Although the kids were a little confused that we didn't walk off the plane and into the arms of Mickey Mouse, we did try to prepare them that we had to get to Disneyland AFTER landing in California and staying there a couple of days. With a beach and a hotel room to distract them, it wasn't too much of a problem.
Once the last group joined up with us, we did a little sight seeing, had lunch and then headed to the land of Mickey. We had 3 day passes, but didn't want them to start on a half day, so after we checked in, we just took a stroll around downtown Disney, a free area outside the actual parks. Built, I'm guessing, to suck money from you by way of restaurants and gift shops. They were a success with us, as we left with a $60 "Cars" car hauler from the Disney store. It was a good sized hauler, full of die cast "Cars" vehicles. A steal when you are 4 and have a pocket full of birthday cash.
As you read this, if you've never done such a trip, read it with the understanding that there are 3 kiddos, 1 needing multiple naps and 2 still taking a 2-3 hour nap every day...and it wasn't happening. Also, an uber-organized type A and her equally A typed daughter, who happens to have an app that has organized our day based on an algorithm of Disney attendance, line waits and fast pass availability. Her disclaimer on Day One, before we entered the gate, "You may not understand why we are about to do what we do, but you will do it. There will be no whims taken." She had this planned to the minute. Even I was impressed. Did it all go as planned? No. But by following her plan, we saved hours in line as she checked wait times before we made any decisions on which way to go.
Also in the mix was the newly engaged couple. Trying to have a good time, boss everyone around and not scare off the new daughter-to-be was a challenge in itself. I really like her and we Cloud girls can be a little, oh, I don't know, overwhelming maybe. I didn't want to look like an overbearing MIL. Fortunately, my son picked a woman who has true Cloud qualities. She fit right in and even soldiered on with a fever. She can boss with the best of us! My admiration for her grew considerably.
I have to say, despite the above disclaimer, we had a wonderful time. The kids absolutely LOVED seeing the characters. Helena ran to everyone she saw and gave them a big hug. We rode rides, ate park food that we swore we wouldn't eat (because we were staying across the street and had sandwich fixin's to save money. Uh huh, that worked) and generally drank the Mickey Kool aid. On the first day, we did go back for a nap and some snack sandwiches. We had to get ready for the big event that evening, Reid's birthday at Goofy's Kitchen.
The next day, we just enjoyed the park, skipping back and forth between California Adventure and Disneyland. We were able to split up so we could ride "scary" rides and still let the littles to their thing. Our hotel had a heated pool and huge hot tub, so we tried to take advantage of that, too. The hot tub confused Reid. He wanted to know why the pool had bubbles like Mamie's Diet Coke and why we weren't talking to the men that were in the hot tub with us. Day 3 was Helena's birthday dinner and we enjoyed a great time. We were especially lucky because a photographer from the park agreed to come with us to the restaurant and take some pictures of the party. She said no one had ever requested that before, wasn't sure if it was ok, but better to ask forgiveness, huh? I did go to the photo pass customer service place and asked there, first thing in the morning and she was the manager, so I guess that helped. So glad I did, because the place was daaaaarrrk and I don't know if I could have gotten anything.
I wrote a ton more about the trip, but the internet ate it, so I'm just going to post pictures and close by saying I have the best family in the world. They all wore the costumes...uh, I mean, outfits. All 9 of us were camped out in 2 connected rooms, traveled around in a classy 12 passenger van and tagged out taking care of cranky babes. We will definitely be doing it again.