True Disney Magic

"We aren't taking kids to Disneyland until they are at least old enough to remember it."

Yeah, we used to say that.  But, uh, who were we kidding?  In four years of marriage we've had three Disney vacations.  We've got a problem.  A really awesome, fantastic problem.

Two days after moving into our new home, we left the place filled with unpacked boxes and hit the road with my rad parents, who didn't even question our sanity.  Not even when I had Camden go potty in an abandoned tire in the middle of Death Valley.

You gotta do what you gotta do.

The rest of the drive Camden was being prepped with Disney classics, and playing with his favorite Mickey Mouse Clubhouse toys.  He asked, "Go to Mickey's house?"

My dad and Roy kept smirking at each other; "Elliot's as excited as Camden is."  Har-dee har-har!

Well ya know what?  You're wrong, Chuckles!  I was more excited!  Cam couldn't possibly fathom how awesome the next couple of days were going to be for him.  His entire little life he has dreamed of riding a train or driving a car.  How about flying on an elephant?  He never knew the possibilities!

For me, this trip was all about watching the magic spark in Camden's eyes.  I wasn't paying any attention to the little blinking robots singing about how small the world is, I was 100% focused on my little boy.  When he saw something incredible, when his imagination soared, when his mouth fell open in amazement, my heart just about exploded.  That place is freakin' MAGICAL!

Clearly I've had a long and steady love affair with Disney, but introducing it to your kid is a whole new kind of magic.  Disneyland isn't the happiest place on earth until you see the sheer joy spread on your little's face while spinning in a teacup.

The teacups ride was the very first we went on {unless you count the monorail, which he was pretty stoked about too.}  

But if you don't count the monorail, the teacups was the perfect first, classic ride.  And Dad was there, who took me on my first teacups ride so… it was all very thrilling and nostalgic and circle-of-life-esque. 
{Dad teaching Camden how to spin the cup.  Me and my big head.}

Roy had to sit on the sidelines quite a bit, keeping his ankle elevated.  On the bright side, if one were going to be wheelchair-bound for a Disneyland trip, a toddler trip is the time to do it.
A - Most of the rides for toddler-aged kids are slower and fine to ride even if you have an injury.
B - Toddler's have little patience for lines, and wheelchairs frequently get to skip right to the front!  Thanks, babe!

And I was amazed at how many rides Camden was tall enough for! I know he's kind of tall for his age, but he could literally go on most of the rides in the park.  He even went on his first roller coaster!  He clung to my arm for dear life, but by the end he was smiling and cried when it was time to get off.

Of course we opted out of some rides, although he was tall enough to ride.  After Pinocchio left him slightly shaken {that ride is kinda freaky}, we decided we didn't want him having Pirates of the Caribbean nightmares for the next three years.

Speaking of the scary… the first night in Anaheim, before we ever set foot in a park, we took Camden to Goofy's Kitchen, where the characters come to your table as you eat a buffet-style dinner.  We thought it might be a good intro, and I was anxious to see how he would react to those bobble-headed characters.

As you wait for your reservation, you can get your picture taken with Chef Goof.  When Camden caught sight of him from afar he flipped out, practically jumping out of my arms and pointing, "Goofy!  Goofy!  Goofy!" So stoked.

But when we actually got close to Goofy it was a different story.

And that's how it was the whole night.  If the characters would walk by or Cam could spot them from a distance, he would get so excited and point them out to all of us.  He would just stare at them, even ignoring his food.  "Where Minnie go?" if they moved to another area.

But then they would get in his personal space and… I think this picture perfectly depicts his feelings about it.

Except he was okay if Grammy was holding his other hand, of course.

The food was actually pretty great - and the dessert!  Mmm!  Highly recommend the whole experience.

The big character to meet, of course, wasn't at Goofy's Kitchen.  When we finally got to Toon Town the next day we beelined it for Mickey's house.  As with the other characters, Camden was shy.  But Mickey actually got two willing hugs out of him.  Pretty cute.

Growing up I always loved exploring Mickey's house, and Camden was in heaven.  In fact, it got him kind of hyped up.  A whole new world had opened up to him, and his imagination was on overdrive.  

He even got up on stage and did a comedy/dance routine for us.

And once we were back on the streets of Toon Town he grabbed my hand and sprinted with me in tow, belly laughing like you wouldn't believe.  We ran through the post office and up to Goofy's garden and back down to the dog pound--all over the place just laughing!  He wanted to see everything, try out everything.  I've never seen him so blissfully ecstatic.  

Anyone thinking of taking a trip with their toddler(s)?  Go during the off-season.  I'm telling you, even when Roy's wheelchair didn't get us to the front of the line, we never waited for anything longer than twenty minutes.  And that's about Cam's max, so it was perfect.  Some rides we literally just walked onto!  No lines at all!

The park closes earlier during off-season {8pm} but that was fine.  Timely bedtime meant happy, well-rested kid the next day for more adventures.

Also, if you can wrangle a couple of grandparents into the trip… it was heavenly.  They went back to the hotel for naps in the middle of the day, and Roy and I got a little date on our own.

We went on a couple of rides we couldn't take the little guy on.  I think our favorite was Astro Blasters.  We had a very serious rematch, since I kicked Roy's butt a few years back.  Neither of us were aware of the photo op, and we just about died laughing when we saw it at the end.

We aren't competitive or anything...

 PS - Still the champion - oh yeah!

But Roy's ankle only made it through four rides before it started really hurting.  So we got a couple of ah-mazing churros and sat by the lake, talking together.  Aaaand talking to strangers who stopped to ogle at Roy's rainbow foot, exposed for some fresh air.

Then Camden was back to finish out the perfect day.

Camden loved every ride--so much so that we usually had to trick him into get off when it was over--but the Jungle Cruise had a serious impact.  Camden thought those animatronic animals were real!  And amazing!  Ever since that ride he thinks you can see lions and elephants anywhere near water.  The other day Roy was taking him to the lake and all he could talk about was all of the jungle animals they would see there.

Wish I could post the video of him freaking out about it.  And roaring back at the  lions.

That evening Roy went home to rest his ankle {and his pride, since his wife is such a fantastic shot ;-P} and Mom took over wheelchair duties.  And hey--we weren't just wrongfully taking advantage.  Mom had foot surgery not too long ago and was legitimately in need of the relief.

But apparently everyone else had the same idea that night...

Right when the park was closing was perfect timing to get Camden to the room for the night.

Our little firecracker was up at a crazy hour in the morning, ready to go.  Luckily Grammy and Papa's hotel room was plenty entertaining.  His favorite {okay our favorite} part was this light-up headboard.  When Cam pushed the button the sky lit up and "When You Wish Upon a Star" played lightly.  Magic, magic, magic.

California Adventure surprised me with how much Camden could do!  Radiator Springs was just like walking into one of Cam's favorite movies.

There was only one ride there that Camden wasn't tall enough for.  But since I'm a ten-year-old trapped in an adult's body, I begged someone to go on the new ride with me.  Sorry, Dad!  {But you are smiling in the picture, so…} The ride was super cute, I can't wait until we can go back and Camden can be blown away.  

The whole Bug's Land was perfect for this age.  Driving his own car?  A dream!

This face!

There was a Disney Jr. Live show which was pretty fun, since Cam is in love with Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and Jake and the Neverland Pirates.  There were bubbles, confetti, and "gold doubloons" that fell from above and singing and puppets.  So cute!  And the place was only half full; another perk of the off season.

The Frozen arena had snow!

Poor Roy.

He was so enchanted by this statue.  This is what he did when I told him to give the gorilla a hug.

Afternoon rolled around and both Dad and Roy seemed to be extra willing to take Cam back to the hotel for his nap.  Mom may or may not have stuck with me only because she loves me so much.  Although she's normally not all about the big rides, she put on a brave face for Tower of Terror.  No line!

And this picture is hilarious because I'm scrambling on the floor of the elevator looking for Mom's glasses.  You had to be there.  So funny.

Tower of Terror was quickly followed by California Screamin', where we realized we had done too much too fast.  Since Mom was feeling queasy, we relaxed on the pier while I enjoyed the best bread bowl of broccoli cheddar soup on the planet.  Love this mama of mine.

Two days was perfect for us.  I could tell by the end of the second day Camden was wiped out.  Not yet cranky, but the third day probably would have pushed him there.  And two days was probably all Roy's ankle could take, too.

The only thing we did that I regret was go to Turtle Talk With Crush.  Although it captivated him for a minute or so, after that he wanted to run around.  We ended up wrestling on the floor.  Good times.

There is no person in the world I would rather go to Disneyland with than Lynn Massey, but she had to work during the day.  So we settled for dinner at Downtown Disney on our last night, which was a wonderful.  Loved having her sweetheart, Martin, there as well.  Next time we will be in real teacups, Lynn.

Before checkout the next morning we decided to take the first dip of the swim season.  It seems that the trauma from last summer has worn off, as Camden wanted to stay in the water all day.

Also we went down this slide approximately 402 times.

Again and again and again.

We were sad to leave that slice of kid paradise, but eager to get home and start unpacking.  So much to look forward to.

The whole drive home Camden talked about the submarine, the cars, the choo choos, the boats, the lions, Mickey Mouse, the flying elephants--his world had been opened up in a whole new way, and so had mine.