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This is the first vacation that we have ever taken together as a family that lasted longer than just a weekend, so of course we tried to pack in as many activities as possible while still trying to maintain some sort of “relaxation” effect……in other words we tried to do the impossible. Of course we failed spectacularly at getting any relaxation because let’s just face it- taking a 2 year old out of their comfort zone on an adventure is never going to be relaxing. BUT we did have a ton of fun and got to experience some really wonderful things together as a family! We decided to spend our vacation in southern California so we could spend some time with family for the holidays. Over the 9 days we were gone, we hit up the Long Beach, Disneyland, the Ojai valley, the beach, and Las Vegas. There is way too much to write about to fit all in one post, so I decided to list some of our highlights from the trip!

Character Greetings- Let’s just say that the look on both Sydney’s and Belle’s face does the whole “character greeting” thing perfect justice. Sydney was SO excited to see the characters and would start screaming their names and laughing, and the second it was her turn to go up she suddenly was freaked out and started crying. Literally the instant we put the camera down and turned to walk away so the next kid could go, she was calling their name again and wanted to see them. Right after seeing Mickey she even called out, “Mickey Mouse, I love you!” but only after several minutes of pouting while we tried to snap a photo. Little stink.

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I’m a Mermaid!- No doubt about it, Sydney has always been a water baby. She loves swimming and has absolutely NO fear of water, which as a mother is completely terrifying! One night we decided to go down to the pool and swim, she was jumping in and I was catching her when she just randomly squealed, “I’m a Mermaid!” I was shocked, and thinking I hadn’t heard her correctly I asked her what she said and she yelled it again! It was adorable and I am still so surprised that she even made the connection with her 2 year old mind that mermaids swim in water, and since she was swimming in water she could imagine herself as a mermaid. We were laughing for like an hour after, it was so cute!

Lights on the Canal- I don’t really have a lot of pictures of the lights because it was dark and the only camera we had with us at the time doesn’t perform very well in the dark, but this was one of my favorite things ever! We have some family that lives in a little area that is modeled after the canals in Italy, it is adorable, all of the street names have Italian names and the whole little community just looks like a tiny Italian village by the sea or something. On Christmas night we decided to go walk along the water and it was so fun because all of the houses were decorated and lighted up, like a little gingerbread village along the canal!

Meeting Noah- Ok guys, this was seriously incredible. Noah has been one of my favorite artists ever since I discovered his work several years ago. He is an amazing artist who is known all over the world for his work and contracts with Disney creating some of the most amazing works of art themed around Disney characters. We just happened to be walking through Downtown Disney and I saw an art shop featuring tons of his work, and I found one I loved so much that I decided to go back and get it and when I went back, there he was, in house! I got him to sign my piece, then as we were leaving he stopped and said Sydney was so adorable and he just pulled out a pen, grabbed a random piece of paper and drew her a little illustration of Minnie Mouse right on the spot, for free because he was trying to get her to smile! Is that not amazing?! I am still in awe that I have a one-of-a-kind illustration addressed directly to Sydney that he did for us because he loves what he does, not because I asked him or because he was required. It was incredible.(Check him out here)

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The Lava Lava Affair- One of the days we went to the beach and it got a little chilly, so I pulled out the lava lava (sarong/wrap) that I bought in Australia to wrap Sydney and she immediately fell in LOVE with it. I have no idea if it is just the type of fabric or the way it feels on her skin or what it is she loves about it, but the rest of the trip she refused to go anywhere without it! She spent a LOT of time trying to wrap it around herself in new fashions and kept telling me it was “so cute.”

The Food. The Candy. The Treats. –Of course, a vacation always feels complete if you have some good food! Maybe we are biased, but we love Mexican food so we were on the hunt for our favorite places! We landed on a fun restaurant in Downtown Disney called Tortilla Jo’s which was super fun for Sydney because they have a guy walking around making Balloon Animals! We also ran across some delicious tacos in Long Beach. And for anyone looking for delicious treats in Disneyland, might I recommend the in-house made peanut brittle. Oh. My. Goodness. Too die for good.

Meeting “Grammy” and “Papa”– My grandparents live in beautiful Ventura county, so we because we were in southern California it was a “must-do” on our list to make a trip to see them. I wish we could have stayed a little longer than one afternoon, but getting to see them for just a few hours really made my whole trip. I love how insightful they are and with their age and experience, they just have an amazing perspective about life and I wish that I lived closer so that I could have that insight around me more often! Plus it is always amazing to see how Sydney interacts with her great grandparents. I am a little cheesy probably, but there is just something special about having four generations together…so special!

Dumbo the Flying Elephant.– Can you guess why this one makes the list? When I was little my family took a trip to Disneyland and I begged to go on the Dumbo ride. Being a daddy’s girl, I played to the soft spot he had and he stood in line for two hours to take me on that ridiculous ride. And here I am 20 years later at Disneyland with my 2 year old, who has basically ignored all the “magical” and “cool” stuff at Disneyland until we passed the Dumbo ride. I still don’t think my ears have recovered from the high pitched squeal she let out. I literally don’t think I have ever seen her more excited to see something than she was when we walked passed the flying elephants. And boy, did she want to go on them. With her only being two, I didn’t expect we would go on many rides or that she would really grasp what was going on, but we were surprisingly able to go on a lot of different rides and she definitely knew what was happening. She loved the rides. She got the most excited about Dumbo, however she also really like Pirates of the Caribbean (we were shocked, too) because it was in a boat and she really liked the little canons and guns going off (kids are so strange sometimes…)

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Seashells- Even though it was December and the California coast isn’t exactly warm in the winter, we still had to make a few trips to the beach just to soak up the sunshine. Like I mentioned earlier, Sydney is a water baby. She just LOVES playing in the water. I thought she would be afraid of the water, but she mostly was just so curious about it. She was curious about everything at the beach- the sand, the shells, the birds flying around, the waves… It never ceases to amaze me how curious she can get and how delighted she is when she discovers simple things. It is kind of a mini reminder about what life really is and should be about, the little things that make life beautiful. She loves rocks (just like mama) and so immediately she started picking out the coolest looking shells and things she found and would bring them over to show them off. I just felt like the luckiest mama watching my little girl share her curiosity and excitement with me, just so precious and fun!

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We had so much fun on our little trip and I wish I could write about everything that we got to see and do! Like a lot of you other mothers with princess-loving daughters, we watch Frozen frequently in our house (Sydney is obsessed) and there is one little line in that movie that just resonates with me. In the infamous song Let it Go, she says, “it’s funny how some distance makes everything seem small.” I love that. This trip was about getting away from our regular lives for the first time together as a family and it was so great to get to put things into perspective. It was a great way to end 2014 and the best way to start the new year. I hope everyone else enjoyed their holidays too!