The Jens Family Vacation 2017, Part 1

We went on vacation to California earlier this month.  It was our first “real” family vacation – real as in, it was just the three of us, and it didn’t involve visiting family.

I am really bad at taking photos.  I’m more of a “appreciate the moment” kind of vacationer as opposed to a “let’s capture all of this on film so we can remember it later” kind of vacationer.  I’m not saying either way is the better way – a combination of the two is probably perfect.

Also, I’m in hardly any photos.  I don’t think that’s an unusual thing for the mom.

Waiting at the Cedar Rapids Airport

We flew into LAX and spent the day at Hermosa Beach.  Hermosa Beach is beautiful – unfortunately, we didn’t get the chance to see the sun – being out on the pier was ridiculously cold!

Best shot we managed to get
I promise I am not choking her
All family shots are courtesy of my amazing selfie taking skills

We then went on to spend two days at Disneyland.  Two days at Disney is not enough if you want to fully experience California Adventure.  I’ve been to Disneyland several times but had never been to California Adventure – I wish we had spent more than half a day there.  Six years old was the perfect age to bring Lucy – she was tall enough to ride everything (though she and Cory refused to ride Splash Mountain – lame), we didn’t have to take a stroller, and she didn’t need to take a nap.  We stashed a backpack full of snacks and were good to go!

This picture is deceiving – we were at Downtown Disney and not Legoland
Waiting for the Jungle Cruise – Lucy’s first ride at Disney
Had to keep reminding her that the animals were not real
I’m pretty sure Tarzan’s Tree House was her favorite part of the park


Contender for the 2017 Christmas Card
Me, Lucy, and 2,000 of our closest friends
Not amused
Very amused
The yawniest ride at Disneyland
Family selfie skillz (don’t mind my thumb)


Space Mountain! Also a contender for the Christmas card

At one point, later in our first day, we were pretty tired and hot and were wandering in the Star Wars spot.  There was a 20 minute wait for something that had to do with a Wookie – we decided to get in line, not knowing what was at the end of it.  Turns out it was the best thing ever!

Photo op with Chewbacca!


Day 2 was a lot less hot than Day 1.  And by less hot I mean it was pretty cold!  We managed to sneak in a lot of photo ops this day.  IMG_1148.jpg

Did I mention that Lucy LOVES rollercoasters? Don’t let these Space Mountain pics fool you – she adored it! Big Thunder Mountain Railroad was the most favored. Her only complaint was the Matterhorn, because of all the jostling and because of the “scary big monster that kept growling and running around us.”

Had to go on Space Mountain again!


This poor actress had to talk in a high-pitched Snow White squeak. I hope she gets paid well.
Cinderella was a so sweet!
There were two grown adults dressed as Ariel waiting in line to meet her.



Merry-Go-Round Selfie by Cory
Pluto Sighting #1


We decided to do a character meal – I originally thought we would do Ariel’s Grotto to meet the princesses, but if I’m going to pay $150 for a meal, it better be all you can eat and I better feel like throwing up when we leave. We went with Goofy’s Kitchen, and it was pretty great. We met lots of characters and the dessert buffet was worth.every.penny.

We could have purchased a picture of this for the bargain price of $39!
Pluto sighting #2


Goofy is a little creepy
She finally got to meet Minnie!  We had almost given up hope

Over the course of the Spring semester, Lucy earned “Disney Dollars” with good behavior at school. From the moment we entered the Star Wars area, she declared she HAD to have a light saber. A $40 light saber. That would never fit in a suitcase. Crap. Fortuitously, we managed to find a tiny light saber while I was on a mission for a friend.

The joy of a girl getting her first light saber will never be surpassed
We were stabbed several times with that thing

We spent a day and a half in Disney, and only half a day at California Adventure.  I regret this decision. During lunch on Day 2, we sat with a mom and her two kiddos because there was literally no where else to sit – she was kind enough to offer up half her table to us. She gave us some tips for California Adventure, so we had a plan when we got in there. Unfortunately, I took exactly one picture while we were there.

The Ferris Wheel of death

Seriously, that Ferris Wheel scared the crap out of me. We were in a car that swung around while we were turning. So there was Caroline, holding on for dear life, and Lucy, laughing gleefully as we swung back and forth and back and forth and back and forth…

Sometimes I wonder if she is actually mine.

Around 9:00pm we went back to Disneyland and watched the fireworks over Sleeping Beauty’s castle. Considering we could watch them from our hotel room window, I don’t know if it was worth it to put up with all of the crowds. Lucy liked it, so I guess that is all that matters.

Thus ends the first half of the Jens Family California Vacation 2017. Stayed tuned for Part 2, where you will hear my opinions on Legoland! (Spoiler – it sucked.)


I Earned a Degree, But It’s Not Really MY Degree

I’m done with grad school, and there are a lot of people who helped me reach my goal.  My latest post on the Iowa City Mom’s Blog…

“The diploma may have my name on it, but it will never truly be mine alone. Yes, I was the one who gave up the hours of free time to read and write. I gave up my nearly perfect vision to those many hours of reading. I stressed over the papers and presentations. I earned the grades. But I didn’t do it alone, and this degree belongs to so many people beyond myself.”

Read more: Iowa City Mom’s Blog