Sunday, September 29, 2019

Vacation Mode

In the past month, we've taken two week-long vacations. It has been... luxurious.

Hole-in-the-rock Trail, Papago Park - Phoenix, Arizona - September 16, 2019

First, at the end of August, we went to Southern California. We met up with parents, siblings, and nieces and nephews. We were with extended family every day. It was amazing to get this quality time with people we love. Watching Everett and Imogen interact with their cousins is heartwarming in a way that is difficult to describe.

Cousin silliness - August 30, 2019

Two of the days we spent at Disneyland - and we got the most out of our park admission. Got there when the gates opened, stayed until the night shows. About 13-hours inside the parks each day. It was the first time we did that, and the kids did pretty well.

Cars Land with the Fiorani Fam - August 26, 2019

Reasons this trip to Disney was awesome:
  • The parks were EMPTY - school had just started for most of SoCal
  • Our kids have been a few times, so it wasn't a huge deal if we missed an attraction or two (for example, we didn't seek out characters in the park, since it wasn't of interest to our nephews)
  • Extra adults and big kids meant we got to ride a few more of the "big rides" - Elizabeth rode Radiator Springs Racers, Splash Mountain, and Indiana Jones for the first time since the kids were born
  • Everett was tall enough for Smuggler's Run (aka the Millennium Falcon ride) - He was super overwhelmed, but still enjoyed himself; he is still talking about the great job he did rescuing the "spaceship" from the TIE fighter a month later
  • We finally saw the Frozen musical, and both the kids had stars in their eyes (when they weren't asleep)
  • Letting the kids pick out Bolt stuffed animals after being Bolt-obsessed for months was totally worth it
  • We lucked into a nearly private visit with Mickey and Minnie at the end of the day. It was dark, our pictures are blurry, but the kids were delirious and so in love with the mice
  • Our lodging was literally across the street from the park entrances - AMAZING for getting to the parks at opening (thanks Mom & Dad!)
  • We took a "rest day" between the park days to sleep in (to a leisurely 7am), use the hotel pool, amble around Downtown Disney, and best of all - character dining at one of the hotels.  Watching Evie teach Minnie and Donald how to be a pup (like Bolt) was adorable. 
Donald's Breakfast at the PCH Grill - HIGHLY recommend - August 27, 2019

Ways it could get even better:
  • It was sometimes tough to manage people going on "big rides" that Evie and Immy are too small for - we got creative, but it was a struggle at times
  • We should've opted for the fireworks instead of Fantasmic. As much as we personally love Fantasmic, it was harder to see and the kids didn't recognize all the characters. The fireworks and accompanying displays on Main Street (it SNOWED during Let It Go!) seemed more magical
  • When the kids top 40" and 42" - the ride opportunities really open up
  • It was very hot and sweaty - there's a reason we typically avoid the summer!
After all of that, we even checked out a new park - Knott's Berry Farm. Chris had never been, and Elizabeth hadn't been since she was eight. Knott's Berry is owned by the same company as Cedar Point and other amusement parks, and has a similar feel. We spent a lot of time at Camp Snoopy, with lots of rides for the littles and the opportunity to meet Peanuts characters. Then there is a wild west type area and loads of giant roller coasters / spinny things. While too short for most of the non-Camp-Snoopy rides, we had mostly a blast with a few major meltdowns. We got robbed on a train and Everett rode his first log ride (surprise - he loved it). 

The day was shorter (only 8 hours of park open!) and getting to try a boysenberry frappuccino while the kids (finally) napped were highlights. Worth the trip, but a noticeable difference from Disney in the style of it. There's a significant price difference, and it's true that you get what you pay for in the ambiance and experience of the day.

Pig Pen's Mud Buggies with Grandma F! - August 29, 2019

That sounds like enough, right? But even after all that fun time (and saying goodbye to one side of the family), we spent the weekend with another set of cousins. Much lower-key from a planning aspect, but put four kids under eight together and "low-key" is not really an apt description. We swam, we played rescue-kidnappers, we dressed up, we read books, we screamed, we wrestled, we buried kids and adults under stuff animal mountains, and we made s'mores. It was awesome.

S'moresin' - August 31, 2019

Two weeks after that, we took an entirely different vacation. We packed up our little family and took a short flight to Phoenix, Arizona. Where we know no one. Where we had zero obligations. It was the most relaxing trip we've had in ages - six years, to be exact. 

Hole-in-the-rock trail, Papago Park - Phoenix, Arizona - September 16, 2019

We spent our days visiting the multiple hotel pools and splash pads, seeing what Phoenix had to offer toddlers, and participating in some of the resort activities (more s'mores!). We only had a scheduled early wake-up one day - and that was to hike before it got too hot outside. The kids got to play ukuleles, harps, percussion, and nickelodeons at the Musical Instrument Museum. They ran around like maniacs at the Children's Museum of Phoenix. They sweated it out one morning at the McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park. And they saw their first in-theater movie: Toy Story 4...

Elizabeth: Evie, what did you think of that?
Everett: That...was...AWESOME!

Musical Instrument Museum - Phoenix, Arizona - September 17, 2019

Everett said it all when he started crying that he didn't want to leave vacation and didn't want to leave Arizona (he told us he has already planned our return trip for our next vacation). We get it, buddy. And we need to keep prioritizing family time like this. It's so easy to get bogged down by the day-to-day chores and obligations. Even days off at home get swallowed up by to-do lists and anxieties. Getting away, just our little unit, was what we really needed.

Pretending to be cacti - September 16, 2019

More pictures...

Tall enough! Galaxy's Edge - August 28, 2019

Woodstock's Airmail - Knott's Berry Farm - August 29, 2019

McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park - September 15, 2019 (I got a LOT of "Go Blue!")

The "Lizard Lagoon" - no deeper than 1.5 feet and all awesome - September 17, 2019

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