On our way down she apparently thought it was her Chuck E. Cheese party scheduled for a couple friends with her later in the month. This led to a breakdown. On my part.
Not really but I did stress a bit as American girl Bistro was reserved for us not just for lunch but the party package- held by credit card! Not to mention I didn't want to drive to DC and spend an exorbitant amount for a mediocre lunch if it wasn't what the birthday princess really wanted!
After making sure this was how she wanted to spend her birthday- and not what big sister talked her into we continued our journey.
As we pulled into the parking lot American Girl Place was visible in all it's glory and the squeals began - from me. Laci isn't a squealer and I want shrieks of glee so I have to start them and typically one or all will join in.
We started to say happy birthday Ella and Layla started with us! She's never done that before, but she had heard it Many times on the drive! We began to sing Happy Birthday and we heard from the back "appy irtay ooo too!" Layla was singing along! It was her first sentence and her first song with real words. What a sweet birthday treat for Ella!
We found decent parking and rushed inside after stopping for the obligatory front of store pictures.
As we rush inside to doll paradise, no time to ooh and aah as Ella rushed to the bathroom. She was in awe of the bathroom Decor, butterflies on stall doors, doll holders (yes to hold your doll while you potty) and pink pink everywhere. I immediately felt better knowing that if the bathroom was a hit we made the right birthday plans for her.
The girls enjoyed perusing the glass doll cases, a dizzying array of scenes showcasing outfits and accessories like some museum exhibit. The girls declared which dolls they were getting that day, then for the next birthday and Next Christmas and so on- then changed their minds with each new display.
Meanwhile, Layla rode the escalator again and again.
Downstairs Ella found the My American Girl doll she has had her eyes on for months ever since she first debuted in the fall catalog wearing a pink ballerina outfit. Dirty Blonde hair and blue eyes, she resembles Ella quite a bit.
I was able to convince her to hold off on buying until after her lunch so with Marie Grace in hand we headed up to the Bistro.
It was decorated lovely, Ella gasped at the pink gerbera daisies and huge booths in differing shades and hues of pink. Chandeliers in butterfly ceiling murals caught her eyes.
A major bonus to our mid week reservation- we had the bistro all to ourselves for the first part of our meal!
The servers were very sweet and made the girls (and their dolls) feel like royalty. They complimented their outfits noting they had watched them while they were getting pictures taken outside and knew they were the scheduled birthday.
While the girls sipped pink lemonade waiting on appetizers we read the conversation starters on the table.
We got some interesting answers, especially with Ella who may not be quite ready for an intense interview.
Me: "what is the best compliment - that means nice thing- someone has said about you?"
Ella: "well my name is Ella and my favorite color is pink. I have the bestest friend and her name is Rachel, she likes pink too.
Me: " that's great Ella, but has anyone ever said anything nice about you that made you feel good?"
Ella: "I'm not done my list. We both like pink A LOT! Rachel always tries to get the pink things first. I like spaghetti. I have sisters one is a baby. I take dance...
Lunch was mediocre. You're paying Disney world prices without giant animals coming to hug you and give you memorable photo ops, so reheated frozen food and small portions just aren't acceptable. My pasta was good- but not special not enjoyable , it was edible. Tony had a $20 burger and the girls $30 mini pizzas. Now we did the birthday package so we got a nice cake (yummy and pretty but the box had a grocery store label) and the girls got a gift bag so that factors into price, but still bistro- please.
After eating Ella decided it was time to dance. She got up in The middle of the bistro and clogged and did some kind of freestyle. I love This about her. It doesn't matter where she is- she dances. If she hears a song that moves her, well she moves . Layla joined In and we had our own dance party.
Apparently children dancing is the international sign that a table is done with their food and the table was cleared and out came the cake- an all pink cake.
The staff(2 girls) awkwardly sang happy birthday looking around and voices fading in and out as though they were surprised they were mainly doing a duet. I'm sure most mouse sing loud but at that moment I was singing a word here and there as my big camera hid me holding back tears. The cake and candles hit home that my baby Ella was four and for me four is a new milestone solidly closing the door on baby hood- and all that hits standing in the American girl store.
They did have Layla yell singing her newly learned phrase "appy urtay appy urtay" throughout the song so they had some help.
After she blew out the candles I went and hugged her and whispered mommy thoughts to her. Layla screamed as she saw the cake being taken away to be cut and Ella started to cry because she thought she didn't get to eat it.
As they brought our slices out Layla walked over to Ella singing her version of happy birthday. It was the sweetest thing she's ever done.
Tony had to take Layla to the escalators and that left me to be a little more relaxed and enjoy the girls. They were eating cake and ice cream and Laci said
"look mommy, I'm going to eat elegant"
She then took dainty bites and held her spoon just so.
After a second of watching her sister Ella turns to me and says
"and mommy look, I'm going to eat like Beast"
I laughed so hard. Of course Ella would eat like beast.
The girls got a goody bag with a book and a cute birthday shirt for their dolls, even a plastic balloon for the dolls to hold. We all thought that was pretty great and the girls had a blast posing for pictures with their partying dolls. Poor mari grace barely survived the party as Ella knocked her chair off the table nearly 30 times. There may be a conspiracy to get dolls sent to the doll hospital (it's a real thing people) involving the bistro and doll chairs. Layla and Tony made an early exit to ride the escalator for a half hour.
Now for the exciting part, the girls got to choose dolls! Laci got one too because a trip I thought we were taking around her birthday didn't happen and she wanted to pick one out at the store so chose to wait until Ella's birthday. A phone call from grandma allotted Ella another doll or something equal in price.
Ella nearly lost her mind making this choice. Her heart was set on the blonde my American girl doll but we had to keep going between floors to pick what she wanted from grandma. A bed, clothes, horses, another doll? Maybe she should get McKenna- the girl of the year - and her gymnastic equipment. As we headed back downstairs for the fourth time in five minutes a young employee decided to offer what she thought were sage words of advice after learning my four year old was picking a birthday present shouting after us "we recommend the bitty baby or bitty twins for children under 8"
Sigh "she already has all of those and Marie Grace and Kanani..." I replied, Already on the escalator trying go keep Ella from running down it. (I have irrational escalator phobias and grim scenarios play out in my mind during slow ascents and descents)
As I shook my head at the oblivious very young associate trying to tell me not to buy an 18" doll and instead get the cheap baby ones I wondered
1. If that was policy because I cannot imagine a store laid out to entice you to buy insane things like pianos and victrolas for baby dolls would really try and get you to spend LESS money on a cheaper option
2. Today is a school day so she is at least 18 which means I am so old if I am thinking a college student is "so young" Ella is four today and I am old. Terrible terrible realizations. Thank you American girl store. Maybe you should add wrinkle cream to your stock.
Once downstairs another terribly young associate told me what a good choice we had made in coming mid day on a Wednesday. Apparently every Saturday turns into mommy daughter roller derby at the store - the skates (except for the bkxes of doll roller skates in julie's accessory display) with elbows flying, angry words and wall to wall people all vying for dolls. The worst place apparently is the salon line where delusional people stand for an hour to pay $20 for someone to put a dolls hair in pigtails....
After gaining a new appreciation of the unexpected blessings that homeschool provides (like doll shopping without deceiving a black eye) we continued out search. Ella was soon overwhelmed and when I would offer options to get an answer her eyes glazed over and she kept saying nonsense words. she ran in circles for a moment until I placed her on a bench. It was getting bad. I was afraid we had broken her.
After sitting down for a minute I made an executive decision after determining she answered "doll" to
"would you rather have two dolls or a doll and a bed"
I'm still not certain, as she was still staring off blindly and had shown anxiety that my questions of furniture or clothes meant in her mind zero dolls not one doll AND other things. I decided the choosing of $100+ of other items may put her in some kind of mental breakdown from the stress so we got 2 dolls and we headed back upstairs to grab McKenna to go home with "Isabella" her look alike doll. Laci had decided on Julie months ago and was set.
After an endless photoshoot with the McKenna cut out as Ella tried to mimic her pose exactly, our day at American girl was done.
It was somewhat stressful thanks to Layla but overall very fun. I have to admit I, as most mommies I'm sure, love these dolls as much as the kids. I wish I'd know they existed long ago. They were around even "way back in the 80's " as my kids like to say about my childhood.
Insane cash drop and all, I'm looking forward to visiting again for Laci's birthday. We left with two ecstatic little girls, an exhausted baby and ten dolls in the car. (many had come along for the ride) . It was a great day full of girlhood wonder. And pink. Lots and lots of pink.
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