Thursday, May 07, 2009

The Magic Kingdom

Okay, so I have to admit I'm one of those people who rarely likes to slap a character-laden t-shirt on my kid. I tend to giggle at grown-ups who want Disney weddings or who choose to honeymoon at a Disney resort--I know there are lots of grown uppy things to do there; I have personally gotten myself quite wasted whilst drinking 'round the world at Epcot. But a honeymoon? When there's supposed to be lots of sex? In a place that calls to mind childhood memories of family vacations? It's all a bit too "Daddy/Mommy issues" for me.

I've only been to Disney a handful of times in my life; once in third grade, once with the Big Bad Boyfriend of '95-'96, and once with Husband (but that was Universal--does it count?) I always knew we'd take Ethan, and that it would be fun in a "oh my god the sun is blazing hot and the lines are so long; we're all burnt to a crisp and sweating; the kids are scared out of their minds by all the giant characters and holy hell, where the freak did we park???!!!" kind of way.

That being the case, Tuesday was actually a pleasant surprise for me. We went to the red-headed stepchild of the Disney organization--Disney Land, as opposed to Disney World. And maybe that was a good thing. Also, it's being a Tuesday? Excellent. Lines? Ten minutes, tops. When I went to Disney Land with Big Bad Boyfriend of '95-'96, we got on a total of three rides in 12 hours because of the lines (who knew the day after Christmas would be such a mad-house? Um. Duh), and had to resort to getting drunk while wandering through Epcot. I'm so relieved that on Ethan's maiden voyage to Disney, we weren't forced to drown our bitterness towards stupid people (and all people in line in front of you are stupid...) with alcohol.

For days we'd been telling Ethan we were going to Mickey's house. Hindsight being 20/20 and all, I think next time we just won't mention the trip at all until we're pulling into the parking structure. Because three days of Ethan asking "Are we going to Mickey's now?" had me working up a bit of a twitch. So I don't know WHAT Husband and I were thinking when we hatched the plan to meander leisurely through the different lands in the park until we arrived at "Toon Town", where Mickey's house is actually situated. We figured, hey, we'll wander around, take in a few rides, get lunch and then head up Mickey's way. And we did manage to get on one boat ride in Adventure Land--the Burmese Jungle Safari ride, complete with freakishly real animatronic animals and incredibly un -PC representations of "the natives". The ride was awesome, but I could tell that Ethan kept waiting to see if Mickey Mouse was going to pop up from behind one of the elephants of giant creepy men with spears and shrunken heads on ropes.

So when we suggested another ride after getting off of the jungle safari, it makes sense that Ethan was having none of it. "I want to see Mickey!!!" was a pretty steady mantra as Husband and I mulled over the map of the park, trying to figure out the most efficient way to get to Mickey's house before a full-on day-threatening tantrum ensued.

And when he met the Mouse? Fits of glee the likes of which that person stuffed into the Mickey suit has probably never witnessed before. I had no idea the kid was so over the moon about Mickey. While other kids were cowering at their parents' sides or cautiously making their way to the Mouse, Ethan was cutting in line and shoving kids out the way like George Costanza pushing over women and children to escape a burning building. Not our proudest parental moment. Fortunately, everyone's in a good mood at the Magical Kingdom and we didn't get any dirty looks as our child charged Mickey, leaving the other, less Mickey-obsessed kiddos eating his dust.

After hugging, high-fiving, fist-bumping and many pictures with Mickey, we departed the Mouse House and thought about what to do with the rest of our day. Ethan's suggestion? "I want to go home." AGH!!! Being the parents intent on mandatory birthday fun (and who understood that paying the obscene entrance fee to the park means you stay for more than ONE hour!), we overruled his increasingly emphatic suggestion that we go home, headed to lunch and then to the Roger Rabbit ride. This turned out to be a very big error of judgment on our part.

How could any ride in Toon Town be inappropriate for a 3 year old? I mean, it's freaking Toon Town. The Roger Rabbit ride is a car-ride---Ethan LOVES cars. We thought it would be the perfect little adventure for him. Except that the wait line goes through dark tunnels and black-lit chambers, with creepy science-experimentesque cauldrons bubbling and steaming. Just a tad freaky. And the ride? Um. A bad acid trip is how I'd probably describe it if I'd ever had a bad acid trip (or any acid trip, for that matter). Dark rooms, haunted-house-ish things jumping out, and deargod the screaming! At first Ethan was psyched to be driving the car. After the 2nd or 3rd corner into increasingly freaky visual effects and all the screaming, Ethan was...well, not happy. Eyes peeled in horror, mouth turned down in a frown just seconds from turning into a full-on meltdown, Ethan clung to me as we made our way through the ride. I felt SO badly. Here I was, his ambassador to Disney, and the person who's supposed to look out for his best interests and wellbeing, and here I was throwing him on a crazyass, scary ride at Disney. Excellent Mom points.

Fortunately, we were able to turn the situation around as we left the ride and gushed about how proud we were of him for going on that ride and how he was such a big, brave boy, getting through that scary ride. It worked and for most of the rest of the day, he liked to share the story with us about how he went on the "really, really, really, really....(pause to take a breath)...really, really scary ride!"

We also met Minnie, Goofy, Eyore, Tigger and Donald. And met Mickey a second time. And went on "It's a small world" and a few other rides. None of which terrified or otherwise freaked the child out, thankfully. He loved "It's a Small World", the train rides, the Winnie the Pooh ride, the giant merry go round, and we heard a lot of "oooh, look it!" as we wandered through the park.

Around 4pm we started to hear the "I want to go home" whine again and decided it was time to oblige. We stopped at the shops on Main Street, got the obligatory mouse ears and dutifully had his name stitched on the back of it. Ethan got a stuffed Mickey and for some reason, Buzz Lightyear stuff (he's never even seen Toy Story). Then we poured ourselves into the car and headed home, the sun setting (figuratively, I guess; it was only 5pm) on Ethan's 3rd birthday, and our first trip, as a family, to the Magic Kingdom. I have to admit I was a little vklempt at having taken my little boy to such an iconic place and at having seen it through his eyes. He didn't feel the heat, or see the lines or fret over how much it was all going to cost. He was just completely wrapped up in the magic. There's a lesson in that.

This was how we started the day. Ethan was not pleased when we suggested waiting 1/2 the day to find the Mouse.

But he was feeling much better once we embarked upon the Jungle Safari boat, sporting his birthday boy pin and giggling at the corny tour-guide (he actually just laughed when we did; I'm not sure he really got any of the jokes)

This castle? Kinda blew, compared to the one in Orlando. But don't worry, I didn't tell Ethan.

Random chica waiting with Ethan in line to meet Mickey Mouse. It's like someone's slipping Baby-Axe cologne on him or something.

Making an important Ethan-to-Mouse phone call in Toon Town...

Big props to the poor slobs who hang out in these suits all day; it was hot. And they made Ethan's day.

Behold, this is what pure joy looks like:

check out the little shaking fists o' delight.

If he could have stayed forever in that little room with Mickey, he would probably have chosen to, such was his absolute happiness at this particular moment. Cutest thing ever.

And from pure joy, let's move to pure terror, shall we? The Roger Rabbit Ride.

This should have been a clue that the ride was going to be a bit whacked-out, no?

The car we drove through the tunnel o' horrors.

And the look on Ethan's face when the ride was over. Is it wrong that this picture makes me giggle? A lot?

Ethan and Tigger

Ethan before ice cream sandwich shaped like Mickey Mouse's head (um...creepy)

Ethan after eating ice cream sandwich shaped like Mickey Mouse's head (mmmm, that was some good mouse ice cream....)

family portrait with Minnie

seriously, this kid is never happier than when he's being held by giant mice.

Look at mah Buzz Lightyear!!!! I don't know who he is, but still, LOOOOOOKIE!!

and this is how we ended our day....

Happy 3rd birthday, my sweet little boy.


Sarah said...

Looks like so much fun!!!!!

Love how happy he is with the mice :)

Harry would be supah jealous of the Buzz figure (I cleaned out the online Disney store for his b-day, but they only have plush Buzzes).

Happy Birthday E!

Karen said...

First of all, I never realized that kids still even knew who Mickey Mouse was! Do they still put MM stuff on the Disney Channel or something??

Second, seeing how excited E was to "meet" Mickey the Mascot made me reconsider my stance that they are all useless and maybe just a bit evil. I'm still not looking forward to having to bring Sammy to see the Mascots (though very excited about a potential Disney World trip one of these years) but if it brings him 1/2 that much joy, well, how could I ever resist??

Grandma Bear said...

What a trip and what a magical birthday! Looks like something he'll remember for a long time. What a marathon birthday...Saturday with all his friends until Tuesday with Mickey.

Congrats to the two of you for making it through to three years with such a wonderful, happy child.

Amy said...

Looks like a fun day!

What is it with kids and characters? It's like they get possessed. I think there should be a way to summon large characters to your home in moments of tantrum crisis.

Anonymous said...

so true about the non-PC natives on the ride! and sorry, i totally laughed at the picture of ethan's face after the scary ride too! that was evie after the train ride by the dinosaurs. she was horrified. great post. so funny. and i'm glad you guys got to go!