavin sort of destroyed his.  I’m not sure how but he can be a fidgety person, lately with something constantly in his mouth.  So his poncho had a hole in it under the hole for his face.  It didn’t take long for the plastic to rip all the way down and have the whole poncho fall off around his feet as he walked.  We bought him a new Disneyland jacket. 
  • The ponchos were great and kept us dry and the kids were dry in their rain boots and weatherproof jackets.  We created a tent over Gwen in the stroller with ponchos that worked out pretty well.  Heath bought a hat and was much happier since it kept him a lot dryer. 
  • Before making the tent Gwen’s pants were soaked.  Hairdryers are just as good as a dryer.  We had two on her stroller and had the thing dry in no time.  It was dripping wet from sitting outside the Blue Bayou where we ate lunch on Monday. 

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  • The best part of the rain was that it kept the lines down.  I can only remember two or three rides that we actually had to wait for.  One was Midway Mania in CA Adventures and the others were on Thursday when the sun came out along with a phenomenal amount of people.  By the way, Disneyland has had to turn people away the last two days because they have sold out!  That is a lot of people. 
  • The other best part about the rain is that nobody looked good.  Everyone was bedraggled and wet with rolled up pants.  Everyone had fun but the rain definitely took out the fashion show element of Disneyland.  The only heels we saw were at night in Downtown Disney where people dressed up to go to dinner and had umbrellas.  And that was more like Wednesday and Thursday when the rain had stopped. 
  • One night Heath and I went out alone.  We left the kids with Grandma and Grandpa.  That was my favorite part of the whole trip.  Anyway, we left our ponchos in the room and took two umbrellas.  It completely changed everything.  My advice is to make sure everyone has their own umbrella.  If you have little kids like us and umbrellas are more trouble than they’re worth, do the poncho thing and accept the rain for what it is. 

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Kirk, Dayleen, and Breena in the first teacup.  Garrett and Melina in the second teacup.

  • Some rides were closed because of the rain.  My kids loved all the rides in Fantasyland and Storybook land but we couldn’t do most of them until Thursday.  We did stand in line for the Alice in ‘Wonderland ride but as soon as they announced it was a ride that closes for inclement weather we jumped out of line because there was so much more to do. 
  • Going for four days in the rain made us see more shows in CA Adventure.  The first time we went we were there for three days and didn’t see many shows.  The shows were great.  We saw Aladdin where Gwen cried when it was over.  We saw the Muppets in 3D.  We saw Turtle Talk with Crush twice and went to the Animation Academy where we learned to draw Goofy. 
  • We got fast passes for Soaring Over California twice.  That was the only ride we got fast passes for.  I know Kirk’s family did a lot more fast passes for rides our kids didn’t want to do. 

I’m sure there is a lot more to add to this list.  Dawn and Dayleen should add their own tips.  The Seattle Westovers (Kirk and Dayleen’s family) wore shorts and capris almost every day.  They never had to deal with their pants dragging in puddles. 

Jury Duty

For years I was the kind of person who never wanted to serve on jury duty and would think of any way to get out of it.  After a really obnoxious experience with jury duty summons in college I stopped registering to vote for many years. 

I guess it’s about time I was finally summoned for jury duty.  The good news was my date was today.  It’s good news because Heath has this week off of work so we didn’t have to rearrange our lives for me to do my civic duty.  When I received the summons in the mail I realized I had softened considerably in the 10 plus years since my last summons for jury duty.  I was actually willing to do it.  Wouldn’t I want a college educated person on my jury if, heaven forbid, I should have to have a trial by jury? 

Last night I tried to check in online.  One way told me nobody was needed for the 9:00 am roll call and to call between 11:00 and 12:00 today.  Another way sent me into a dead end.  So I called.  The computer guy told me to call back after 5:00 pm the night before my date.  Uh, I thought I was.  I called several times getting the same message.  I called this morning and got the same message. 

Remember how I freak out about going places out of my routine?  I was dying not knowing what was going on.  I was willing to serve on a jury, especially after the car accident just a few days ago, but I did not want to imagine the panic attack of getting there.  The courthouse is in Oakland and I would have to take BART.  By myself.  Can you say my heart was racing all day?  I called one more time and my instructions were to call back between 11:00 am and 12:00 pm tomorrow!

I called the office number listed to ask what gives since my instructions seemed to be for tomorrow when according to my paper I was supposed to be in court today.  The guy said in a surprised voice that I was supposed to be in a different courthouse than what I called.  Then he pulled up my number and told me that I was supposed to call back between 11:00 and 12:00.  He tried to end the call so I clarified.  “You want me to call after 11:00 today?”  “Uh, yes.” 

It was a very tense 30 minute wait but I called back and my instructions were that my group was dismissed and our service was over.  Holy huge sigh of relief!  I am free and clear for another year.  I have got to take a breath long enough to find a mental health professional!  Just give me the drugs so I can be a normal human being!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Sweet Suite

For the vacation of a lifetime we booked a three room suite in the Disneyland Hotel.  This is what made it the vacation of a lifetime.  Anyone can go to Disneyland and stay in an off site hotel/motel for a lot less money than any of the three on site Disneyland resort hotels.  We chose to stay in the Disneyland Hotel because it’s been recommended by friends as something worth doing at least once in one’s life.  The other reason was that Kirk and Dayleen’s kids had never been to Disneyland before.  Why not go all out and make it the most special trip possible? 

The Dream Tower, where we stayed, had been recently refurbished.  At least the suites on the 10th floor had been refurbished.  What I have heard about the Disneyland Hotel is that everything is Mickey. 

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This is kind of what I expected to see - Mickey shaped soap.  (The nail polish was from the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique)

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Everything was Mickey.  But it was so tastefully done.  I loved the rich look of the wallpaper.  It was so modern yet so Mickey.  Even the chunky, curvy frame of the mirror made me think Mickey.  The colors, textures, and style of literally everything in the room was so representative of Mickey Mouse it was amazing to me. 

I loved the shower tiles.  The bottom two thirds were a beige color.  Then there was a thick stripe of green and blue glass tiles with a subtle Mickey head etched on every other one.  I didn’t even notice the Mickey head etchings until the second to last day.  Heath never did notice.  It makes me wonder what else we missed because it was such a subtle detail.  Anyway, on top of the colored tiles were white subway tiles.  It was gorgeous.  I would totally tile a shower like that! 

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In each bedroom above the beds was this beautiful headboard with twinkling lights.  The lamp on the nightstand had two switches.  One for the lamp and the other for the twinkly lights.  When you flip the switch to the twinkly lights it would play When You Wish Upon a Star.  Then the lights would stay on as long as you wanted them on.  I think we turned them off once and housekeeping turned them back on when they turned down the beds and left us chocolates that night.  You know, for that magical ambiance.  We would leave them on all night so the room wasn’t completely dark. 

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These pillows were the first thing I noticed in the room.  Special touches everywhere. 

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This framed collage was in every room.  It was in a different place in each room but it was in every room.  I love it! 

The California Westovers, as we called ourselves the whole 6 months we planned this trip, stayed in the smallest room.  It had two queen size beds.  The bathroom was different from the other three bathrooms too.  Yes, there were four bathrooms in a three bedroom suite.  Sweet!  Our bathroom had a tub and shower and the toilet was behind it’s own door like it was tucked away in a cute little closet with a nice framed painting of the Jungle Cruise Adventure on the wall. 

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Grandma and Grandpa stayed in the middle room that sort of became the hallway for us to get to the main room.  Each room was separate but connected with adjoining doors.  So at night we all shut our adjoining doors for privacy.  Grandma and Grandpa’s room was spacious because it had one king sized bed.  They also had a single sink in their bathroom like us.  Kirk and Dayleen were the only ones with a double sink.  Grandma and Grandpa’s toilet was separated by a door too.  Their bathroom layout was slightly different from ours in that their toilet wasn’t around a corner like ours was.  I don’t really remember their room and I never looked in their bathroom.  I always felt bad that their room became the hallway. 

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Kirk and Dayleen were in the most private of the three rooms.  Their room was part of the main room.  They also had two queen size beds.  Their bathroom had the double sinks like I said and a separate glass shower.  We arrived first giving us the choice of any of the three rooms but we figured that since Kirk and Dayleen’s kids were older it would be nicer for them to have a little more space than we had.  I think the bathroom fit their needs better too. 

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I’m not enlarging this picture because it’s fuzzy.  It’s the only picture I can find of the main room.  The jackets are on the door that closed off Kirk and Dayleen’s room.  Housekeeping walked in on me twice right after I showered.  I started putting the Do Not Disturb sign outside because housekeeping came three or more times a day and I couldn’t keep up with their schedule!  Kirk and Dayleen just had to shut their door and housekeeping would have known not to go in there. 

The main room was awesome.  It had the seats you see Gavin sitting on plus a couch that pulled out into a bed.  That’s where Garrett and Gavin slept.  In the back corner was a fairly large round table with four chairs.  There was a refrigerator in the other corner.  Each room had a refrigerator too.  We kept all the breakfast food and snacks in this main room.  Of course we wouldn’t have spent $200 on food for everyone if we had known ahead of time we were part of the E-ticket club.  That meant that we could go up to the 11th floor and use our room keys to get into an elite concierge room with nearly round the clock snacks, food, and beverages (soda, hot chocolate, hot cider, etc). 

The one and only night the fireworks were not canceled due to insane amounts of rain, Kirk and Dayleen’s family watched from the 11th floor.  We happened to still be on the monorail and Grandma and Grandpa had made it to Main Street to see them live. 

Oh so back to the main room, there was a quarter bath and a coat closet.  The main room TV was the only one that did not have a DVD player but it had the Disney Channel on at least three different channels so the kids were happy when we came in to dry out. 

The suite was nothing like we imagined it would be.  It was better.  It was such an experience to stay there.  The concierge floor also had extremely friendly and helpful cast members.  I love how everywhere in Disneyland the employee only signs say Cast Members only.  It was so nice to go up there to relax and find a snack and just talk with whoever was working.  Heath and I went up there to change our appointment to Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique from Tuesday where steady downpour was forecasted to Thursday where sun was forecasted.  The guy got on his computer and worked his magic.  It was easy as could be. 

It was very expensive to stay where we did but it was totally worth every penny.  I would highly recommend the Disneyland Hotel to anyone.  I loved the Grand Californian when we went earlier this year but the Disneyland Hotel was even better.  Our Westover Family reunion was the trip of a lifetime and I’m glad we had such a magical time. 

Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas Say What

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New pajamas from Grandma Westover on Christmas Eve

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Gavin:  No no no no no!
Heath:  What’s wrong, Gavin?
G:  I didn’t get to save Donkey!
H:  Some dreams get interrupted.  Sorry.  Let’s go open presents!

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Checking out the tree first thing Christmas morning.  We sure got a lot of loot for a year we weren’t doing Christmas!

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Christmas is so much more fun with kids.

 
Parker:  Gavin!  Stop moving so I can shoot you!
Gavin to his new robotic hamster:  Try again . . . Maybe you shouldn’t be a guide. 

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“I need to brush my teeth!”
Santa gave each kid a new toothbrush and their very own toothpaste.  Oral hygiene has never been so fun. 

Santa gives the best stocking stuffers.  He also gave them all new underwear, which is a good thing since Gwen has been asking to be potty trained.  I was going to wait until her birthday but she’s finally ready.  She didn’t like the idea of wearing her Tinkerbell panties she got in her stocking last year.  The whole time at Disneyland she said she wanted Princess underwear.  How lucky that Santa gave her seven pair of Princess panties to wear. 

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We scored several games this year.  My brother and his family gave us this Flickin’ Chicken game that all three of us who can read thought said “Frickin’ Chicken.”  It’s a fun game.  We call the chickens flickin frickin chickens.


We told the kids the only toys they could buy from Disneyland were for their siblings as gifts for Christmas.  They all had a blast shopping for each other.  These are gifts Parker gave.  Gwen says, “This my Baby Witch” as she pushes her around in the stroller. 

Other Gwenisms:  Rapunzel = Punzel or Tangled
Beauty and the Beast = Belle and the Monster
Jasmine = Jazlynn
Snow White = Snow Wipe