Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Disney Series Part 4 - Magic Kingdom (day 1)

The time has arrived...Monday we visited the Magic Kingdom.  This was the day I was most excited, and most nervous for. Mostly because I wasn't sure how we would all deal with crowds, waiting, lines, and chaos in general. Magic Kingdom was the most challenging park to get to.  There is no parking lot at the park so we had to drive to the Ticket and Transportation center (also known as the monorail/ferry station).  Luckily we were there before dawn and got a close parking spot, otherwise you have to hop on a tram to transport you to the line for the monorail.  After our hike to the monorail we realized that the "non-Disney" guests (us) had to wait until just before 8 to get on a monorail.  The ones currently running were for resort guests only.  Of course during our hike Sylvie needed to go potty.  Hmmm, this could be tricky because the only bathrooms were beyond the gates (only Disney resort guests allowed until 8am).  We tried one bathroom, no go.  So we hiked all the way across the station to another "restroom" sign only to find that they too were behind the "resort only" gates.  By this time I was starting to feel like a second class citizen.  Luckily there was an older gentleman manning the gate who took pity on a frazzled mother carrying a 2 year old chanting "potty mom, potty".  I'm sure my face screamed desperation as I humbly asked him if we could get by to just quickly use the restroom.  He obliged and the crisis of beginning the day with a pee soaked toddler was averted.
By the time we got back to the line for the monorail it was crowded!  Some people stood in line while others thought lines didn't apply to them as they crammed their way to their position of choice.  I tried to concentrate on the sunrise and the castle that was slowly appearing through the fog in the distance, but panic over losing a child (mainly my free spirit Cora) was creeping in.  I demanded their wrists and sharpied each of them with my cell phone number, giving myself a little peace of mind.  FINALLY our monorail arrived and we were herded (yes herded...I resisted the urge to moo) to the loading platform.  We got to the park right after it had opened to the general public, so luckily we didn't have to wait in another line.  We were in!
We walked down main street stopping to get our picture in front of the castle, and that smell!  It smells so good when you walk in.  I kept saying it was like a mixture of popcorn and cake.  We headed straight to our first ride, the 7 Dwarfs mine train.  We weren't able to get a fast pass for it so even though we got there first thing we still had a 20 minute wait or so.  Sylvie was too little for this one, so she and Luke went out in search of Dumbo.  In reality, they actually got to ride Dumbo, the teacups, and the carousal all while we were in line!  I will say that the wait for the 7 Dwarfs was almost as cool as the ride itself.  It was set in a beautiful little wooded area complete with Snow White's cottage.  Then once you enter the mine there are tons of interactive games to keep you entertained as you move through the line.  There was mining for jewels, barrels of lighted gems to spin and make patterns on the ceiling, and a water feature that played music when you put your hands in the water.  The three of us had to split up when we got to the loading area.  Cora and I were in front with Beau right behind us.  I was nervous, but luckily the ride had more curves and turns than it did big drops.  The kids loved all 20 seconds of it.
Sylvie and Daddy time

Spinning on the teacups

Cora's first real rollar coaster ride

Afterwards we met up with Luke and Sylvie took another spin on the teacups, and headed over to Mickey's Philharmagic.  There wasn't any wait and as we were ushered in to the doors Beau needed to use the  We played a round of really?  are you sure, can't you wait? before Luke gave in and took him out in search of a bathroom.  Sylvie, Cora and I saw the show without the boys who used the bathroom and then went to use our fast pass on Peter Pan.  I wasn't sure what this show was about, only that it needed 3D glasses, and I'll admit I contemplated skipping it so we could stick with the boys.  In the end we stayed and it was awesome!  This is the first 3D adventure that Sylvie has ever kept the glasses on for and having her sitting on my lap was just as amusing as the show!  She was ducking, trying to grab things, and popping bubbles.  Not to mention jumping 10 feet when Donald threw a bucket of water accompanied with actual water splashing the crowd.  When we met back up with the boys afterwards we told them they had to check it out and they took Sylvie again while Cora and I went to use up our Pan fast pass.
We finished before they did so we spent a little time exploring that area of the park, which was still relatively uncrowded.  And let me say I LOVE this part of Disney World.  It's like going back in time to my childhood. Except I was actually IN one of the stories my parents read to me over and over and over.  My favorite was the Rapunzel area decked out with flags and lanterns complete with Rapunzel's tower in the distance.  There's no actual attraction here, just a bathroom, but it's my favorite bathroom in all of Disney World. :).  Even after wandering around the bathrooms with goofy grins on our faces we still had time to kill so we took a quick spin on the carousal.  I absolutely loved having a few minutes of free time to spend with Cora.  The lighter crowd allowed us to skip and spin and dance and twirl and just let Cora's infectious happiness take over.
Family teacup ride

Hanging out by the Rapunzel potties

Sooooo happy :)
When we all met up again we wondered through Liberty Square and Frontierland.    It was at this point that I was starting to wonder about our plan.  We had an hour before our lunch reservation at the Beast's Castle but all the ride wait times were getting long.  Panic was starting to set it.  My thought process went something like  Free time at Disney?!  This can't be!  We must fill these idle minutes with something productive!  We can't waste these magical moments, and during the morning hours no less!!!!  It was  here that I made my biggest mistake of the trip.  I doubted my planning.  I doubted my touring plan.  I doubted the years of statistical research the website which generated our touring plan had used.  And that doubt led to despair.  OK, not really, there's no despair in Disney World, but it did result in some excessive wandering and waiting.  As we arrived in Frontierland I figured there must be enough time to ride splash mountain before lunch.  It had a 45 minute wait but maybe I could get a fast pass. YES!  Fastpass available from 10:30-11:30!  Perfect, I rearranged our fast passes (the ones that I painstakingly debated over, chose, rearranged, and finally settled on a month earlier) booked splash mountain, and sent Luke off with Beau and Cora. Phew, sigh of relief.  Sylvie and I were just beginning our hunt for a "nack" when we saw Beau, Luke, and Cora heading back our way.  I didn't have to wonder for long because Beau marches up "MOM!  that fast pass was for PM!"  whoops!!  Luckily everyone stayed in good spirits, but we decided to just start heading towards our lunch reservation.  As we walked back through we wondered why they needed so much crowd control to get across the bridge, there weren't that many people.
"Peter Pan"

When we got to the restaurant we realized that the reservation was actually more like the time you're allowed in the gates, not your table.  We still had to wait in a long line to order our food.  Our youngest was beginning to show the effects of a 2 year who's gone napless for 4 straight days and we were trying desperately to keep her pacified with band aids.  (I knew that first aid kit would come in handy).  Once we got our order in the restaurant was very cool, especially to Beauty and the Beast fans!  You walk into the ballroom complete with sparkling gold chandeliers.  That room was getting pretty full so we headed into the dreaded West Wing!  It was dark and looked like the Beast had gone into a rage clawing at all the drapes, tapestries and paintings.  Every few minutes there would be a storm complete with lightning and thunder, and in the front of the room was the magic rose where if you watched closely you could see a petal fall.  Our food was good and it was a nice little rest from the heat and the crowds.  Plus, it was one of the few restaurants where we could refill our fountain pop before we left, score!

We started our afternoon by using our fast pass for Dumbo, Sylvie already knew what this one was all about so she was super excited!  Afterwards we decided to ride the train back to Fronteirland for Splash Mountain (since ya know my 11pm fast pass wasn't going to work out).  Now this was quite the process and walking would have definitely been easier, but we're at Disney, we have to experience it all, and that includes the train!  It is not, however, stroller friendly.  You have to fold it up, and since our stroller was carrying enough cargo to get us through a week in the wilderness this was no easy feat.  We looked like a family of pack mules.  The train dropped us right by Splash Mountain and Luke took the Beau and Cora to begin 2 hour wait.  Sylvie and I got the stroller all arranged and set off in search of a fast pass station in an attempt to salvage our final fast pass.  I had given up Enchanted Tales with Belle which was now out of fast passes.  I knew we had to find an actual kiosk, how hard could this be.  Well we found one all right, way back in Fantasyland, and oh. my. goodness.  The crowd was absolutely insane to get there.  Up until now it had been crowded, but not like this.  People were elbow to elbow and your every move was at the mercy of the crowd.  I found myself being ever so thankful that my crowd loving husband was waiting in a nice organized shaded (although never ending) line.  Even I (who am much more comfortable in a crowd by comparison) was very near hyperventilation and eternally grateful that I only had one child who was strapped in the stroller (albeit screaming) and didn't have to keep track of my other two scampering day dreamers.
We found what I thought should be the kiosk, but I thought I was mistaken based on the winding line we stumbled upon half a mile away from our destination.  I asked the people in front of us what they were in line for.  "The fast pass kiosk."  WHAT!  Nowhere in my research did they mention insanely long lines for the kiosks!!  I'm not sure it saves any time since you could just go stand in line for the actual attraction vs the fast pass line.  They should have fast passes for the fast pass kiosk!  But we had time to burn and the line was giving me less anxiety than being herded along in the crowd, so we waited.  When we finally made it to the front there was a Disney cast member to assist us.  I scanned my band and, as quickly as I could, scrolled through the fast pass options.  Still trying to salvage our touring plan I was searching for a ride that was already in our plan.  I got to the end of the very short list of remaining fast passes and the cast member asks which one I want.  Ahhhh, ummmm, (resume hyperventilation as I try to ignore the hundreds of impatient eyes boring holes into the back of my head, and the tapping foot of the cast member) ahhhh....HAUNTED MANSION!  And so folks that is how we came about having a fast pass for the scariest ride in the park.... Cora had almost recovered, might as well scare her a little more.  But hey, at least it was a ride we could all do!  Once we had everything squared away Sylvie and I began our trek back to Frontierland where the rest of our family was still shuffling toward Splash Mountain.
We found a fence post to sit up against so we could feast on goldfish and watch the ducks (who, it turned out, also wanted our goldfish).  Sylvie was surprisingly content during this bit of downtime, but after about 15 minutes of fighting off the ducks I was ready to meander.  It took all of 28 seconds for me to remember that meandering is not something you do during spring break at Disney so we settled for a change of scenery and leaned up against the rocks to watch the boats come down Splash Mountain.  We dug out the bubbles and entertained those around us with a little bubble show.  I quickly made peace with the fact that Sylvie's idea of bubbles was spitting on the wand and spilling the actual bubbles all over herself.  I'll take a sticky, slimy, happy, squealing 2 year old over a clean tantrum throwing one any day!  We ended up lucking out though because as we were standing there the afternoon parade went by!  We were by no means in prime parade viewing position (think 12 rows of people deep) but if I stood her on the rocks and stood on my tiptoes we could see the heads of the princesses on the tall floats.  It didn't really matter, there was lots of music and excitement so we were caught up in the fun.  As long as I was excited and pointing at things she was excited too.  Plus, since it was just Sylvie I didn't have the other 2 rolling their eyes at me.  Honestly I'm not that embarrassing, I just have a strong Disney side.
Finally we saw them float by in their log.  For a minute I thought we missed them, but once they didn't come out I realized they were just going in to the ride.  We stood there eyes glued to the drop waiting, and waiting, and waiting....turns out, this particular log flume ride includes 18 minutes of Disney magic before you are plunged down the fall.  Finally, about the time I figured we must have missed them again, they came crashing over the edge.  I watched, peaking through my fingers with my hands over my eyes.  I was terrified I was going to see Cora flying out of the seat somersaulting through the air (an actual pre-Disney nightmare I had).
 I'm happy to report they reached the bottom safe and sound, full of giggles.  They ran up to us each trying to out talk the other about their Splash Mountain experience.  Which, I would have been delighted to hear all about if Sylvie hadn't suddenly started screaming with an emergency need to use the bathroom!  I nodded and "uh-huh ed" my way through the crowd, my tunnel vision focused on the restroom sign.  As we went under the bridge to the restroom entrance we passed by a beautiful little shaded toddler playground.  "You have got to be kidding me!!!  I just bent over backwards for 2 hours entertaining a toddler with goldfish, ducks, and bubbles in the scorching sun while this little oasis was right under our noses?!" Due to the offensive nature of the actual words that streamed through my head, this is actually the cliff notes version of my thought process.  I suppressed the tantrum building and just shook my head as we regrouped at the bathrooms.  Well at least we didn't miss the pressed penny machines standing adjacent to this toddler paradise (which was almost empty I might add).
After that marathon line session Beau and Cora needed a break, but Sylvie just had a two hours of downtime so we had to do something.  Luckily once we got through Splash my touring plan came through for the rest of the afternoon with attractions that you didn't have to wait in line for. the plan.  We took a little raft ride over to Tom Sawyer Island and just told the kids to explore while we followed.  It was great!  There was hardly anyone over there with lots of nooks and crannies for the kids to explore.  They even had bathrooms on the island!  A fact we were grateful for since within 5 minutes of our arrival Cora had to go to the bathroom.  Never mind the one we just left 10 minutes ago!  We crossed bridges, peeked in windows at the old fashioned fort, snuck through passageways and explored dark caves complete with the noise of wind and squeaking rats and bats.  The kids had a great time and we were all thankful to be out of the crowd.
Exploring Tom Sawyer Island

Once they were tired out from their exploring we decided ice cream was in order before we headed over to the "Country Bear Jamboree".  This was also one I contemplated skipping, but there was no line so we gave it a go.  It's definitely not an attraction I would choose to see again (think huge animatronic bears singing really bad country), and I'm pretty sure Luke fell asleep.  But it was air conditioned and oddly enough Beau thought it was hilarious, laughing hysterically as he clapped along with the music, so of course Cora followed suit.  We took a ride on the Riverboat in Frontierland (again no line) which gave Sylvie time for a much needed nap.  She continued to sleep as we collected some pressed pennies on the way to our fast pass for "The Haunted Mansion".
Just to be clear, the kids did not want to go on this.  They whined and tried to talk me out of it right up until we were entering the attraction.  At which point they cram you all into this tiny little room so you can listen to a creepy story.  The whole time the walls appear to be stretching and the pictures are turning to skeletons and various scary things.  Just before you enter the ride lighting and thunder crash and the ceiling disappears to reveal a person hanging from a noose.  Really Disney?.....I sighed, defeated, picked up a now crying Cora and buried her head in my shoulder as she begged me to get her out of here.  Sylvie and Luke boarded the first car with me Cora, and Beau right behind.  Before we saw anything else scary I convinced Cora to put her head down in my lap and close her eyes. Beau just looks at me, shakes his head and goes "Mom!  I told you we shouldn't go on this!"  Oh be quiet and pay attention to this graveyard we're entering!!!  He was terrified, but was a good sport and mustered up all the eye rolling and "that's not scary" that he could manage.  Cora didn't make a peep or attempt to lift her head until about half way through the ride when it got really cold.  That's when I hear a muffled voice  "Mom, why is it so cold?"  "Because sweetie, we're surrounded by ghosts, keep your head down."  We all survived and headed over to Pinocchio's village to reward our brave little ones with pizza.

Holding hands on the way to Belle

After supper we headed over to Enchanted Tales with Belle.  This was the fast pass I sacrificed with my Splash Mountain mix up.  It was a wait, but the kids had full tummies and they were happily entertained climbing on the rocks and fences as we made our way to Belle's cottage.  They were probably just relieved to be waiting on a fairy tale vs a horror show!  Once you arrive at Belle's cottage you are free to explore until the door opens for your turn to enter the attraction.  I say explore meaning you can look around since being crammed elbow to elbow in a tiny room doesn't leave much opportunity for other types of exploration.  Just as we're next up Cora has to go potty (why did I let her have pop with supper?!).  I gambled and told her to hold it.  Once the door opened they called our group through the doors into another tiny room and told the kids to come sit up front.  That was a good thing since we were in the very back of the room but I had to mentally calm myself thinking "up front?  Way up there where I can't see them?!  Ohhh I hope Cora doesn't pee her pants!"  They played a little Beauty and The Beast trivia with the kids before calling their attention to the magic mirror in the front of the room.  At that point the mirror magically transforms into a doorway leading you through the Beasts castle to the library.  Now, I'd read about the attraction and knew this was going to happen.  But I was thinking more along the lines of cover the mirror with a curtain and slide it out of the way to reveal a door sort of magic.  Oh no, the mirror actually sparkles and transforms in to a doorway that we walk through.  How?  I don't know, magic.  It was very cool and made the whole attraction worth the wait.  Or so I thought until the next turn of events, which completely trumped the magic mirror.
The remainder of the attraction was a little play the kids put on.  They were given props and had to practice their action before performing for Belle!!  Beau didn't want a prop (of course), and Cora was given the part of Chip, the teacup.  She had to hop on cue so it was the perfect part for her....perhaps her need to use the bathroom even enhanced her acting skills!  I was praying the entire time that she didn't pee her pants, seriously how embarrassing would that be for the poor girl!  Anyway  not only did the kids get parts but two lucky Dads were required to be the knights (you see where I'm going with this??).
The first knight was chosen and then you guessed it, none other than LUKE for the second knight!  Now, my husband is very animated and LOVES to be the center of attention.  For those of you that know him, you know that I'm lying through my teeth and are now laughing along with me.  It's quite possible that he's the least animated person I know.  He is, however, a very good sport and loves his family dearly so he galloped and squealed with the best of them, all with a smile on his face.  But lets just say that when that cast member handed him his knight prop there was no stifling my laughter.  At the end of their little show each of the "actors" got to have their picture taken with Belle leaving me with one happy 5 year old.


My knight in shining armor

"Performing" for Belle

By the time we were finished with Belle it was time to find a spot for the Wishes show.  This show was so awesome!  Cinderella's castle transformed with music and animation from Disney films old and new, along with a sweet story narrated by Jimminy Cricket.  The wishes show is followed by the iconic fireworks above the castle.  I don't think the kids were quite as smitten with the show as I was just because it was hard to see and they were EXHAUSTED by this point.  Luckily they got their second wind after the show.

 I wanted to stay for the electric parade so we went back over to the nearly deserted park to ride a few rides before it started.  We rode the Barnstormer roller coaster with no line (thank goodness because the ride couldn't have been more than 15 seconds long).  Beau and Cora loved it though and they got off jumping around and refreshed with their second wind in full swing.  We took advantage of their new found energy and rode Winnie the Pooh.  This ride had a fun little interactive wait with the kids' favorite being the screens that looked like dripping honey.  You could smear your hand on the screen and bees would follow you while it looked like you were smearing the honey around.  I couldn't get past how many other little hands had been smearing various substances on the screen for long enough to actually touch it myself.  I'm happy to report that I did not let my germophobia interfere with their childhood joys....however I did give them each a healthy dose of antibacterial hand gel once we were on the ride.  Ugh, I still shudder thinking about it and I'm really not usually the type to get all skittish about germs....but ewww.
Now we had to get moving to find a spot for the electric parade.  As much as I really really really wanted to check all of our touring plans steps "complete" before we went home I had to come to terms with the fact that we were going to have to skip "It's a Small World" if we were going to make the parade.  We wandered around for quite awhile and eventually ended up walking all the way back to Frontierland to get a spot for the parade.  This is in the complete opposite direction of the exit so Luke was having a mild anxiety attack by this point.  I was grinning ear to ear because as Luke was pushing Sylvie she kept turning around saying "this fun Mom!  I happy Mom!"  I mean really, what more do you need than that?

 I'd like to say her happy demeanor lasted through the night but by the time we got to our selected parade seating she had morphed into Princess Sylvie Stroller Diva and was allowing no one to come near her stroller seat.  At this point Beau was done and began to throw a tantrum of his own over always having to give up the stroller for his sisters.  I gently reminded him that he is the oldest, however my speech had very little conviction.  We were both well aware of the fact that he had been  a trooper the entire trip.  He bent over backwards almost as much as Luke and I in and effort to keep his sisters happy and keepthe public tantruming to a minimum.  In the end I took a screaming Sylvie into the corner shop that we were standing next to.  Which just happened to be.... are you ready?  A CHRISTMAS SHOP!  Yes I was standing in a Christmas shop with fully decked halls in the middle of Disney World.  Even a screaming toddler couldn't stifle my excitement.  By the time we made a lap around the store we were all feeling better and made it back outside for the start of the parade.  The kids loved the parade, although Cora had to settle for Cinderella instead of Elsa.  After the parade I couldn't help thinking that had we kept that fast pass we could ride Splash Mountain right now.  Even without it the line probably wasn't that long at this hour.  I don't think my family shared quite the level of Disney stamina as I however, so we began our lengthy trek back to the hotel.  We began by elbowing our way to the park entrance, boarding a ferry, hiking to our car, and finally driving the short drive back to our hotel.  Cora fell asleep in the stroller, and after a brief screaming jag I was carrying a sleeping Sylvie.  I attempted to concentrate on the fact that my arms were going numb in order to silence the sad voice in my head reminding me that our vacation was half over and we would eventually need to leave this magical place.  On the way back to the hotel all three kids fell asleep in the car, and let me just say that is magical in and of itself!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

The Disney Series Part 3 - Hollywood Studios

Our second park day was a trip to Hollywood Studios.  We were extra excited this morning because we had a breakfast booked at Hollywood and Vine with the Disney Junior characters first thing!  We made it to the front of the line for rope drop again. Better yet, we were the first family to arrive at the restaurant.  This resulted in a nifty little certificate and a photo op with Sophia the First, Handy Manny, Doc McStuffins, and Jake all together before the rest of the guests were let in!  Breakfast was an all you can eat buffet complete with Mickey waffles. It was a hit, the Johnson family is a big fan of breakfast buffets :).  Like the night before, each character came around to our table for pictures and autographs.  They also did a little musical show between each character rotation.  The first time Cora ran right up there to get in on the dance, but quickly realized there was a large crowd staring at her and retreated back to our table.  Sylvie also did not want to be up in front of the crowd, but was perfectly happy shakin' her little booty at our table.  Now like I said, breakfast was great and the kids were having a good time with the entertainment but it is a LOOONNG process if you want to see each one of the characters, especially with the little show in between.  We ate, drank coffee refills, used the bathroom multiple times and were still left waiting for our final character, Doc, to make an appearance.  We finally decided to skip out early so we wouldn't miss our Toy Story fast pass (sorry Doc).

First Family
Gettin' her groove on with Mickey waffles

Toy Story was definitely our family favorite for the day.  This wasn't just a ride though, you got to shoot at targets and wrack up points all while wearing 3D glasses.  The whole area was set up to look like Andy's room and there were giant toys everywhere as we waited.
Excited for Toy Story!
The next ride was not so well received.  We headed over to The Great Movie ride which was NOT at all great according to our kids, they thought it was way too SCARY!  It was a slow moving ride that set you in the scenes of famous films.  I had researched the ride and knew that it might be a little scary so I warned them ahead of time ("yeah yeah"... eye roll).  It started mellow enough putting us in the scenes of some musicals followed by some gangster films where our car was hijacked by one of the "cast members".  Lots of shooting and noise.  There was one little kid crying by this point and mine were definitely scooting in closer.  We moved into the Western genre where Cora nervously asked in a shaky voice "Mom, are those nice cowboys?"  I told her they were and she looked mildly relieved until the car moved ahead into the scene of Alien.  I'm not gonna lie this one was a little scary even for me!!!  They have you convinced that you're trapped with an alien on the loose, and of course before you know it that alien is hanging directly above your heads.  Yeah, this was all she could take.  Cora was absolutely hysterical, sobbing, cowering practically on the floor of the car staring up at the alien.  I tried to get her to close her eyes, look at anything else, assured her it was just pretend.  But her eyes were glued on that alien.  I even tried to cover her eyes for her but she whipped her head away and was not letting that alien out of her sight.  All the while sobbing saying she wanted to get off and go home!  Now really this was only a few seconds before we drove in to the familiar tune of Indiana Jones, but I think we may have scarred her for life! At this point I looked over at Beau who was sitting on the other side of Cora, yep...terrified.  I was mildly relieved even with the snakes popping out in every direction as we traveled through Indiana Jones territory.  That's when I looked at Luke and said "we still have to go through the horror film genre!"  Now Luke had Sylvie, who never made a peep.  I think she was too little to actually be scared, but she just looked around in wide eyed confusion having no idea what to think!  But as long as Luke kept talking to her she stayed cool as a cucumber.  Up next, you guessed it....horror.  Luckily this section was very quick and consisted only of a few mummies and skeletons.  Normally I don't think it would have even bothered Cora, but she was already so terrified that she continued to cry, hyperventilate and scoot as far away as possible!  It was at this point where I was wondering how we were ever going to make it through this ride.  I've never been so happy to see Tarzan in all my life.  She finally began to calm down, however still asking me every 2.5 seconds if we were almost done.  Finally we got to the last scene, The Wizard of Oz, when the ride broke.  Yep smack in the middle of munchkin land and we are going nowhere.  All I could think was thank God we didn't get stuck back in Alien!!!!  We finally made it through the ride and got outside when Beau looks at me and says "Mom!  Why would you make us go on that?!!?"  Now don't get me wrong, it was a very cool ride, but to a 5 year old it was 20 minutes of sheer torture.  For the rest of our trip before every single ride she would ask "is this going to be scary mom?"  Needless to say we skipped Tower of Terror.

See how happy they look before the ride....
Hollywood includes lots of shows, so after Luke took Beau and Cora on the Star Wars ride, that's what the remainder of our day consisted of.  We packed our lunch that day, and ate while watching Beauty and the Beast (which was a very cool little musical).  I'd say our favorite show was the Lights, Motor, Action stunt show though.  Once again it is made to look like you are on a movie set and they go through a series of stunts and then show you the tricks they use in the movies complete with a huge explosion at the end.

And that brings us to FROZEN.  Ah Elsa, I'm not sure how you have managed to captivate every 5 year old girl on the planet, but you have done it well.  I wasn't able to get a fast pass to meet the Frozen sisters, however not for lack of trying!  Yes, I was up until midnight clicking the refresh button 30 days before our trip trying to score one of those babies, but to no avail.  Anyway, I knew a 2 hour wait to see the Queen of Arendelle was probably not in the cards so this would be the only Elsa sighting of the trip.  It was basically a half hour of Frozen karaoke, which left Beau less than thrilled.  They did however, have hosts that put on a cute little comedic narration to make it bearable for the parents.  Of course they made it look like Elsa would be coming out at the very beginning.  Cora was literally on the edge of her seat!  Just kidding, only Anna (poor Anna).  Finally at the end of the it really her?!  Yes!  Elsa has arrived.  All kidding aside, I would sit through Frozen 1000 times to see that look on her face.  I think she was slightly disappointed that Elsa didn't actually shoot ice daggers at the crowd, but she did make a bubbly "snow" fall on us.  Even Beau (although he'll never admit it) thought that part was pretty cool.  He tried to stifle his grin by complaining that "UGH!  This stuff is getting all over me!" but he liked it.  :)

Beau "NOT" enjoying himself
Sylvie and Luke did not make it to the Frozen festivities.  Sylvie was tired and going downhill fast in the line for the show.  By the time we were getting in our seats she was in full fledged tantrum mode.  Normally a quiet child, her tantrums are LOUD and angry!  My husband in all his awesomeness left the show, managed to tame the beast, and somehow by the time we met again was pushing a sleeping angel cuddling with her blankie, and had a beer in hand.  Like I said he rocks.

I'd like to tell you she took a good nap and woke up a well rested happy child.  In reality, Beau and Cora immediately ran over to the stroller "WHERE'S SYLVIE?  IS SHE SLEEPING?"  as they proceed to stick their heads in the stroller.  Well, no, not anymore!  The tantrums weren't far behind as a groggy 2 year old turned around and demanded "nack....NACK!"  Oh yes, remember those fruit snacks we continuously pumped her full of on the plane, yeah she had decided she would prefer that trend to continue throughout our trip and quickly discovered that the louder she screamed the more quickly we would shove a bag of fruity goodness in her face.  This is just the reason that fruit snacks do not live in our house.  I long ago realized that my children were not the kind of kids who you give a bag of fruit snacks and they nibble on them as they move about their day.  I've seen kids do it so I know they exist.  I've even seen kids consume a single gummy in multiple bites.  Those children are not mine.  No, in our house it looks more like dumping the entire bag in their hand and consuming the fist full in 2 bites, resulting in the entire box of said snacks being gone within an hour of arriving home from the store.  Now, I do daycare, I knew as well as anyone that the only way to break the "NACK" cycle is to say no, let her scream and throw her fit while the answer remains no.  However, you know when your kid is the one SCREAMING in the middle of a huge crowd and you get the feeling everyone is about to come at you with pitchforks and daggers if you don't make the noise stop? (no...just me??).  Logically I know that every corner Disney World is filled with other moms and dads dealing with small children throwing massive sized tantrums and the only thing they were thinking was "thank God it's not my kid (at this second)", but in the moment.....pitchforks.  Well we had reached a point where we had had all of the ridiculousness that we could take so.... I locked us in the companion bathroom, told her she wasn't putting anything else in her mouth until supper (I was not down on my knees using the patient understanding mom voice that the moms in the magazines get the picture).  The expected screaming ensued, I stared at her and did nothing (momentarily fueling her rage) until defeat turned the screams into sniffles.  We walked out of the bathroom, crossed the road once again looking like a happy Disney family right to the Mickey ice cream (picture me hanging my head in shame).  Some of the bathroom intervention must have stuck however because the "NACK!" demands returned to requests and were much less frequent for the remainder of our trip.  I'm not going to lie, a trip to Disney includes almost an equal amount of parenting fails as it does "magical moments".
Mickey ice cream, don't judge ;)

We finished our afternoon with a quick stop at the Honey I shrunk the kids playground, The Little Mermaid, and a Disney Junior show.  We headed over to Pizza Planet for supper, which was pizza plus arcade games.  I don't think I've ever seen Beau leave pizza on his plate before.  Luke had given him a dollar to cash in for quarters (because Heaven forbid we dip into the $60 worth of quarters we had reserved for our pressed penny collection!).  We were still finishing up our supper when we got to witness a teenage boy with a group of his friends leaving the restaurant.  The boy noticed Beau struggling to feed his dollar into the change machine.  He stopped helped Beau get his dollar straightened out, made sure he got his quarters and then ran to catch up with his friends.  Just a little thing, but gives you hope for future generations doesn't it?  I can only hope that I raise kids who will not be too busy or too cool to stop and help others, even if it's just a "little kid" struggling to get some quarters. We finished with a few games before walking through the Art of Animation attraction. Although they weren't on Disney's character schedule for the day we were surprised to get to see Hiro and Baymax!  It was extra lucky since Baymax was the one character Beau really hoped to see.  Unfortunately we just missed the line cut off to meet them, so we had to try to get some pictures from behind the ropes, resulting in Hiro, Baymax, and random kids who got in on the meet and greet. We grabbed a book to organize our pressed pennies on the way out of the park.  Sylvie fell asleep on the 10 minute drive back to the hotel, only to wake up fully rested for her nightly shenanigans.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

The Disney Series Part 2 - Epcot

On our first day at the parks we visited Epcot.  We woke up to our 4:30am alarm (this is an adventure, not a vacation remember) and started the coffee.  How people get through a Disney trip without coffee is beyond me!  We got everyone ready and sunscreened and stepped outside to the 50 degree was freezing!  I know, I know we live in MN, 50 degrees is downright balmy.  But when you're in Florida dressed in shorts, tank tops, and Minnie ears it feels freezing!  Regardless, we woke up excited and ready to go and arrived at the park shortly after 7.  This was the kids' first experience with "hurry up and wait" on this trip.  They were a bit confused by the fact that we still had 45 minutes before the park even opened.  I, however, was ecstatic that we were the second family in line.  Maybe it was all the practice being early birds in the real world, but I will say we were rope drop masters this whole trip!  We passed the time by getting magic bands, using the bathroom, and taking selfies of course!! ;)

Ready to go!

Magic bands were our first purchase upon arrival.  Best decision ever!

Our first ride was Spaceship Earth.  I had a detailed touring plan all ready to go, but also knew that crowds would be crazy, so I was prepared to wait.  The kids and I got in line while Luke parked the stroller.  It soon became apparent that there was in fact no line, and that we would be walking right on to the ride (what?!).  As I tried to move to the side to wait for Luke we were quickly ushered ahead onto a moving conveyor belt where the ride was loading.  There is no stopping at Disney (at least not during spring break), you move with the crowd or....I'm not sure what, maybe the mysterious people with clipboards poof you into never never land.  Anyway, to make a long story short Luke ended up a couple of cars behind us, I had a mild freak out over the fact that although Beau and Cora were right in front of me I couldn't see them at all.  Once we got into the ride though Disney magic took over and it ended up being one of our favorites.
We moved on to meet the Disney characters, including the much anticipated Minnie Mouse.  Turns out Sylvie likes Minnie better from a distance.  She would very tentatively touch the characters' hands but boy if they moved in any closer than that she couldn't escape fast enough!  We were 'those people' I'm sure all the characters love with 3 autograph books in hand to be signed.  We did, however, have them ready to go and retractable sharpie in hand, but yes, I'm sure we got a giant eye roll every time ;).

Seriously Mickey, I'm much to old to be getting hugs from a mouse!
and that look is what Disney's all about

Cora loved the hugs

My what big hands you have Minnie

We couldn't believe how well the morning went.  Even as the crowds picked up we never had to wait more than a few minutes to get on a ride.  Cora and I loved Soarin', while Beau couldn't seem to get past the fact that our legs were dangling above a giant unknown abyss.  Luke hung back with Sylvie, and we now wish that we would have done a child swap on this ride because it ended up being one of my favorite rides and it's the one everyone asks him if he did.  Had we known then how easy 'childswap' was we would have done it.  Seriously Disney has it all figured out.  We rode all the rides in Future World in the morning and then moved to the World Showcase in the afternoon.

Surprisingly, even though we weren't lining up for rides, this is where I noticed the crowds.  It was difficult to explore and see what each country had to offer with all the people.  I would love to go back with the sole goal of eating or drinking something in each country.  We did see Mulan in China, who Cora has had a recent infatuation with (thank you ABC Family princess marathon), so we lined up to get her autograph.  After waiting and waiting and waiting in line Cora suddenly had to use the bathroom.  Really?  Because we're 2 people away!  I asked her if she could wait, but she had to go right now.  So Luke, Beau, and Sylvie stayed in line for Mulan while Cora and I trucked it back to Norway to use the bathroom.  By the time we got back Mulan had signed autographs and signed off. We attempted to tour a few more of the countries but with the crowds it was difficult to tell what was an attraction to explore and what was a restaurant.  After fighting the crowds to get to a cool looking building only to find out it was a restaurant we opted to stick to the main path and take in the sights from there.  By this time the kids were getting cranky and legs were getting tired.  We caught a boat ride back to Mexico and found a much needed margarita.  I'm fairly certain the glass was rimmed with golden salt based on the price tag, but nonetheless it was just what the doctor ordered.  We took a break and used it as an opportunity to change the girls into their princess dresses for our princess dinner.
Touring the World Showcase

Mulan, sans Cora

Preparing for the princess dinner

We met Belle, Ariel, Aurora, Cinderella, and Snow White.  Cora definitely got her princess fix as each one came around to our table to sign autographs and pose for pictures.  She then got to be led around the entire restaurant by Ariel in a princess parade!  By this point Sylvie was done.  She wanted nothing to do with any princess, pictures, or parades.  Lets just say by this point I was very thankful for that margarita.  Beau was also not about to get his picture taken with any princesses!  I will say that this entire trip he was such a trooper, never complaining about all the girly stuff a trip to Disney with 2 sisters entails. favorite princess of the evening because she was the only one who spoke like a normal person!

Princess parade
Hanging in there
not hanging in there

After supper it was back to the hotel, where Sylvie got a second wind (only to be fueled by Cora) and ran around like a maniac until "bedtime".  I use the term bedtime loosely as Sylvie interpreted it as time to throw stuffed animals, jump on her siblings, and keep them awake by any means possible.  Beau was actually annoyed.  Cora, on the other hand, was just as big a culprit in the charades.  While feigning annoyance her giggles and squeals gave her away.  One would think that a day outside, walking for miles, having each of their 5 senses overstimulated for hours on end would cause them to be asleep as soon as their head hit the pillow.  Not so my friend, not so.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The Disney Series Part 1 - The BIG Reveal

Let me start by saying I've been dreaming of Disney since I was in 3rd grade.  One of my classmates missed a week of school to go to Disney World, and I remember thinking "WHAT!?  Disney World!! I thought only really rich people went to Disney World!"  Ever since I've been dreaming of Disney, and patiently waiting for my turn to visit the most magical place on Earth.  Well folks, the time has come!  On October 31st 2014 (yes I remember the date specifically) it was decided that we would indeed be visiting Disney World.  I floated around in giddy disbelief for a few days and then got down to planning.  And when I say planning I mean I went about this thing like a research project.  We decided we weren't going to tell the kids until we were ready to leave and it's hard to say whether I was more excited about the actual trip or telling the kids about the trip!  Finally the day had arrived when we could spill the beans.  I had contacted Beau's teacher, and she sent his homework (a vacation journal) home in a sealed envelope.  Which of course Beau opened immediately.  Luckily, although suspicious he didn't put anything together.

The Big Reveal:

To tell the kids I put together a scavenger hunt.  They collected 5 clues hidden in strategic places.
1. Attached to swim trunks
2. Taped to a beach picture
3. In a suitcase
4. In a toy plane
5. Attached to a clothing tag shaped like the state of Florida.
 By the end of the hunt they had figured out how all the clues went together, but not that THEY were actually going somewhere.  Finally the last clue led them to Mickey balloons and a note explaining "YOU'RE GOING TO DISNEY WORLD".  Their first reaction was disbelief.  We got a lot of "what? are we really?!"  When we finally convinced them we actually are going we hit them with the second half of the surprise....we're leaving TOMORROW!  They were excited to say the least.

As they were getting in to their beds Cora and Beau were talking back and forth between their rooms.
Cora:  "Beau, this is the best day EVER!"
Beau:  "No Cora, tomorrow will be the best day ever!....Well no, actually tomorrow we will just be sitting on a plane all day, so Saturday will be the best day ever!"
After a short break in the conversation so Cora could rearrange the balloons she insisted be displayed around her bed she finishes with "I've never been so happy!"
As for Sylvie all she knew is that we're going to "Minnie's house!"  I'm not sure if she had any idea what that meant, but everyone was excited so she was too :)
Surprisingly, they all fell asleep fairly quickly.

Friday was a long travel day, but we all had a LOT of excitement to keep us going.
Ready to go meet Mickey!

First time travelers
Ready for takeoff! 
For first time travelers they all did very well.  Sylvie wasn't overly interested in staying buckled in her seat, but as long as we kept a constant stream of fruit snacks flowing she did ok.  It definitely wasn't a relaxing pull out a book and tell me when we get there kind of flight.  We rotated between stickers, books, coloring, card games, electronic games, and of course the skymall magazine.  Honestly, it was exhausting, and those books I brought for myself to read....ha!  They didn't even get pulled out of the bag.  Luckily I stopped referring to our Disney trip as a "vacation" a few weeks earlier and instead termed it an 'adventure'.  I was prepared for very little rest and relaxation in lieu of LOTS of fun and excitement!!  We ended up getting to our resort around 10pm.  The kids were wound up when we got there and Sylvie introduced us to the new game she had in mind for the duration of our trip.  It was called 101 ways to keep my brother and sister from going to sleep.