Thursday, January 31, 2013

Disney Day 4: EPCOT

So EPCOT is my favorite place in the Disney Universe.  It satisfies my nerdy girl inner core (the first scenes of Spaceship Earth are all about the awesomeness of reading and writing!), my OCD (getting that World Showcase passport filled out is a labor of love), my love of international cultures, and it’s just damned fun.  So I was REALLY looking forward to it.

I was a wee, trifle, tiny bit sore from AK the day before, but I figured it wouldn’t be that big a deal.  We arrived early enough that we were able to park right outside the gate, thus negating the need for a tram ride.  I have been to these parks for YEARS, literally YEARS, and this has never happened to me.  I thought it was awesome.  The stroller I borrowed is HUGE and it is a pain in the butt to get on and off the trams, so it was a big plus for me to just walk into the park.

P1020245As soon as we got inside, I told Leah I thought we should go up in “the big ball”.  She was all for it, but she was scared, as well, and clutched my arm the whole way through the ride.  When it was over, she realized it really wasn’t scary and demanded to do it again!  So since there weren’t any lines, I said sure, and we did it again and this time she enjoyed it a great deal more. 

It seems like there is a lot more “stuff” at EPCOT than I remember, so I got turned around a bit and wound up not really being able to figure out the map.  Thankfully there was a helpful cast member nearby who pointed me where I needed to go and we were off to Imagination!  Leah was not as enthralled with it as I might have thought, and didn’t care to do it again.  The old Imagination ride WAS far superior than this one, in which Disney has sold out and brought in Eric Idle, who I adore but it just really didn’t need to be re-done with a celebrity endorsement in my opinion.  And I think in some ways, kids might be savvy to that even if they have no idea that’s what’s going on.

P1020264So we made our way over to the Finding Nemo ride.  Leah remembered so much about the Nemo musical that we saw, she just LOVED this ride.  It was another “get off, get right back on” deal and she was delighted by the jellyfish in particular.  Then we went to The Land which was right next door, since they have a new ride called “Soaring” which I was excited to try.  There was no way we were getting on that any time soon, so we got a Fast Pass (or as I like to call it, a Legal Line Skipper) and then we ate lunch down there.  It was already crazy hot outside, and the A/C felt so good.  We ate our brown bag lunch and then splurged on buying dessert at the restaurant—key lime tart for Leah and strawberry shortcake for me, although she didn’t eat much of her tart and she ate all my strawberries!  We caught sight of the boat ride and she thought it looked like fun, so we jumped on that.  She was especially thrilled with the fish farm/hatchery they have down there and in particular the tilapia they were raising for some reason gave her a real thrill!  She wanted to jump off the boat and pick all the fruits and veggies they were growing in their greenhouses and I was once again smugly proud at how healthy my kid is.

P1020278We finished up there and had about 4 hours to kill before we had to be back for Soaring (yes, it is that popular!).  So we decided to start walking the World Showcase.  I got Leah a little passport and we headed out.  We got over to Canada, the first stop, and let me tell you, my dogs were barking already.  It was hot, darn hot!  There are 3 things that absolutely drive me bonkers about Disney:  1. people who walk/cut in front of you; 2. people who stop in the middle of a path/street/road for no apparent reason; and 3. people who take pictures in random spots.  well yesterday, EPCOT was full people who would cut in front of us, stop dead, and take a picture.  AUGH!  So I was getting frazzled.  We left Canada and just as we were about to get to the United Kingdom, some doors rolled open and out popped Minnie Mouse.  Leah was battling that stroller, she could not get out fast enough.  As soon as I got her out, she ran like hell to Minnie, as fast as her legs could carry her, and flung herself into Minnie’s arms.  Oh joyous day!  There were plenty of other characters there too, and when enough of a crowd had gathered, we were taken back behind the doors and sealed off from EPCOT so we had plenty of time to meet and greet.  We saw Pluto, Minnie, someone named Shaker and another one named Big Al, Stitch, Captain Hook and Smee, and Goofy.  Leah has recently gotten in to the show “Jake and the Neverland Pirates” thanks to her friend Daniel, and so Captain Hook being there was a BIG deal.  In fact, she totally dissed Smee, which made Captain Hook laugh heartily to no end.  We went around and greeted everyone and she was on cloud 9, let me tell you, when we left.  We made it to the UK and found the passport station and what should be going on right next to it, but Pooh and Tigger were there.  well, you can be damned sure we saw Pooh and Tigger too!  The nice thing about it was that the guy at the passport table told us to just enjoy Pooh and come back for the passport when we were done.  So we didn’t have to wait in either direction, which was great!  Although it also kind of sucked since I wanted to talk to a real British person about William and Kate’s baby and I didn’t have the chance.  But they’re probably sick of Americans talking about that anyway.

P1020288We walked a bit further and came upon Mary Poppins.  Mary dared to ask Leah about her friends at home, which Leah took as a sign that she and Mary were friends, so she sat right down on the sidewalk, informed Mary that her best friends were “Dot Dot, Chunk, and Anna” and the proceeded to give Mary her life story.  Mary looked a bit deer-in-the-headlights when the encounter was over, but Leah was smugly pleased with herself and Mary is the only character we’ve met in 3 days that Leah actually spoke to, which made me happy anyway.

P1020297We next went to France and met Princess Aurora and then Morocco and then the wheels came off the bus.  It was crazy hot, my feet hurt, I was tired, Leah was tired, and she wanted ice cream, which I had said no to back in France.  We were wandering the showcase looking for ice cream when she caught sight of a line for Snow White, but we were told the line was closed, which caused further hysteria.  Mercifully we finally found some ice cream somewhere between Germany and Norway, and we each enjoyed a cone, which cooled us off considerably but didn’t do much for my aching feet.  I told Leah we were going to go on the Maelstrom in Norway so I could sit for a minute and she enjoyed it a great deal, actually.  Then we went into Mexico since I was hoping to find a sombrero with Mickey ears for my buddy Amber, but unfortunately I didn’t see any.  On the plus side, they have a boat cruise in there, so we sat on that and relaxed a bit longer.

It was getting close to time for our FastPass turn on Soaring, so we started heading back to The Land, and I would be lying if I said my butt wasn’t dragging.  I know I was making tired-ugly-Susan-face, but I was sweating, smelly, hot, and sore.  We got to Soaring and they had to measure Leah since it has a height restriction, and mercifully she JUST squeaked by the requirement.  We rolled on in, being happily kept company by a British Rastafarian and his 5 year old daughter who was ADORABLE, and then sat on the simulator. I was just grateful to have something to sit on, but let me tell you, in the entire history of awesome rides at Disney, this is in my top 3.  it is absolutely incredible.  it felt so real, I was convinced I could stick my toes in the ocean at times.  It’s a kind of gliding simulation, but so much more.  Impossible to describe, but when it was over, everyone applauded.

P1020298Then I executively decided it was time to go home, but Leah wanted to go see the fish on the boat ride one more time, so we did take that little cruise once more.  then I about limped back to the car, and drove us to the hotel.  I told Leah if she would give me 20 minutes to stretch out, I would take her down for dinner, but somehow that turned into an hour, and that turned into, “Let’s order pizza and have a picnic!”  So we did, and she watched Barney on Netflix and peeled the pepperoni and cheese off the pizza while I ate some wings and watched TLC’s new cheerleading show and then put Leah to bed.  I took a hot shower and collapsed.

I loved being at EPCOT, it was a great day.  By the end of the day, we’d walked over 8 miles, and it was just so hot and exhausting.  I was happy that Leah enjoyed it so much and I will definitely bring her back again sometime soon!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Disney Day 3: Animal Kingdom

So I woke up at 4AM, bright and early, ready to go.  Mainly this was because I was exhausted after 2 days of driving and arriving here only to swim and tear around the resort, so I went to sleep at 8.  Same thing happened today, fell asleep last night around 9pm, and here I am up at 4!  Ugh!

P1020144Leah woke up around 6:30 and demanded I go back to sleep, so I did for a while.  She watched movies on the iPad till about 7:30 and then decided she wanted to go look around.  We got dressed, grabbed our cups and headed out to see all the different areas of the hotel.  I loved, loved, loved 101 Dalmations and still do so I was excited to see Pongo and Perdy standing guard outside that area, and Herbie the Love Bug has also always been one of my favorites, so it was fun seeing him!  Leah organized some races, meaning she ran and I chased her, around and around and around the Love Bug area, until I finally coaxed her back to the room around 8:45.  we quickly packed our brown bag lunch and headed to the car. 

The nice thing about Disney is that, so long as you want to go elsewhere on the Disney property, it’s all very well marked.  We got to the Animal Kingdom in about 2 minutes, so I think it’s worthwhile to drive to the parks with the car.  Our resort pass was our ticket to park for free and we arrived at Will Call and got our passes for the parks no problem whatsoever.

P1020195The Animal Kingdom is the largest of the 4 Disney theme parks.  I decided to explore without the map, and we just sort of followed the crowd.  We wound up on the African section and decided to go to the Kilimanjaro safari to see the animals.  Basically you climb aboard a big truck and drive around for a good while, maybe 30 minutes?  and see the animals.  All the animals seemed to be on the right side of the truck and Leah had sat on the left, so that required a bit of shifting, but otherwise we enjoyed the safari very much.  We saw elephants, rhinos, hippos, a sleeping lion, giraffes, gnu, and all kinds of stuff I don’t remember the names for.  It was a lot of fun and she enjoyed it a lot.

After that, we strolled around some more and found a little train ride over to Discovery Island or something so we took that.  There wasn’t anything to see except posters for Disney’s new movies, and the whole ride took about 2 minutes.  Leah didn’t want to get off and go see Rafiki.  So we took the train back, picked up the stroller and decided to go to see Mickey and Donald over at Camp Minnie Mickey.  We were waylaid by a very enthusiastic Discovery Station employee who wanted Leah to reach into a log and see what she could feel.  She flatly refused and hid under my shirt.  Thankfully another kid came along and did the searching and then we listened to a short lecture on how animals protect themselves.  She got a little Discovery pass and a stamp, and that was just fine, thank you very much, but we have Mickey Mouse to see!

P1020235We got over to the greeting trails as they are known there and got on the Mickey line.  Mickey had just gone in to take a break, so we had to wait MAYBE 2 minutes for him to come back out.  we were about 15th in line and when Mickey re-emerged, there were about 200 people behind us, but Leah was PISSED that we had to wait.  Still, I made her be patient and she muscled through it.  We got up to Mickey and she staunchly refused to go up to him unless I came with her.  So I managed to get in those pictures, anyway!  She shook his hand and then we posed for pictures and Mickey charmingly kissed my hand.  Then the photographer pointed out Leah’s little puffs looked like Mickey’s ears, and so Mickey obligingly went wild over Leah’s hair, which thrilled her to no end.

We said goodbye to him and went over to King Louie and Baloo.  Same thing, I had to go with her for pictures, but this time no cast member took our picture, so I’ll have to grab that off the PhotoPass website eventually.    Then I saw the line for Donald Duck was very short, so we went to see Donald and she was actually fine being alone with Donald, which I was surprised about!  I don’t know if it’s the cartoon voice or what, but I’ve always found Donald mildly terrifying, so I was proud of her to be so brave!  Unfortunately my camera was on the wrong setting, but there was no line to go see Donald again, so I made her go back and pose and Donald was very nice about it and I got a good picture.

After that, she decided she wanted nothing to do with any more of the meet and greet stuff—she saw Pocahantas but didin’t want to wait in line, same with Minnie Mouse, Goofy and Pluto, and Chip and Dale.  So we grabbed the stroller and decided to go over to Asia since there was a rapids ride that she was tall enough to go on.  Unfortunately it was closed, and we just missed the flying bird show, so we walked over to Dinoland USA and rode the flying triceratops ride, which is like the famous Dumbo ride at Magic Kingdom, only dinosaurs.  It was OK except our dinosaur didn’t go up and down, which was a disappointment.  We left there and she wanted to go on a nearby ride that seemed to be a cross between a tea cup thing and a roller coaster, but unfortunately she wasn’t tall enough.  So we found the Dinosaur ride and decided to go on that.  Basically the idea is that you are working with a rogue paleontologist to go and get an iguanadon just before the meteor crash that killed all the dinosaurs.  you board a Humvee type vehicle and go through.  Had I realized what it was, I would have skipped it, but at the time it seemed like a good idea given the lack of much else to do.  It was a lot of dinosaurs roaring in your face, black lights, strobe lights, loud noises, and the vehicle bounces all over.  I looked at Leah and she was holding on for dear life with her eyes squeezed shut.  Thankfully it was a 2 minute thing and it was over but she announced her intention never go to on such a thing again.

P1020242By now it was only noon.  Leah didn’t’ want to go on the walking trails to see the animals and really, I was kind of disappointed in that there didn’t seem to be much really “to do” there.  It’s a BEAUTIFUL place to go and look at, but if your kid doesn’t care much about seeing the animals, you’re kind of out of luck.  So we found an obliging bench, broke out our picnic lunch, and discussed our next move.  She said she just wanted to go back to the hotel and go swimming, which was fine with me. 

As we were following the exit signs, I happened to see that we were just in time for the Finding Nemo musical show, and I convinced her to go see that, and I’m glad I did.  It was Broadway quality as far as I was concerned.  I’ve never seen the movie, but the stage show was pretty incredible.  Leah’s favorite part was the bubbles coming down at the end, and after every single song, she’d ask me, “Is it over?” so I don’t know that she liked it very much, but I loved it!

It still took us almost an hour to get back to the park exit, so we got back to the hotel around 2pm.  All in all, the Animal Kingdom is OK, but I didn’t love it and I don’t think it really lived up to my expectations of it.  There is not a whole lot “to do” and it turns out my kid is more of a do-er and not a see-er, so unless that changes, I don’t foresee us going back any time soon.

I collapsed on the bed for a few minutes, but I had seen the housekeeping cart only 2 rooms away so I knew our time to relax was going to be limited. 

Sure enough, about 10 minutes later, there was a knock on the door, so I told the lady we would be out in just a minute and got Leah to change into her bathing suit and off we went to the pool.  We rented a lifejacket for the week so she could swim more independently and then swam for almost 2 hours.  It was cooling off considerably and my teeth were chattering when we finally got out.  We wrapped up in towels and I got Leah’s shoes on her, turned around to pack up the bag, and she was gone.  Just like that.  I couldn’t find her anywhere.  I knew she wasn’t in the pool because the lifeguards are excellent about that sort of thing, but I searched under tables, in the shrubs, everywhere and the kid was gone.  Finally after 3 or 4 minutes, I contacted a nearby security guard for help and he seemed very unconcerned about it.  He looked around a bit, but not with any sense of urgency.  I was fighting panic, when out from inside the hotel, Leah strolls, crying.  Apparently she had run in there and then gotten confused and scared. 

Needless to say, she remained firmly attached to me as I marched her back to the hotel and she was in a firm time out for quite some time.  Mama was NOT happy.  We had a stern lecture about running away, but the minute we headed out for the gift shop and dinner an hour later, she took off again. So I caught her and grabbed her and made her walk march step with me and she is now aware she will spend today on the kid leash, something I did not have to resort to yesterday. Grrr.  We visited the gift shop at the hotel and she zeroed in on a hot pink tie dyed t-shirt without which nothing else would do, and I got her some flip flops to wear to the pool.  I regained control of my senses enough to say “no way!” to the $90 Cinderella castle.  Then we headed over to the cafeteria for dinner, where Leah decided she wanted a salad and I got a quesadilla.

sure enough, she had to go potty shortly thereafter, so we gathered up our stuff and headed into the bathroom  I hung our cups on the bag hook on the back of the door, and she decided to play with the door while I was ‘indisposed’, and one of the cups fell off the hook and spread soda all over the floor.  AUGH!  I made her get paper towels and clean it up, and after we got it cleaned up, I grabbed the other cup and our bag and sure enough, the other cup fell to the ground and Leah’s orange drink went everywhere.  Gawd, I was mad at myself!!! AUGH!  And one of the cups broke, darn it! 

photoAfter that fiasco, we came back to the room and watched TV.  I was exhausted, got everything hung up and settled down for the evening, and decided that Leah could finish her movie and then it was bed time, when there was a knock on the door.  I looked through the peephole and all I could see were balloons.  COOL!  So I opened up and a man was there with balloons, a Rapunzel doll, and an autograph book.  He gave everything to Leah and I asked him who had sent it and he said they came from the front desk.  I thanked him profusely and he left, and then I had to prevent Leah from all but gnawing through the box in her excitement to free Punzel from her cardboard prison.  she managed to pop one of the balloons up on the cottage cheese ceiling, but that just made her laugh more than anything, and she played with Punzel for quite a while.  Around 7:30, I told her it was lights out and I went to take a shower.  When I came back into the bedroom area, she was passed out and snoring like a man, fully under the covers, not even her hair poking out.  So I’d say she was good and tired.

So I sat up till about 9:30 and then I turned in as well.  I am REALLY looking forward to today’s adventure, EPCOT, which is my personal favorite of all the Disney parks.  I am excited to find out the Maelstrom has no height requirements, I know she’ll love Imagination, and there are just so many great rides over there, plus they have a new Phinneas and Ferb thing that will drive her wild.  So I think we’ll have a fun day and will probably take a break mid-day like today, only we will go back to EPCOT later on rather than just sit around the hotel.  Although frankly, Leah LOVES this hotel, so maybe it’s not such a bad thing!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Disney Blog Days 1 and 2

So last May, Mike and I were talking and we decided to give Leah a trip to Disney World for Christmas. My initial plan was to go in early December, because I wanted to see the Christmas decorations, but it just always gets to the point that December stresses me out and there's so much going, so I decided to postpone the trip till January. Initially it was going to be me, my mom, and Leah going, but my mom had to cancel, so I decided to upgrade our hotel to one on a Disney property: the All Star Movie Resort. The main benefit of this is that there are shuttles to the parks, so I won't have to drive as much, plus there is a heated outdoor pool so we can swim. So we left bright and early on Sunday morning. We decided to ingratiate ourselves onto the Savannah Wellses and let them host us overnight. Leah was a trooper on the way down. I learned from driving to my dad's the previous weekend that it is better to stick her in a pull up for a long car ride, even though on a day-to-day basis, she is fully potty trained now (THANK GOD!). We did just fine getting down, only hitting one snag in North Carolina where we saw a tractor trailer that had gone airborne and was stuck up in the trees alongside I95. The cops were standing around fairly unconcerned, so I can only assume the driver was a goner, which made me sad. And also made me wonder how the heck they were going to get the truck out of the trees.

Leah watched her new Jake and the Pirates DVD a couple of times through and then fell asleep. She slept for about 4 hours of the trip, which I thought was pretty incredible. We stopped off in SC for gas and to make a lunch break at Wendy's, and she got some hilarious Where's Waldo glasses with her meal that of course, she just Had. To. Wear. Buy they're darn cute on her.
We roared into Savannah around 5:30 and hung out till about 8:00, when Amy fed Russell and Leah her famous "chicken n rice". Then she and I set about preparing our sandwiches for a fine English tea party to go with, what else, Downton Abbey! I put Leah to bed, and Russell disappeared, and Downton came on, and for the next hour, we had tea sandwiches, Savannah grey tea, cookies and little delicacies. It was really, really lovely and I hope we can do it again sometime! Amy makes a mean chicken salad.
So I tucked into bed around 11, and Leah was coughing like crazy. I couldn't quiet her cough, and she wasn't able to sleep and was starting to get upset, so I ran to a local Walmart to get some cough syrup. Now, you might have noticed Leah has a new car seat. It is a Dora car seat, and I like in that I had gotten her a booster that I didn't feel she was very safe in. However, every time I look in the back of my car when Leah isn't in it, I get scared that there's a person sitting in the backseat. A person with a huge orange head. So I get in the car, it's dark, I'm tired, and as soon as I start the car, I hear from the backseat, "Hola! Soy Dora!" I swear to you, I thought I would have a heart attack and die on the spot. I was thinking "Oh my God! It's alive! The car seat is alive! She's coming to get me!" In fact, it was Leah's DVD player roaring to life, but I am convinced that some day, like Chuckie in Child's Play, that seat is going to attack. So I got some medicine and gave it to her, which helped her sleep till about 2am when the coughing started again. I didn't feel good about giving her more medicine so soon, so I put on the hot shower and steamed up the bathroom and took her in there. That seemed to help a lot. Then I propped her up on the couch and she fell asleep, as did I, till about 7 when she came back in the bedroom with me and put on a movie on the iPad till about 8:30 while I continued to doze. Then she announced it was time to go see Mickey Mouse. So I got up and got dressed and got her dressed. She voiced some concern that "that little lady and little man" were going to miss us, so I told her we'd stop by and see Auntie Amy on the way home again, which seemed to ease her sense of guilt that we were jumping in the car. We made another quick stop at Walmart to pick up day time medicine, a vaporizer, and a few odds and ends, and hit the road. We got to FL in no time, and got down to a Chick Fil A outside Orlando and stopped. I look for CFA while traveling since they ALWAYS have a play area and WiFi. Good thing I did, since Leah wanted to run around for nearly 2 hours, which was fine with me since we were way early to get into the hotel, and I have some drama going on with my service learning placement for school this semester and was able to email and cell phone that to some resolution, at least to the point that it can wait till I get back from vacation. Around 2, we left CFA and got to Disney around 3:00. I was a little worried because we weren't supposed to be able to check in till 4, but there was a bit of a line at check in, so I decided to chance it. Happily, we made it just fine and got a room in the Toy Story section, which means nothing to Leah whatsoever, since I don't think she has seen much of it. But we have parking right outside our building, and we were able to bring everything up in just 1 trip, which was great. Once that was settled, I did shed a few tears for Mike, wishing he was here to see this and be here and experience it with us, but a quick text to my friend Amber set me to rights! We changed into SHORTS (It is so nice and warm down here!) and then we set about exploring.
Right outside our door is a huge courtyard with a giant Buzz and Woody and various other Toy Story toys. Leah enjoyed climbing on those and seeing what was what. We took lots of pictures and started walking. right nearby is a playground, so she wanted to climb on that for a while too and enjoyed the slides and such. But really she was too excited to keep moving. We walked a little bit further and she laid eyes on the Fantasia pool and saw people swimming and yelled "IWANNAGOSWIMMINGRIGHTNOW!" So we headed back to our room, got changed, and went swimming until it got cold. After changing yet again, we headed over to the cafeteria to have dinner. we bought our "unlimited refill' cups and enjoyed a nice dinner before coming back to the room around 7ish. Leah watched TV for an hour and then I announced lights out. So far, so good! We have enjoyed ourselves very, very much and have only been here for what? 16 hours? Today we will check out the Animal Kingdom. I was going to take the bus, but I have borrowed a massive stroller and I think it would be a pain in the butt to take the bus, and we get free parking with our resort permit, so I think we might drive. My plan is to go until Leah gets crabby, come back to the hotel for a nap and a swim, and then go back later. Tomorrow we will do EPCOT and then Thursday and Friday we will be at the Magic Kingdom. I'll try to update the blog as much as I can. :) More pictures will be on Facebook.