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Disneyland 2003, Day Seven: In Praise Of My Daughters

We got home late, late Friday night…or early, early Saturday morning, depending on whether your a “glass half full” or “glass half empty” kind of person. (Personally, I’m a “if that’s all the water you wanted you should have just stooped down and drunk straight from the tap” kind of guy.)

Our drive time was extended because of a detour caused by the San Bernardino fires and just as we caught in the flood of gamblers returning from their Fabulous Las Vegas™ Weekends on the way down, we got caught in the flood of gamblers heading off on their Fabulous Las Vegas™ Weekends on the way back.

The girls held up remarkably well given all the delays. They are good little travellers. In fact…can I just take a moment to gush about my daughters?

The older they get and the more their personalities emerge, the more I love them. They’re not only great kids, they’re great people. People I would choose to spend time with even if I didn’t have to.

But I was honestly a little worried about this trip. We’d taken plenty of trips as a family of four, but this was our first as a new family of three. I was afraid that, with no real opportunities to take a break from each other, by day two they were going to be sick to death of me, tired, and homesick. Even the best little kids can get out of sorts when they’re out of their element for an extended period of time.

But I underestimated them. They were delightful companions from beginning to end and we had an absolute blast. And even when adults around them were losing their heads, the girls kept their cool.

Late one hot afternoon we were in the stand-by line for Soarin’ Over Calfornia when they started having problems with the whole center section of seats on the ride, cutting their capacity by one third.

Progress in the stand-by line slowed considerably while people with Fast Passes, which have priority, were flowing past us onto the ride. After about half an hour of moving very little, a lot of the adults in the stand-by line started getting surly. The people immediately in front of us and behind us were especially vocal.

After listening to all of the complaining going on around her, Emma looked up at me and said, “The line isn’t moving very fast, is it, Dad?”

“No, Emma. It’s not.”

She thought about it for a moment and then said, “That’s OK. It’ll be worth it.”

“Yeah,” Zoë concurred.

I could have kissed them…and, in fact, I did.

Disneyland 2003, Day Six: Jasmine at Last

Today was Disneyland’s Greatest Hits day. Everyone got to choose their favorite rides and we did them all again.

Zoë was denied a 7th ride on it’s a small world, since they’ve shut it down for a few weeks to put the Christmas version of the ride together. And we ended up missing Splash Mountain altogether this trip. It has been closed for renovations the whole time we’ve been here, but it was supposed to reopen today. Unfortunately, they didn’t finish the renovations in time, so it looks like we’ve missed it completely.

Once again, Zoë shocked everyone by suddenly deciding to go on The Haunted Mansion and, once again, ended up loving it.

But the highlight of our day was finally meeting Jasmine, from Disney’s Aladdin. Jasmine is Emma’s favorite Disney princess, and we were starting to worry that we’d never have a chance to meet her.

We’d already met Zoë’s favorite, Belle, on Tuesday.

Zoë Meets Belle
Zoë Meets Belle

But late in the afternoon, as we were coming back from Emma’s second ride on Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye, there she was.

Jasmine at Last
Jasmine at Last

And, yes, Aladdin was wearing more makeup than Jasmine…and, yes, it was a little disconcerting.

Disneyland 2003, Day Five: A Theme Park With A Theme

Today was spent at Disney’s California Adventure. We’d visited California Adventure once before shortly after the park opened and my only lasting memory of that visit is of the Superstar Limo ride, the lameness of which was absolutely breathtaking. In it, you would ride in a garish cartoon limousine through a garish cartoon Hollywood as garish cartoon plywood cutouts of ABC TV stars leapt out at you.

“Look! It’s Regis Philbin, host of ABC’s hit show Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? I wonder who the next millionaire might be. You can find out by watching Monday nights at 8 o’clock, 7 Central.”

“And look over there! There’s that wacky Drew Carey, star of the hit ABC comedy The Drew Carey Show. Drew and his wacky friends can be seen Tuesday nights at 9 o’clock, 8 Central.”

Mercifully, the Superstar Limo is no more.

Another problem with the park back then was that it was very kid unfriendly. There was just nothing for young kids to do. Mercifully, that problem, too, has been remedied. Not only have they added a terrific Playhouse Disney Live show, but they’ve opened a whole mini-park within the park called Flik’s Fun Fair.

While the rest of Disney’s California Adventure is a “theme park” in only the loosest sense of the term, Flik’s Fun Fair (based on A Bug’s Life) is exactly what a theme park should be. It has a theme and it follows that theme down to the tiniest of details.

For instance, Tuck and Roll’s Drive’Em Buggies are located under a discarded umbrella and decorated with Christmas lights and the contents of someone’s purse.

Tuck and Roll's Drive'Em Buggies
Tuck and Roll’s Drive’Em Buggies

Flik’s Flyers are made up of Chinese take-out, Snack Pack, animal cracker, and raisin boxes.

Flik's Flyers
Flik’s Flyers

Shade in the area is provided by towering clover.

Under Cover of Clover
Under Cover of Clover

And The benches are made up of used popsicle sticks.

Popsicle Stick Benches
Popsicle Stick Benches

Even the landscape lights fit into the theme.

No. 2 Pencils
No. 2 Pencils

It’s brilliant…and another sign that the best stuff coming out of Disney right now is really coming out of Pixar.

Disneyland 2003, Day Four: We Rode The Ride Piratical

One of the reasons we decided to come to Disneyland when we did was because my sister and brother-in-law were planning on being here at the same time. With their one-year-old son, Henry, in tow and a daughter, Isabel, who falls somewhere between Zoë and Emma on the Fraidy Cat/Fearless scale, I knew that if the collective was deadlocked over any rides, we could exploit them on occasion to break the deadlock.

Isabel Arrives to Break the Deadlock
Isabel Arrives to Break the Deadlock

So, today we were able to switch off so that those who wanted to go on the scary rides could, while the those less willing could stay behind and/or go ride it’s a small world until that wretched tune could etch itself into our brains for all eternity.

As expected, Emma “loved, loved, loved” Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye. It instantly became her “first most favoritest ride.”

Her First Most Favoritest Ride
Her First Most Favoritest Ride

Zoë, meanwhile, shocked everyone by suddenly deciding to go on Pirates of the Caribbean and ended up loving every minute of it…to the extent that it even displaced it’s a small world as her “first most favoritest ride.”

(I’m not exactly sure when the phrase “my first most favoritest ride” weaseled its way into our theme park lexicon. I’ve tried for three days to whittle it down to “my favorite ride” or even “my most favorite ride,” if they must, but there is no getting rid of it.)

As for my favorite ride, I’m with Zoë on this one. As far as I’m concerned, there is no ride in the world that can compete with Pirates of the Caribbean. I have a terrible long-term memory, but that ride had such an impact on me as a little boy that I have never forgotten it. The thrill of the first drop, the noble futility of the skeleton pilot still trying to steer his shipwreck through the howling storm, the almost certain destruction of our tiny boat by an errant cannonball, the drunkenness, the recklessness with which the pirates brandished their firearms. It all seemed so…so…unsafe. But safely unsafe.

Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate’s life for me…

Disneyland 2003, Day Three: The Collective

Lesson learned: When visiting a theme park as a single parent with young children, your great power as a decision-maker and tie-breaker is taken from you the moment you walk through the gate. You are, from that moment on, merely part of a collective. When there is a decision to be made, it must be brought before the collective. If all members of the collective do not agree on a particular decision, then no member of the collective may enjoy the benefits of that decision.

If one member of the collective decides that Pirates of the Caribbean is too scary, the collective does not go on Pirates of the Caribbean. If one member of the collective decides that The Haunted Mansion is too scary (even though it is in its less-threatening The Nightmare Before Christmas mode), the collective does not go on The Haunted Mansion. When you are part of a collective, you tend to go on it’s a small world quite a bit.

The Collective Buys Hats
The Collective Buys Hats
The Collective Waits In Line
The Collective Waits in Line for it’s a small world (For the Third Time)