Saturday, May 23, 2015

The Disney Series Part 6 - Animal Kingdom

We woke up on Wednesday morning ready to go.  By now we had settled into a morning grove mostly attributed to figuring out the automatic start on the coffee maker.  Nothing gets me out of bed faster than my nose alerting me that my coffee is ready and waiting for me.  Our hotel was literally around the corner from Animal Kingdom so we had a little more time than usual to get ready....picture a lot of jumping around, growling, and goofy renditions of hakuna matata, and that pretty much sums up our predawn hotel room.  We left shortly before 7, took our place as first ones behind the rope and got comfy for our 45 minute wait to be let in.  We were having fun taking pictures of the scenery outside the park gates.  Sylvie spotted a number 2 so we trotted over there to get a picture with that too.
As a side note, Luke and I had discussed what ages we should take the kids to Disney, and originally decided we were going to wait until Sylvie was older.  You know, when we didn't have to worry about naps, and she'd actually remember it.  I can honestly say though I'm SO glad we took her at this age.  She added a whole other element of excitement to the trip.  Everything was SO exciting to her and it was impossible not to share in her glee.  Whether it be an elaborate princess attraction, a number 2 marking a door, or  even a puddle of water she was thrilled.  Will she remember most of the trip, probably not.  Could we have avoided many a sleep deprived meltdown, definitely.  But having the lens of an innocent two year old to view our trip through made it an experience I wouldn't trade for anything.
Proudly pointing out her number 2
What better place for a photo?!
Anyway, back to the rope drop...a few minutes after our arrival both Beau and Cora needed to use the bathroom (shocker, I know).  The bathrooms were right there so  Luke stayed with Sylvie while I took Cora and Beau used the boys room.  When Cora finished Beau still wasn't out so I sent Luke in after him.  In the meantime one of the cast members came over to me with her clipboard and said "we've confirmed your reservation and you can head in".  Apparently my face must have conveyed my confusion because she went on to say "when they come back (gesturing to the bathroom), we're going to let you in.  Just go with it and don't say anything".  What?!  Really?? (I want to jump up and down right now just remembering it).  Once they boys got back the cast member, led us to the gate where she told another clipboard carrying employee "this is the family I was telling you about".  I kind of expected her to say stop stop, I'm going to need your Mickey bands and finger prints please.  But she just waved us through and told us to have fun.  I felt like we'd just been ushered in to some exclusive club.  We were so excited, there was no containing my giddy giggles as we hopped through the entrance.  Not only did we not have to wait for an hour, but we gained an hour of free time, AND got to check out the park before the crowds!  That was the best part, just being able to wander, explore, and see up ahead without bumping in to anyone or fearing one of the kids would get lost in the crowd.  We couldn't help dreaming of being at Disney during a non-peak time when all the parks would be like this all the time. We skipped (literally) through some of the trails as we made our way in to the park where we stopped to get our picture in front of the Tree of Life.

Our first destination was Dinoland.  We took our time getting there, stopping to take in the scenery and snap goofy pictures.  We took a ride on the triceratops version of Dumbo before heading the the attraction Dinosaur.  We read about this ride the night before and Cora already decided it was too scary for her to go on.  I tried to convince her to come with Beau and I, but after the Alien experience I didn't want to push it.  Once we got in line it was a little creepy and I was relieved that Cora had opted out.  We waited all of 3 minutes  before we boarded our "Time Rover" on a mission to capture an Iguana don.  Was I nervous?....maybe.  Did I scream?....yep.  Did I cower into the shoulder of my 7 year old for safety? betcha.  Apparently Beau was equally terrified because he got off adamantly proclaiming he was NOT doing that again.  I told him he had to ride it again with Dad!!  No way, no how!  I loved this ride and wanted Luke to be able to go on it so I had approximately 2 minutes before we met back up with them to change his mind.  Luckily the ride exited through the gift shop so I did what every good mother does....I bribed him.  Yep, I promised him a toy from the gift shop if he rode it again with Dad.  He did a quick scan of the merchandise and reluctantly agreed.  We tried to convince Cora one more time before they headed in, but she was content sitting this one out.  While they rode the girls and I did some exploring and of course used the bathroom.  A few minutes later the boys returned, and Beau showed off his $16 stuffed dinosaur.

Enjoying the lack of people!
Entering Dinoland....notice the crowd free paths!!

Round 1 on Dinosaur...I wasn't scared at all!
Round 2 on Dinosaur....notice Beau with his head down, "the lights were very bright and hurt his eyes", he definitely wasn't scared.

We exited Dinoland in to Asia, and made our way over to Kali River Rapids.  Let me just say that when you are cautioned to put on your poncho before this ride, you should heed the advice!   Luke was more than willing to let me take the kids on this one, and we were SOAKED!  Completely dripping wet.  The bathroom near the end of the ride was filled with people changing clothes and attempting to use the hand dryers to dry off.  Unfortunately the dryers were set in to the wall, presumably to prevent people from clogging up the bathroom to dry their clothes.  It didn't stop us from trying though...I've never wished for a dry pair of underwear more in my life.  We spent the next hour or so trying to find all the sun we could soak up!  We meandered through Asia until we got to the Expedition Everest coaster.  We could tell that the park was already getting much more crowded, and I again did a little happy dance over how lucky we were to get in early!  Cora was too short for this ride so the girls and I did some photo ops and grabbed a bag of candy from the gift shop while we waited.  Beau and Luke both came off with giant grins, Luke saying I had to ride it, and Beau saying nope, no way, not with him!  We stood there for a short time trying to convince Beau to ride it again, when Luke told me I had to do it, and to just go by myself.  By MYSELF?!  That sounded completely ridiculous...who rides a roller coaster alone?? (read...who will protect me?!).  So I did what every good mother I didn't bribe him again, come on now, how many overpriced stuffed animals do you think we need?  I guilted him into it (obviously).  So, we ran off to get in line and Beau made friends with a little girl (who apparently did not think riding a roller coaster by herself was ridiculous). They chatted the whole way about the scary parts since they'd both done it before.  This is very unusual for Beau since usually he participates in stranger small talk with one word answers leaving me shifting awkwardly to fill in the blanks for him.  Not this time, I was content to sit back and listen to them
 "oh and then when you stop and fly backwards"
 "oh yeah! and then he tears the track apart" definitely sounded like he had a horrible time the first ride.  Once we got on the ride I put my sunglasses in the pouch and told Beau not to let me forget them.  We headed up the first hill and stopped....for a. long. time.  Not all day or anything but definitely long enough that you could tell this wasn't supposed to be happening.  People around us were starting to get nervous, and the two tiny boppers in front of us had stopped their giggling and asked me "what's going on? I don't like this"  I smiled reassuringly and kept chatting with Beau like I was having the best time in the world (picture me pointing out scenery).  I was thinking thinking, however, why are you asking me?!!!  I'm about 30 seconds away from letting this panic attack out of the bag and screaming for somebody to get me off this thing!!!!!  Luckily that's when we started moving again, I had until we got to the top of the hill to imagine all the terrible things about to happen since this ride was obviously broken.  There were a LOT of dark twists and drops, and I found I had to keep feeling next to me to make sure Beau didn't fly out.  Turns out he's not a screamer like me.  In fact he was completely silent the whole time, maybe he was just trying to look tough for his new friend behind us.  I'm happy to report the rest of the ride went smoothly...although it did shut down for the rest of the morning right after we got off.  Comforting I know.  I wonder if they found my sunglasses while they were fixing it....
We finished up our time in Asia by walking along some of the trails to look at the animals, including GIANT bats.  These things were enormous and there was NOTHING between us and them, because apparently they were content to eat melons and our blood didn't interest them.  Yeah, get me out now!  The tigers were cool though, far less intimidating.
a cold and soaking wet Cora
Outside Expedition Everest
Beau's first ride through Everest

Next up was the bird show.  I'm not a bird fan, and we've been to bird shows before so I was really tempted to skip this one.  But this was a DISNEY bird show so I decided we should stick to the plan. I wasn't disappointed, and the hysterical laughter from Beau more than made up for my lack of bird love.  Seriously he LOVED this show, he was belly laughing uncontrollably at all the birds little tricks.  There were even times when the trick would be over and he'd start giggling and then bust out laughing all over again just thinking about it.  For our "yeah, whatever", eye rolling, I'll never admit I'm having fun kid it was great to see, and was probably one of my favorite Disney experiences just because of it.
Who knew a bird bobbing its head could be so entertaining!
We grabbed some pizza for lunch and then began our trek into Africa.  We were too late to get in on the next showing of The Lion King, so we took off for the Kilimanjaro Safaris.  The line was long, and it was hot but we had a fast pass so we got bumped up to the shady part of the line.  This was one of the rides that I would love to do again, every time would be a different animal experience.  After our ride we tried to walk some of the trails in Africa.  It was beyond crowded by this point and it was a challenge to even walk through the sea of people.  Seeing any animals off to the side was about impossible.  We did make a couple stops so the kids could try to earn some wilderness explorer stickers, and got to see some baby monkeys.  But otherwise, we pretty much escaped as quickly as possible.  Which really wasn't all that quickly due to the Little Rascals clogging up the paths.  And by Little Rascal, I don't mean small children, I'm referring to the scooters that were causing my husband to experience road rage.  We were in need of a break, so we headed back to catch the next showing of The Lion King.  It was so hot and they crowd you in the waiting area like sardines.  I believe at one point they told us to stretch out our arm and if we in fact could we weren't close enough to the people around us.  We were hoping that Sylvie could catch a desperately needed catnap, so in addition to the 25 pound toddler we were also toting her FLEECE blanket, because Heaven forbid she be without that in the 90 degree heat!  Needless to say by the time we got inside patience was running short.  They divided us up to sit in different sections of the theatre, and we were at the very end of our group.  Luke kept saying things like "there's no room", "we're not going to get a seat", etc.  I just wanted to scream that we did not need all this negative narration!!  Alas, he was right, there was no room for us....BUT, we followed the cast member directly down to the floor where she sat us in the fast pass/handicap seats!  See, there's always a silver lining :).  While Sylvie did not nap, all three kids loved the show and were dancing and singing along.
Afterwards we rode the train to Rafiki's Planet Watch.  It was a nice little break and the kids got to watch vets take care of a tortoise that was hit by a car on one of the Disney properties.  We even got to meet Rafiki before we left with NO line!  When we got back to the main park we saw "It's Tough To Be a Bug".  It was another fun 3D experience engaging all five senses.  Our favorite the very end when they asked you to stay seated to allow the roaches and maggots to exit just as something scurries right under your butt.  There were gasps and screams starting at one end and traveling across the theatre like some creepy version of the wave.  We finished just in time for our fast pass to meet Mickey and Minnie.

Afterwards things started to go downhill.  We were all set to walk the trails around the Tree of Life, but unfortunately they were closed for the day.  I'm not sure why and I'm still pretty bummed we didn't get to see it, but I guess it gives us a reason to go back, right?!  Finding Nemo was next on our list, but we still had awhile before it started so we found a little spot to regroup.  This is when I began to notice Luke looking at his phone with a wide eyed troubled expression.  Turns out, he had just been notified that our airline was about to strike.  Yep, the pilots weren't coming in to work, and it was scheduled to coincide with the Easter weekend.  Guess when we were supposed to fly home...yep you guessed it.  He began calling around, searching for plane tickets, and trying to figure out what an alternative return flight would cost us.  My wide eyed expression matched his, however I was uninterested in return flights and was frantically trying to calculate what another 2 days at Disney would cost...I'm sure we could swing it, no other choice right??!  Fortunately (unfortunately??) all the pilots showed up for work, and we were able to fly home as planned.  If I were them I would have put a big "APRIL FOOLS" in the subject line of the second notification email.  Maybe it's a good thing I don't work in public relations.
While still in the midst of our separate cost analysis, Sylvie decided to have her only accident of the trip, and it wasn't pee.  I heard "poop Mom" and I could tell by her frozen stance that she was not notifying me of her need to go.  A quick check confirmed my fears.  I could see the nearest restroom and we weren't far, however this was an 'I've been snacking on grapes for 4 days straight' kind of accident.  For those of you without small children that translates to "not solid". Getting her to the restroom without a bath worthy mess was not happening.  So, I told her not to move, strategically placed the stroller, Luke held up a towel and we did a "touch your toes" undies swap right there.  We didn't even need a dress change.  Besides, we were in the Animal Kingdom, and the food cart we were standing next to was closed anyway.
By this time Nemo was becoming less and less appealing.  We took a vote and decided to head out and swing through a drive through on the way back to the hotel.  We exited the park and walked and walked to find our car.  It seemed to me like a LOT longer walk than when we were going in to the park, but what do I know, I NEVER remember where I park the car, ever.  After awhile Beau started chiming in with the same concerns and Luke admitted that he thought we went the wrong way.  Now like I said, I never remember where I park, but when I go out the wrong doors at Target it usually doesn't involve a 2 mile correction course.  Oh well, less guilt over those burgers we were about to scarf down I guess.
We set our alarms for our 4am wake up call and went to bed excited for breakfast with Pooh in the morning, and slightly sad (at least I was) about the fact that it would be our last day.

Monday, May 4, 2015

The Disney Series Part 5 - Beach Day

Ok, so back to the Disney recap...I figured you guys needed a little break after the last novel of a post.  Plus there has been a garage sale that's been taking over my life for the past week or so.  But, without further ado I take you to the Sea.

We knew Magic Kingdom would include staying up late for the nighttime festivities so we planned the next day as our "rest" day and planned to drive to the beach.  I was the first one to roll out of bed at 8am and I was able to sneak out to the balcony for a cup of coffee before the kids got up!  Those of you with kids know this is the equivalent of sleeping well in to the afternoon, and almost unheard of.  I even felt a little guilty for wasting so much of the day away!!  We woke up slowly drinking coffee, watching cartoons, and inventorying our growing pressed penny collection.  We finally got moving forward around 11 and headed to Clearwater beach.  It was about a 2 hour drive from our hotel, but we figured the girls could use a good nap in the car and Beau could catch up on some reading for school. The drive was worth it because the beach and the water were so pretty, and a great first ocean experience for the kids.

When we arrived (all in one piece, no thanks to the lady in front of us who seemed to be having a crisis deciding between her candy crush game and actually driving her car) Luke needed to use the restroom and opted to take the stairs vs. waiting for the elevator in the parking garage.  So that left me, 3 kids, our bus of a stroller, and the 2 drunk spring breakers getting on the elevator.  I believe they said something to the effect of "oh lets let this mama and her carriage get on first."  Leaving me wondering how the hell I got so old?!?  I think my pondering probably turned to a scowl as I thought seriously I canNOT be that much older than you!  They chatted with my kids about the dangers of drinking as Beau kept sneaking looks at me like "mom what is wrong with them" and Cora couldn't take her eyes off the girls bejeweled belly.  I couldn't decide if her stares were out of horror and confusion or amazement and wonder.  In either case I made a mental note to show her what ONE stomach piercing looks like after 3 children, let alone a stomach covered in sparkly bling.  ANYWAY....we did reach the street without this mama having a midlife crisis, and thankfully the area of the beach we were on was a family area so time was turned back to its rightful place.

Cora was a natural mermaid jumping right into the "sea" as she calls it.  As usual Beau was a little more cautious, but gradually worked his way out to the deeper water and bigger waves, where he stayed most of the time.  They both ended up with noses full of salt water multiple times, and loved every minute of it.  Every time Cora's head would go under she'd bob back up and say "did you see that?!  I just drowned!!"  Apparently she's like a cat and has multiple lives.  Sylvie is more like her brother, a cautious explorer.  She would start with the water washing over her feet and work her way out to the point where the waves were almost knocking her over.  That would result in a trip back to our spot in the sand for a little break, before venturing out to do it all over again.  It was a fairly short trip, since we knew we had a long drive back and wanted to get the kids to bed early.  The trip back to the hotel included an emergency bathroom stop (are you noticing a bathroom trend throughout this vacation?!) at the most disgusting gas station bathroom I've ever been in, and a stop at Target for some frozen pizzas for supper. (Some of you will be happy to note that there was no confusion as to what a frozen pizza was this time, but that's a story for another time ;).  

It was nice to have an evening to slow down and relax.  Luke even ventured out to find us some drinks at the hotel bar, while we filled the Jacuzzi tub so the girls could pretend they were back at the sea.  They were thrilled to be able to splash until their hearts were all of you with little girls know those mermaid tails can make quite a mess!  The kids got to bed at a decent time leaving us time to (nerd alert) look over the maps and touring plans for the coming days.  Don't judge, in all my dedicated (ok, obsessive) plan checking I was able to score an early reservation that opened up at the Magic Kingdom for breakfast on Thursday.  And not just any breakfast...a breakfast buffet at the Crystal Palace with Pooh and friends!!   Not only was I excited for the characters, but that meant we got into the park an hour early with the Disney resort guests!!!!

First time toes in the Sea

Look at those beach waves!

Racing the waves

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.