Last week marked the end of school. It came rapidly, but now seems so far behind us. In a true exclamation of victory, my kids threw their backpacks in the middle of the living room on the final day after school and exclaimed, "I'm going to Disneyland!" They were transported from the rather surreal experience of bringing home huge stacks of work from a now-empty classroom, to being in the car for hours surrounded by their most precious possessions, games and books, to finding themselves sliding down a redwood tree themed waterslide at the hotel pool.
The next three days seemed like about five thanks to the escapism, during which we explored the Disney parks, enjoyed Summer Nightastic, and then visited Legoland. We definitely needed that respite from "reality" and I finally got to assuage my guilt at having left my family in the real world while doing the Disneyland 5k last September and the Disney World Princess Half-Marathon last March.
We had done the same trip about four years ago, but it means so much more to them now. Their interests are more sophisticated, yet their capacity for fantasy is still high. Both boys are able to ride the more thrilling attractions (which is a bonus for me!) and can understand the actual "story" involved in each. They explored their surroundings in much different ways four years ago than they did last week, but I was tickled to see that the photograph taken of the Cat on Space Mountain last week has the exact same expression as the one four years ago.
Of course no theme park adventure is complete without the take home treats. As much as we don't need more "stuff" in our house, having the boys' favorite characters and stories represented in merchandise is simultaneously wonderful and disturbing. Hey, if your kid will brush his teeth more frequently with a princess toothbrush, so much the better!
(In between middle school and high school I went down to Mexico to built homes with my church youth group. On the way back we stopped at Disneyland as a "reward" but I felt guilty, knowing that the kids we had befriended in Mexico would have given anything to have gone to a theme park. They were thrilled with the simple mud homes we had built, and yet we students were just a few days later sitting in boats while It's a Small World played. On one hand, I love giving my kids adventures and "things" that make them happy; but then on the other hand, I don't want their expectations to be so out of touch with - as Rent refers to it - "actual reality." While BP's oil pollutes the Gulf, we rode around on a log flume about 20 times while characters sang about laughing places.)
My youngest finally learned some lessons about money management, we hope, because we gave each boy a set amount of money to spend that needed to be rationed during our stay. Splig wanted to spend it all right away, but we encouraged him to look around the park before committing to any purchases. I should have recorded his exclamations at the end of the first day, "Oh Mom, you were right. There are so many cool things in this store that I wouldn't have been able to buy. I don't want that Buzz Lightyear thing; I want Star Wars!"
Of course he tried to repeat the "I need to buy this right now!" the next day until we reminded him that being patient would net him a more-desired souvenir. My solution to the "It's the best thing ever!" exclamations was to take a photograph of the item to "remember" it. He could then look over the photos to remember which thing he actually wanted to purchase. In truth, it was whatever stayed on his mind that was clearly most important, so the photographs were only to reassure him during his moment of "OOOOHHHhhhh!"
The Cat had almost the opposite reaction, carefully keeping his money, concerned with purchasing anything because he was afraid he'd find something better. He ended up leaving his purchases to the last minute, and successfully got exactly what he knew he'd want and use. The Cat really soaked up the magic of the various theme parks, and enjoyed himself tremendously without mentioning what might be in the gift shop. Splig, too, had plenty of "non-merchandise related" moments. Thankfully I think the experiences were richer than the purchases, although Splig is definitely very attached to the physical reminders of his adventure.
One experience I know Splig will remember "forever" is defeating Darth Vader, as seen in this unfortunately not zoomed-in video. (I was taking still photos while taking the video, so knew my margin of error would be greater if the video was zoomed in; indeed, I was unable to keep it centered as I snapped the still pics! Still, he has a reminder of his brief battle:)
Splig explains to me that this Darth Vader didn't really want to hurt him. "It was just pretend, Mommy."
Indeed, the weekend was all about pretending, but it was definitely a wonderful way to start out summer vacation. It was truly magical to watch water dance and color sing, to witness fireworks and fierce dragons, but to be able to come home and fall asleep in our own beds. I hope our next adventure won't be as far away as four years.
Disclaimer: I was invited to participate in the premiere of Disney CA Adventure's World of Color. As part of that opportunity, Disney provided my flight and one night hotel stay, park tickets, and some other park-related perks. My family paid for our hotel for two nights (at a reduced rate provided by Disney,) most of our meals, our souvenirs, and our driving expenses (since my family drove rather than taking an airline flight.) Disney expected that I would write about my adventures, but my words are my own. I will receive no further compensation related to this trip, nor will I receive any sort of commission should any of my readers choose to take a trip to Disneyland or CA Adventure. We were planning to do a Disney trip sometime soon in the future, so the World of Color opportunity merely provided excellent timing for us to do so! Please read more about World of Color on A Spectrum of Reviews.