Surrounded in coziness and merriment, optimism and magic, and wonder and delight, we spent the latter part of our week at Disneyland. After loving our experience in October 2009 for Katie’s 3rd birthday, we have been planning all year to return for the Christmas season. I have never seen it decorated for Christmas before this, and the extra festivity was sheer beauty. At night we saw Sleeping Beauty’s castle all lit up with snow and icicles, and then Disneyland actually made it snow on Main Street. Katie was in awe.

We stayed at The Grand Californian Hotel this time, after enjoying our stay at the Disneyland Hotel last year. We predicted that The Grand Californian—with its American Craftsman style of architecture and its Northern California feel—would be a cozy match for this time of year. Oh boy, was it! A Christmas tree several floors high stood shining in the lobby, and a huge hearth glowed with a warm fire. Outside our room, we saw large fir trees. Eric loved seeing a bit of the Monorail track, also, and we spent time waiting for it to come by. All around The Grand Californian lighted trees feel like Christmas. With just a bit of nippiness in the air, we felt as though we had walked into a Christmas wonderland in the middle of Southern California.

With thin crowds, Disneyland itself was a dream. We went on the following rides: Snow White, Pinocchio, the carousel, the storybook boat, Small World, Gadget’s Coaster three times in a row (in Toon Town—not a big fan of Toon Town myself…I am “old school”, I guess…but it grew on me a little bit this time), Big Thunder Railroad, Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, Winnie the Pooh, Matterhorn, Star Tours (Eric did the new rockets—is that what they are?—at this time), the train, Dumbo twice in a row, Peter Pan, and the Jungle Cruise. Not bad with two kiddos and four adults in tow! I wish we could have done the Monorail, Alice, the Mark Twain Riverboat, and the Autopia as well. It is difficult to fit it all in, but we fared well.

We also took time out for the Christmas parade Thursday night, getting spots early and bringing dinner curbside. We managed to get a spot right near the Gibson Girl ice cream parlor, one of our favorite parade spots. The Christmas parade is FABULOUS. One of the best Disneyland parades I’ve seen. I loved it, LOVED it. The dancing reindeer and the toy soldier costume for the marching band musicians made it for me. I also loved seeing the princesses in their finery, and the whole parade was festive and beautifully crafted. We all bundled up, held tight to our balloon, and sipped coffee.

This is technically the second time (well third, really, since I count womb-time as lifetime) that Eric has been to Disneyland. He really loved the carousel and the Dumbo ride. And watching the Monorail. We went on Dumbo at night, and as we know, he has a particular attachment to the moon. Well, he saw that moon as we flew up on Dumbo, and it was magic for him. I said, “Fly us up to the moon, Eric!” and he loved it. Katie discovered her affinity (well, wary affinity but still an affinity) for roller coasters. She was also thrilled to see one of her “husbands” Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean ride.

Going to Disneyland as a parent is delightful. To the children, it is all real. You know what? It is all real to me, too. I’m a believer in the Disney magic. I find it easy and beautiful to slip into a childlike frame of mind there, one of the happiest places on Earth.

And now, for only a fraction of millions of pictures:

Checking in: the Disney experience is always so smooth and coordinated

Beautiful tree in the lobby

Dessert on the first night: a mint chocolate pot de creme served in a demitasse which I got to keep. YUMMY!

Eric loved the pot de creme

Katie and Amie at dinner

Walking with Eric on Main Street

The Main Street Christmas tree

Bill and the kiddos with Amie and Boppa

I love that my parents came, too! What special memories for the kiddos and for me! Not to mention, four adults for two kiddos is a HUGE help at Disneyland—seems to be a good ratio.

The requisite picture on Snow White’s Bridge. I had a picture taken there when Katie was in the womb, so the next time we went we took another one together. I happened to be pregnant with Eric at the time of that second picture…and now, well, it seems appropriate to take one with the growing kiddos every visit.

Storybook boats

Carousel joy

With Amie waiting for Star Tours

Festive Disneyland sleigh

With my girl

I love this picture of Eric

Guess what? Santa’s reindeer were at Disneyland!

Meeting Pluto in Toon Town! I was surprised to see how much Eric wanted his hug. In fact, after several minutes and noticing a line building, I had to step in and move him away. He just nestled right in and appeared to want to cuddle Pluto for awhile.

Katie ran back to tell Pluto one thing: “You were named after a planet!” She knows Pluto has been demoted from full-planet status, but at the time the dog was created, Pluto was a planet…

Small World is stunning

Watching the parade

All bundled up

Kissing Terk during our last breakfast

I am so thankful for this start to our Christmas season! Amazing! I love Disneyland!