Saturday, September 26, 2009

Day 5 - Halloween time and crowds, crowds, crowds

Today marked the first day of the great HalloweenTime celebration in Disneyland. There are a few special things that happen in the park for Halloween. In addition to lots and lots of Halloween decorations everywhere (which I love) and the characters all wearing costumes, the haunted mansion is redone for Christmas and Halloween (love it btw) and new this year are the Halloween fireworks (very very good) and the new Ghost Galaxy space mountain. Space mountain sure brought out the crowds this morning. In all of our journeys to Disneyland - summer, winter, spring break - I have never seen the park as busy as it was today. It was hot, it was humid, and it was crowded.

We knew that Space mountain was going to be busy and so we rushed at rope drop to Space Mountain. We were fortunate and made it on within the first half hour of the park being open. As we were up in the queve we saw the line was backed up all the way towards main street. The big change was the ride had firey ghosts all over in it and they chase you in the dark and try to grab you. It wasn't bad but we missed our normal space mountain.
After getting off the ride we got a fast pass for it. Within a couple of hours the ride was out of fast passes for the whole day - all the way through midnight and the ride had a 95 minute wait - crazy I tell ya!

Before heading back to the hotel to get away from the heat and the crowds we had made reservations for Cafe Orleans. We have never had a famous Monte Cristo and so we took this opportunity to try one - very good!

And the yummy Mickey Beignets (Had them before, but they were worth a second taste)!!!

The best part of the new Space Mountain is what happens to the exterior at night. Every 8 minutes a different effect happens on the exterior. Sometimes the ghosts scratch their way out, or collapse the mountain, or electrocute it - very cool effects!

The Great Mickey Pumpkin (with strangers in front of it)

Obviously a very special person has been on our mind during this trip. Everything we've bought on this trip has been for our little baby (Notice the special character in the center of the picture). We have also been buying some pictures for baby's room but we are saving those for another day!

The home stretch - Day 4

We made it into the final 3 days of our Disneyland vacation. After taking the first three days pretty easy we decided to pick up the pace a little to get in everything we wanted to do.

We had done most of the big rides by this point and so we weren't too concerned about riding those.

We used our Magical Morning this morning and the park was packed. We specifically used our early hour so we could ride Finding Nemo and were disappointed to find that Finding Nemo was down. A quick trip to City Hall to ask for a fast pass for later in the day fixed that problem.

More and more Halloween decorations are showing up every night. I love fall so I have really been enjoying the decorations!

After a busy and hot morning in the park we headed back to our room to relax for awhile. We have definitely been getting our exercise these past few days. Our hotel is about a mile away from the park and with two trips back and forth a day and all the walking in the parks we have been whipping ourselves into shape. Doesn't make us feel too guilty for indulging on the treats. Today we indulged on our favorite Disneyland treat and went to the Blue Bayou for our special Disneyland dinner.
This restaurant is inside the Pirates of the Caribbean ride and while VERY expensive it is a tradition we look forward to experiencing in every year. The ambiance is great and there was a little old man playing a banjo on the balcony of Club33 playing traditional New Orleans style music that added to the experience.

For dinner we had 5 Pepper New York Strip Steak

Filet Mignon:

And finished our meal with the delicious Chocolate Chip Cookie Boat!!!

After dinner we waddled over to Finding Nemo and used our fast passes to ride it for the very first time:
The boats were little but the Finding Nemo elements were a great addition to the submarines which used to be very boring. The ride was much much more entertaining then I remember it being.
As evening set on the happiest place on earth, Peter pulled out his camera and we wandered the park taking lots of pictures! We love Disneyland at night :)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Day 3

This is what vacation looks like to me:

Chocolate chip and snickerdoodle cookie frosted sandwich! Yummy!!!

Vacation is still going very well. The weather has gotten very hot but I will not complain about it. I imagine fall will have hit Oregon by the time we get home so I want to enjoy all the sun I can get because it is going to disappear for several months.

We had another low key day in the parks. Did a few other things that we have not done before. The parks had really low crowds and so it was just very relaxing.

We were finally able to watch the Pixar parade. We've just never taken the time to watch this 15 minute show. It is kind of fun as it is a water parade and so the characters spray water as they go through the route.

Our favorite - The Incredibles characters (but no Dash, how dissapointing)

Adorable little Boo:

Another tasty thing that we just discovered - Frozen apple juice. There is only one stand in the whole park that serves it.

We did our best to take advantage of all of the indoor air conditioned rides. We hit up the new It's a Small World. We loved the new additions to the ride. They have now added close to 30 Disney characters to the ride and that was fun to see!

Baby Dash's home country:

Monday, September 21, 2009

Fun in the Sun, In the Happiest Place on Earth

We are happily enjoying our Disneyland vacation! Since we do have a full week in the parks we are taking our time and enjoying the little things in addition to riding the big rides. Sunday the park was pretty busy as is to be expected on the weekends but Monday the park was very unpredictable. The crowds were low and the big attractions that usually have long wait times were walk on - like Grizzly River which usually has an hour or more wait didn't even allow you to get fast passes today because the ride was walk-on all day long. That was very surprising as the weather is unseasonably hot even for Southern Cal. The smaller attractions that usually aren't busy though, had unusually long lines. It just challenged our Disneyland skills a little bit but we still just fine!

Sunday we left Portland at 7:00 in the morning and arrived 20 minutes early into the very very small Long Beach airport. The flight was very calm and I wish every flight was as smooth as that one was.

As we arrived very early our room was not yet ready and so we did the logical thing and headed for the parks!

With the system we use we had no problem doing the rides. As night came over the park we went over to Paradise Pier which most of you know is where Peter proposed! They are doing a huge renovation of the entire California Adventure Park and one of the first things to go was sadly the Mickey Mouse behind the loop on Screamin' that Peter proposed in front of. This is what has taken its place:

Not all that impressive of a change, but I am okay with that because Mickey has been transformed into something amazing on what used to be the "Sun Wheel" which is now Mickey's Fun Wheel:

The cool thing about the fun wheel is that it is LED lights that are constantly changing color and patterns. I am impressed with this change and I can now forgive Disney for taking my proposal spot away. We would have gotten our yearly photo in "our spot" but the location is behind walls right now being changed into a big amphitheatre and the lagoon is right now drained for tons and tons of fountains to be added. We will definitely get some construction pics by the time the trip is over as it is kind of cool to see.

Before the night was out we wanted to hit some of our trip goals as we had a lot of them. So we headed over to Pooh's Corner and got ourselves one of the most famous treats in Disneyland - The Tigger Tail!!! A Tigger Tail consists of 4 Marshmallows dipped in caramel Sauce then covered in Orange flavored chocolate. It was very sweet and pretty good!

After indulging our sweet tooth we waited for the first showing of Fantasmic to end so we could find a seat for the second showing. During the first showing we found a spot to wait where we just so happened to be able to watch the behind the scenes happenings of Fantasmic. We got to watch the stage crew run around and do quick changes of themes on boats. We watched the monkeys run off boats and princesses run on and it was just really cool to watch all of the tricks. The stage crew is pretty awesome!

After the show ended we still had to wait for the Fireworks show to end and then we finally were able to move into the area and get ourselves a seat! We had about an hour to wait and for the first time every - after being up since 3:30 in the morning - I fell asleep in Disneyland! It was short lived though, I promise.

Finally at 10:30 it was our turn to watch Fantasmic! No matter how many times we've seen the show we still enjoy it!

This time was even better as there have been a few changes to the show since the last time and one of those being the HUGE anametronic dragon which I believe is the biggest anametronic figure ever built. The dragon has been nicknamed "Murphy" as he was advertised all summer as the new big thing at Disneyland. He was supposed to premiere in June but due to technical difficulties he was advertised all summer long but only premiered a matter of weeks ago. If you've ever seen Fantasmic before then you would notice how incredible the change from the old to the new dragon is. This new dragon is impressive! Mark another vacation goal off our list!!

That was the end of day 1. We headed back to our room for a short night of sleep as we were going to conquer another goal on Day 2 - stay in a park from open to close!
Monday had the shortest park hours of any day during our trip so we decided that would be our best bet of being in a park from open to close. Now if the parks were on summer hours still then there is no chance we would be able to survive the 17+ hour days. Fortunately for us there was a special private event (more on that later) in the parks tonight and they closed early. So we only had to make it 9 hours to fulfill this goal!

This is the park entrance for this year. We aren't that impressed with it! They are in the process of changing the parks into Halloween decorations right now so it has been fun to see the parks change a little bit every night with more and more decorations. As the Halloween events launch on Friday, we expect to see lots of changes in the next couple of days!

So this is a picture to prove that we made rope drop this morning. Here we are waiting for them to open the floodgates!

After rope drop we got a few fastpasses (which we never used) and headed to Fantasyland. Here's a tip for everyone with little kids. Hit Fantasyland first or you will be sorry. There are very little wait times in the early morning hours (With the exception of Peter Pan and sometimes Dumbo) for the Fantasyland rides. We walked on all the dark rides then let Peter cross another one of his goals off his list. Ride the teacups for the very first time and spin them as fast as you can! I don't do rides that go in circles so Peter rode alone and spun the teacup to his hearts content :)

We did some more stuff - not that I can remember it all. I know we went over to California Adventure for their rope drop and were the first group on for Toy Story Midway Mania (another goal!) We have never gotten a chance to do this ride and it was a very cool 3D shoot em for points ride!
We hung around for awhile. Then headed back to Disneyland for yep - you guessed it - another goal task to complete! We watched Billy Hill and the Hillbillies. We have never seen the show! It was an entertaining show that we enjoyed! It is a comedic country group who play banjo's and fiddle's and they throw in some rock music (Elvis) and some rap, and other genre's!

So we hung out and walked around and did some more rides in the afternoon. The park was closing early for the night at 6:00 due to a private event that nobody was talking about. We were hoping it was something big so we did some investigating as the park was closing. About an hour before the park closed we started seeing people in suits running around and video equipment moving around and dressed up groups of workers. The best one was following a cart being pushed through the park with a sheet over it. They didn't do a very good job covering the side of the box and you could clearly see hard alcohol under the sheet which is funny because Disneyland does not sell alcohol.

Money does amazing things and this party was definitely something that cost a lot of money. We were hoping for some big event but in the end it just ended up being some big Alliance of Security so and so's event. I can't imagine how an association can get away with blowing that type of money on a huge event like that during this economy.

So we stuck around the park until someone kicked us out. Peter got some pictures of the event preparation. There were little boxed off sections of the park all day today and we assumed they were part of the Halloween decorations going up but apparently they were for this big party. Right at 6:00 the walls went down and tables started going up. We also found out they would be doing a private showing of Fantasmic for this group.

We found all the bars being set up everywhere pretty funny. A lady walked by us and said "Mickey's gonna get plastered tonight!". Even as we were leaving the whole water front was being transformed and bars and tables were being set up right in front of Indiana Jones. Still amazed at what money can buy :)
Day 2 complete. Here is proof that we stayed in the park until after closing!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Vacation Goals (yes we have them)

This week we are busy trying to push through the work week and get things done so we can have a very fun week next week! On Sunday we leave for a week of fun in Disneyland! Peter has been working late as he has a lot of things to try to get done before he takes off for a week. We are also trying to finish up some paperwork for the adoption and also getting our house and yard clean because our state background checks could be back any day now and we have to be prepared for the potential of having home study visits right after returning home.

This will be the 6th year in a row for me to visit a Disney park and I hope that this is a yearly streak that I never have to break ;)

I took a trip with the high schoolers from our school on our way down to Mexico. I was able to spend my 18th Birthday in Disneyland and that was a very fun experience!

The next year Peter proposed to me in Disneyland.

The 3rd time was on our honeymoon.

The 4th time we did something a little different and spent 10 days in DisneyWorld

And last year we spent our 2nd wedding anniversary in Disneyland and even got to experience an earthquake on our anniversary!

So obviously Disneyland is very near and dear to our heart and we are looking forward to some new experiences this time around. The added benefit of spending the entire week there is that we can take our time and really experience some of the less known parts of the happiest place on earth!

With that we leave you with a list of our vacation goals (I hope we get to do it all!)

1) Eat a famous Monte Cristo
2) Go to Billy Hill and the Hillbillies
3) Ride the new It's a Small World
4) Ride the Halloween Overlay Space Mountain
5) Ride Nemo Submarines
6) Ride Haunted Mansion Halloween Overlay
7) Do Toy Story Midway Mania
8) Watch the Pixar Parade
9) See the new Fantasmic Dragon
10) Get into the Disney employee store
11) Ride Screamin 5 times in a row
12) Go to our ritual Blue Bayou Dinner
13) Eat Mickey Beignets
14) Try a Tigger Tail
15) Peter wants to ride the teacups for the first time ever and spin them
16) Ride Mickey's Funwheel
17) Watch the Halloween Fireworks
18) Have a Dole Whip Float EVERYDAY!
19) Go to Turtle Talk with Crush
20) Open the park and close the park
21) Go to Pirate's Lair
22) Try to finally enjoy Indiana Jones
23) Do "Toontown"

We may still add more to this list.

Busy, busy trip but since this WILL be our last childless trip to the park we want to be sure to do everything we've ever wanted to do but haven't gotten to do.

We will be sure to take pictures of our progress as we work through this list of goals! It will be a lot of fun :)

Friday, September 4, 2009

Days go by!!!

I know it has been a long time! Seriously though, our life hasn't consisted of much besides adoption, adoption, adoption. Throw in some work and fundraising (but that's adoption related) and sleep and that's our exciting life :) We do have our much anticipated Disneyland vacation just 2 short weeks away!!! We plan on thoroughly enjoying ourselves and doing anything and everything we've ever had any desire to do in the parks as this will be our last kid-free trip to Disneyland!!!

So life is busy with the adoption process. We are almost 2 months in and we have accomplished a lot. This has already been a huge learning process and even though I have already posted something similar to this on our adoption blog ( I thought I would share some of those lessons here too!

Adoption Process Lessons Learned:

1) It is possible to fall completely, 100% in love with a child you've never seen, met, or even know exists yet.
As we have talked with other adoptive families and lots of families who have both biological and adopted children one thing they consistently say is how different the "pregnancy" process is in both cases. When you are physically pregnant you have that physical love and bond with your child. When you adopt you have this overwhelming feeling in your heart for your child and this emotional bond that is unexplainable. Words cannot describe the transformation in our hearts for this little one!

2) The tasks that you might think are going to be difficult, might actually be the easiest.
We had an idea of what things might be the most difficult to complete and surprisingly those things came together pretty quickly. All of our references turned in their paperwork quickly, our employers only took a day in completing their letters, our medical appointments were quick and the paperwork got done faster than we expected! Some things we expected to be a piece of cake ended up taking longer. Parenting education was very long and sometimes hard! A simple task of going to our local police station to get fingerprinted ended up being drug out for two weeks! Obtaining vital records from Oregon and Alaska proved to be quite the expense. We really should have had no expectations!

3) EVERYTHING is expensive
Our governmental fees for processing fingerprints is high but that is nothing compared to what our government charges for getting vital records. On top of that we are also required to overnight those forms to ourselves so throw in another 50 bucks for a stupid piece of paper :) Lots of high overnighting fees and tracking fees have already been accumulated! The medical appointments could have proved to be expensive but fortunately we have a great doctor who was willing to work with us and "follow up" on other issues we've been seen for while we were there ;) We have also been warned to expect the vaccinations to cost close to $1200 since insurance probably won't cover them. Did I also mention that my employer took away any paid maternity leave due to the fact that this child will not physically be coming out of my body? Nice huh?

4) The paperwork really isn't that bad.
When we received our paperwork from our agency it was very intimidating. Fortunately the agency does 2 scheduled phone calls (one for the home study and one for the dossier) right after you get your binders and walks you through everything! I still get bi-weekly phone calls with our case manager who just sees how things are going and helps me with any questions I have about the dossier paperwork. Did I mention I love our agency :) We dug right into everything and it only took 3 solid weeks of hard work to get everything done and believe me when I say there was A LOT to get done! All the home study paperwork was turned in on Monday and now we wait for our State and Federal background checks to come back so we can start our home study visits. Best case scenario we get our state checks back in about 2 weeks and start our home study visits when we get home from Disneyland and then turn in our dossier and get wait listed sometime in mid to late October!

5) Waiting on others is not fun at all.
This process requires little action on our parts and lots of waiting on others. So much of the process requires us to wait on others to fill out forms but fortunately most of that has gone very smoothly. We are currently just waiting on our government to process our background checks, which everyone knows waiting on the government is really no fun at all! In a matter of weeks we will be waiting to get a referral and we expect that to be exciting and very very difficult all at the same time!

6) Emotional
Peter and I are not "emotional" people. This is another thing that is difficult to explain and yet other adoptive parents completely understand. Watching videos online of families getting their babies or videos of the conditions in other countries are very difficult for us to watch without becoming emotional. Thinking about these mother's having to give the ultimate sacrifice to give their children a better life or even a chance to live another a year is heartbreaking. We are part of a large community of AGCI (our agency) families in all different stages of the adoption process. We get emotional when we read about another family being moved to adopt, or when a family tells their story of getting "the call" for their little one!

7) Satan is a jerk
Okay so we already knew that but there is no other way to put it! We are obviously doing something that he is not happy about and he is trying to pull out all the stops to prevent us from doing this. Fortunately we have someone much better on our side and he is protecting us and helping us in every way to go get our baby!!! We have this very strong sense that this baby is going to do amazing things for God in their lifetime and that obviously rubs satan the wrong way. The only way that satan can stop this is to try to divide us and so logically he is attacking our marriage. Again, this is difficult to explain but at times lately being married has proven to be difficult. We love each other, we understand who is trying to divide us, and we are strong and will not let that happen! Our marriage is not in jeopardy by ANY means but we are being honest in saying things are not as easy as they once were, and yet we are also closer emotionally and spiritually than ever before, and more in love with each other than we've ever been!

8) We have an amazing support system.
So many people have come forward to help us. We've received amazing prayer support from our friends and family and others who don't even know us! That is the greatest blessing we've received and we've already seen many prayers answered! We've received financial blessings from people and that has been very humbling for us! We stand in awe of how our friends and family have supported us in this way. Even people we've never met before are stumbling across our blog and feeling moved to help bring our baby home! People are donating their time and resources to help us in our fundraising efforts. We appreciate everyone who gave up their evening to come bowl with us and raise money! We thank everyone for their generous garage sale donations and filling bottles with spare change!

9) God is so very good!
Yeah, that is pretty obvious but it is worth saying!!!