Disney Extravaganza: Day 7

I’m losing y’all, aren’t I? You’re beyond tired of hearing about this trip, aren’t you? I apologize. But I want to get it written down before I forget a lot of the details, mostly so that I can look back and remember it better. Having this record of our trip is so important to me. I assure you though, that after today, there will be no more “daily trip reports” and there will be only ONE more post about the Disney Extravaganza. So just hold onto your panties and be patient. We’re almost done!

Wednesday, August 12

Today was a day at sea and the only day that we didn’t wake up in port somewhere.  Outside our porthole was sea, sea and more sea.  And there was a lot of sea to see. (*snort*)

Blue Atlantic

And yes… it really WAS that blue.  As Kile remarked, it was the sort of blue that you see in people’s water fountains where they dye the water to make it look blue.  But this water was naturally that blue.  Just amazing.

We slept a little longer than we had wanted.  We were wanting to try a breakfast at Triton’s on our last day and they stopped serving at nine (I think… see, I’m already starting to forget!).  We threw clothes on ourselves and the kids and headed down.  It was a table service breakfast so I ordered eggs benedict.  We got our orders in just before they closed the galley for the morning.  Whew!

After breakfast I took the opportunity to take a few pictures of the beautiful atrium.  I hadn’t had a chance yet.

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That last picture there shows the line at Guest Services.  People wanting to settle their accounts, pay their tips, arrange for on-board airline check in, etc.  We didn’t have all our information with us, but Kile would return later.  They made a special exception for us and got online to get our Southwest boarding group for us.  Whew!

We put Harry in the Oceaneer’s Lab again today, though he seemed a little less than thrilled.  We promised him we would get him before we went to the pool later on.

In the meantime, we wanted to take the little kids to the splash zone up on Deck 9.  Kids that aren’t potty trained could play in the splash zone and they both really enjoyed it.  Especially Evie.  She had a BLAST.

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We had lunch up on Deck 9 as well, grabbing sandwiches and burgers and such things at Goofy’s Galley and the other similar counter service places up there.  We sat by the pool (in the shade, of course) and munched and just enjoyed the atmosphere.   After lunch, Evie was feeling drowsy so I took her down to the room to nurse her and put her down for a nap.  Kile and Liam followed shortly thereafter.

We had arranged to put the littles ones in the nursery for a couple hours in the afternoon so we could enjoy time in the pools without having to worry about them.  We got Harry from the Lab and headed up to the pools yet again.  The boys tried the Goofy Pool which was SUPER crowded (and rather small, frankly) while I squeezed into a hot tub (that wasn’t terribly hot but that was FINE by me… the bubbles felt awesome).  I considered trying the adult pool but for some reason, felt a little intimidated.  Kile and Harry went over to the Mickey Pool so Harry would try out the slide at long, long last.  I’m not entirely sure what I did at this point as I’ve already forgotten.  But I think I went down to the room to chill out for a few.  The boys returned after a while, bringing the little ones with them.

Dinner that night was at Parrot Cay, but it was table service instead of buffet.  Everything was very colorful and felt very laid back.   I felt very resistant about it being our last night.  I wasn’t ready for the cruise to be over.

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As you can see, Evie had quite the appetite.   She loved eating on that cruise.  She also turned into a total fruit bat and now will do anything for a slice of watermelon.  She also loved sitting on the end of the table and watching everything that happened.  This cruise was developing in her a deep love of the performing arts.

I also took the opportunity to take a couple of artsy-esque pictures.

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I took a quick picture of Harry as we left Parrot Cay because I wanted to get a good one of him and I wanted to get a picture in one of the oversized portholes.  I had to use flash though… a real quality DSLR would have been awesome on this trip!

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After dinner, we had an hour or so until the show (Disney “Dreams”, tonight), so we headed to our room to pack.  Yep.  Pack.  We had to have our bags outside the room by 11pm.  And we didn’t want to have to do all of it after the show so we wanted to get a good head start on it.  The good news was we had most of it done by the time we left for the show. Oh and I didn’t neglect taking a picture of our towel animal tonight: a swan!

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And the show was AWESOME.  I think it was my favorite of all three stage shows.  There were a lot of really neato elements, such as sparkling lights, fireworks, bubbles… They really made it special for the audience.  And Evie just adored it.  Again, she sat very still for the show, as did Liam.

After the show, we had to get the kids to bed and we had to finish packing.  We had it done pretty quickly and were able to sit back, enjoy some more room service cheese and crackers and reminisce on our wonderful trip.  Neither of us wanted it to be over.

Alas, all good things must come to an end.  And the next morning dawned early for us.  While the trip home was something of a nightmare, we would have done it all again just to be able to do this trip again.  It was AMAZING.  And I’m so beyond grateful to my parents for taking everyone on it.

And thank YOU for reading along, if you have managed not to be bored to death so far.  It’s like looking at someone elses’s vacation slide-show, isn’t it?  But I had to share just how much this trip meant to us.  So thanks for humoring me and tagging along.

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Disney Extravaganza: Day 6

Tuesday, August 11

We woke up in port again, and yet again, I didn’t feel a thing.  We were sleeping like stones at night.  A by product of the busy days at WDW and on the boat itself.  The kids even slept through the night without barely a stir.

The difference this morning is that we were woken up by a phone call.  It was Harry, up in my parent’s stateroom.  My parents were going to breakfast and Harry wanted to go to breakfast with us.  Did he know the way down to our room?  Of course not.  So Kile had to throw on clothes and go get him.

It was earlier than we might have otherwise gotten up, but it wasn’t an entirely bad thing either.  We were hoping to get off the boat and get a good spot set up on the beach under an umbrella.  I had heard that if you don’t get their relatively early, you can miss out.  And if there’s one thing I knew about myself: without shade, I was not worth a whole lot.

On our way to breakfast, I took a quick picture of the hallway outside our room.  It was a very long hall:

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That’s looking forward.  It’s a long way forward from our room.  But that was okay, because we grew to have a fond spot for the aft portion of the ship.  Forward was for squares.  Midship was for pansies.  Aft was where it was at.  HAR!

Okay, so we decided to do the Parrot Cay buffet for breakfast.  And it was MUCH better than the Beach Blanket Buffet.  We were rather pleased as we gorged on breakfast goodies.  There’s no end to the food on cruise ships, just in case you were wondering.  It’s EVERYWHERE.

After breakfast, we had to get ready for….

Castaway Cay (from the ship)

Castaway Cay!  And yes, that IS the Flying Dutchman there on the right.  It may not look like much from here but Castaway Cay is where I want to go to die.  It’s just awesome.  And completely stress-free.  We stuffed ourselves into our swimsuits, sprayed ourselves down with sunblock (I have to give mad props to Banana Boat for Kids/Babies (we had both) tear-free sunblock because NO ONE got burned when we used it.  And we didn’t have to obsessively reapply either.  And in case you weren’t aware, I’m entirely white and prone to burning so that is a BIG DEAL) and were ready to hit the beach.

Again, we could have waited for the tram but we decided to just hoof it.

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Castaway Cay

It was like something out of a Corona commercial.  I kid you not.  We even spotted none other than “Captain Jack Sparrow” on our way to the beach.  This guy did a good Captain Jack, too.  It was uncanny.  He had the voice and the mannerisms DOWN.

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IMG_2146 How about now?  He was a crowd favorite that day.

We dropped Harry at “Scuttle’s Cove” which had all sorts of children’s programming on the island.  But I sorta wish we’d kept him with us.  He didn’t get any chance to play in the water with them and I think some of the activities kind of bored him.  Kile had gone to check on him at lunchtime but wasn’t able to ask Harry directly if he wanted to stay.  Oh well!  NEXT TIME!

We were able to quickly find the perfect spot on the beach to set up camp.  It was under not just an umbrella but a palm tree as well.  We gathered a bunch of chairs and loungers around, just in case anyone wanted to join us (and eventually they did).  It was… heaven.

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White sand beaches?  Check.  Blue-Green ocean?  Check.  Palm trees?  Check.  Bright umbrellas?  Check.  Just awesome.

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We pretty much went in the water right away with the little ones.  And yes, you could just walk right in.  It was like bath-water.  One of the ships photographers came along and took a picture of Evie and I (yes, while in the water!) and Kile bought it on our last moments on the boat.  Beware for my hideous-ness but Evie was sure cute:

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Liam loved the ocean too and I think we could have stayed out there all day.  But I didn’t want Evie to get water logged too much at once.  So we eventually returned to our little “nest”.

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After the kids played on the sand a bit, we went back for another dip in the water.  It was hard not to!  If we hadn’t had the little ones to chase around, I would have liked to rent an innertube and float around like I saw many other people doing.  That water was intoxicating!

Eventually, we got hungry so we dried off and went in search of food.  The cruise had a BBQ buffet set up just down the path from where we were.  We went and loaded up on bbq ribs and a very tasty mahi-mahi sandwhich along with chips and cous-cous salad and lots of lemonade.  Being out in the sun makes you hungry!  After we ate, we stopped by the souvenir stand to see if we could find anything we loved there.  We knew we wanted some postcards, since we’d heard you pretty much HAVE to send a postcard from Castaway Cay.  And Kile and I still hadn’t found any t-shirts we loved.

As it so happens, Kile found the PERFECT t-shirt and they happened to have ONE more in his size!  It was perfect for him and he was very happy with it.  I got desperate and went with a t-shirt that had a picture of the beach and the boat, said Castaway Cay and 2009 on it.  Pretty good, but it was quite larger than I would normally get.  And it wasn’t the sort of cut I was hoping for.  But every “girly” shirt I saw was outrageously expensive and this one was a very reasonable price.  The cheapskate in me caved and I got it.  We were able to send all our purchases (sans the postcards, of course) back to the boat to pick up later.

We returned to the beach and hung out there with some of my siblings for a while.  Evie was exhausted so she took a nap on one of the lounge chairs.

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Too cute.  Kile and Liam went back into the ocean and I found some reputable family members to keep an eye on Evie while I went back into the water myself.  Again, I could have stayed out there forever.  It was just bliss.  And the water was SO salty, that I was able to lay back and float with no trouble at all.  Ahh…

I only returned to shore because I saw Kile holding Evie, who had woken up.  It was getting close to the time we had agreed to head back to the ship.  We wanted to be out of the super heat of the late afternoon and we also wanted to catch a screening of “Up” in the theater on the ship.  We had even arranged to put the wee ones in the nursery while we did it.  So it was time to pack it up and head back to the boat.  Kile went to get Harry from Scuttle’s Cove and we found out he hadn’t been in the ocean at all.  Kile offered to take him down there for a few minutes and I took Evie back to the boat myself, since she was DONE.  I sensed she wanted to nurse, but wouldn’t consider the sippy cup.   I took a few pictures on my way back, mostly of the Flying Dutchman.

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Back on the ship, it was time to get clean.  Evie and I both were a little sandy, despite having rinsed off at the beach showers, sticky from the sea water and greasy from the sunblock.  Bleh.  My plan, flawed as it was, was to bring Evie in the shower with me in hopes that she would stand or sit still while I washed my hair, then I would pick her up and wash her down.

It didn’t go quite that smoothly.

She wasn’t terribly interested in staying still.  And as the Disney Cruise doesn’t believe in no-slip bathtubs, she fell down.  A lot.  And cried.  A lot.  But we got it done eventually.  And while we were in there, Kile and the boys came back and I was able to holler at Kile to fetch Evie and dry her off so I could dry off myself.  While I was dressing her and nursing her back to her old self, it was Kile’s turn to take a shower with Liam, though Liam cooperated a lot better than Evie had.

Once we were all dressed and ready, we dropped the little ones off at the nursery, which was conveniently located right next to the theater.  We grabbed our 3-D glasses and headed in.  The theater is truly a full-sized movie theater and I’m a little sad we didn’t try to go see more movies there.  But G-Force and Hannah Montana didn’t appeal to us that much, believe it or not.

The 3-D was AMAZING.  The glasses irritated me a little but it was worth it.  Almost like seeing a different movie!  And it was nice to see “Up” outside of the drive-in and I caught more details this time than I had on the first viewing.  Best of all?  FREE.  Free is good.

After the movie, we killed a little time and then picked up the wee ones.  It was time to head to dinner, so we took a quick picture of everyone out on the deck before heading back to the Animator’s Palette.

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They were all a lot happier than this picture lets on, believe me!  And yes, we were back at sea, the boat having left Castaway Cay at 5pm.  And this time?  I didn’t feel it at all.  I was getting VERY used to it.

It was Pirate Night and the Animator’s Palette was the best place to celebrate, I’m sure of it!  All the waitstaff was dressed up like pirates, the table cloths and linens were colorful and we had festive, themed menus.  Let the fun begin!

Evie and Ghoola on Pirate Night

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I had scallops and shrimp and it was fantastic.  I’m not even a big scallops person and they were awesome.  Evie LOVED all the extra excitement of the evening and kept everyone entertained the way she clapped and cheered while the waitstaff paraded around the dining room for us, whooping and hollering.  It was all a big show to her and she ate it all up.  Loved every single minute.  The girl, she knows how to party.

The staff had a cake for us that night, for my parents.  In honor of their fiftieth anniversary this year.  That was pretty cool.

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The show that night was “G-Force” in, you guessed it, 3-D.  Kile and I weren’t terribly hot to see it and the little ones were getting rather desperate for sleep.  So my brother’s family offered to take him with them.  Sweet!  We took the little ones down to the room and found our nightly towel animal waiting for us:

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I also realized that I had been very remiss in taking pictures of our towel animals to date.  The first night we had a dog, and the second night it was an elephant.  Both were adorable and I’m a fool for not taking pictures.  But at least I got the towel monkey!

The little ones went to sleep VERY easy that night after their big day.  We watched some TV but started to feel bad about missing the big pirate party above-decks.  Around 10pm or so, we came to a decision:  the little ones were well asleep.  We could run up there, watch the fireworks, and then head back down to our room.  No harm, no foul!  Right?

We hoofed up to Deck 10 (no small feat since there were areas closed off and elevators to nowhere and all that fun stuff).  There was the dance party underway which we didn’t really care about, but it was fun to watch anyhow.

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We cruised around the deck a little bit, went as far forward as we could.  It was dark out on the ocean.

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We returned to the party where things started getting a little more interesting, what with the introduction of pirates and Mickey Mouse himself. And then? The fireworks.

The perfect end to the perfect day. Truly.

Coming up: a day at sea! And our last day on the boat. Aww, nuts.

Disney Extravaganza: Day 4

Getting tired of these posts yet?  TOO BAD!  We’re only halfway through.  It was a looooong (and awesome) vacation.

Sunday, August 9

We woke up early, to make sure that we had all our bags ready to go when the porters came by at 8 to pick them up.  We were going to have a few small bags with us, such as my purse and Kile’s carry on/diaper bag.  The rest were going on the bus!  Even the carseats since you can’t use carseats on buses.  Did you know that?  I didn’t.  Now I do!

We hurried but we still were running short on time and weren’t quite 100% ready when they came for the bags.  Luckily, they were busy dealing with the rest of my family so we were able to catch the last minute things and gather them together.  And then?  Our bags were GONE.

We had a decision on what to do that day.  We had several hours until our bus was leaving for the boat.  Not enough time to go to one of the parks, but too long to sit around an empty hotel room.  We could have gone to the pool but I didn’t want to have to deal with wet suits.  We decided to go back to Downtown Disney.  Harry had missed out on going back on our first day and he still needed to pick out a souvenir from the Disney store and he desperately wanted to see the Lego store there too.

The boats weren’t running quite that early so we took the bus, which stopped at Typhoon Lagoon first.  It made me sad we weren’t able to do the water parks while we were there.  Something to add to our “must do” list for next time!  When we got to Downtown Disney, nothing was really open quite yet.  We took our time walking through and took some pictures of the Lego sculptures outside the infamous Lego store.

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Lego T-Rex

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Yes, ALL of those were 100% made out of Legos.  Amazing.  And awesome.  Harry was entranced (as you can see).  While the boys waited the few minutes remaining for the store to open, Evie and I went next door to the World of Disney store that was opening already (for the  “Bibbity Bobbity Boutique” located in the girl’s section which was already cranking out little princess in tiaras and sausage curls at this early hour).

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Yeah… not too impressed with the princesses just yet.  And I am perfectly okay with that, otherwise just walking into that store would have cost me a small fortune.   We wandered around the store, in a daze pretty much, until we met the boys over there.  Harry decided he wanted a t-shirt as his souvenir.  He wanted something with Epcot on it, specifically, but if you can believe it we weren’t able to find anything.  We did eventually find a great shirt that had all the parks on it and he was happy with that.  I also got a “Cars” themed WDW shirt for Liam that I had had my eye on for several days.  And I found Evie the most perfect “My first trip to WDW” tshirt.   But for me and for Kile?  That’s where it got sticky.  I was pretty particular with what I wanted.  And also cheap.  Everything I wanted was really expensive.  Everything that was more reasonably priced, was too flashy for my taste.  I didn’t want something emblazoned with brightly colored Disney characters.  But I wanted something that said Disney World or something akin on it.  And the year wouldn’t be bad.  A tall order!

I found the perfect  sweatshirt that I desperately wanted.  However, I couldn’t reconcile myself to the price.  Even now, I wish I had gotten it because I loved it so.  But oh well.  Too late now!  It’s what I get for being so damned cheap.  Of course, it turns out there were about fifteen thousand other Disney stores in Downtown Disney that we never even saw.  I guess we should have explored some more!   Kile and I decided we would just have to try to find tshirts on the cruise.  We picked out a few things for the co-worker who was kind enough to shuttle us to and from the airport.  And then we were on our way back to the resort.

The boats were running by then so we caught one and rode back, trying to savor our last trip along the lazy, winding river system.  Back at the resort, I thought I should maybe take a couple pictures of it to remember it by.  I never did take pictures of our hotel room but I can assure you it looked something like this.

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IMG_2112 The lobby from the “inside” of the resort

We found a table to situate ourselves in near the lobby and the cafeteria.  I had the munchies (no breakfast that morning, but again, not much point since shortly we would be on the boat and it would be EAT EAT EAT, all the time!) so I grabbed a drink and a toasted bagel from the cafeteria.  The rest of my family started trickling in, as did other guests who were going on the cruise.

We didn’t have to wait too terribly long before the employees prodded us outside and onto t

he waiting Disney Cruise bus.  Time to say goodbye to the French Quarter and to Disney World!  It felt sad to leave, even though we were embarking on another amazing adventure.  I wish I could have stayed another week!

The bus ride wasn’t terribly long but Evie was VERY squirmy and I had a hard time keeping her still.  The bus had movie screens on it and they showed some Disney cartoons as well as some promotional material for the cruise to get us all jazzed.  I think I was beyond being jazzed at that point though, and was mostly just frustrated trying to keep Evie happy and NOT scratching my sunburned neck.  (Yes, I had been STUPID that first day and didn’t put sunblock on before our first trip to the parks.   A mistake I did NOT repeat, thank goodness!) (Also, notice my out of control bangs.  It did not matter that I straightened them hours before.  My straightener had NOTHING on the Florida humidity.  UGH.)

The bus to the boat

It wasn’t long before we were pulling up in front of the boat in Port Canaveral.   I didn’t take many pictures at this point because I was so frustrated with dealing with Evie and just wanted to get the show on the road, so to speak.  It was all a lot better once we had her back in the stroller where she (and her sharp claws) (note to self: clip fingernails before trip next time) was contained.

Checking in was a piece of cake since we had essentially already done all of that at the resort.  All we had to do was go up to a gal, get Evie a  “Key to the World”card (we’d already gotten ours at the resort) and have her snap some quick pictures of us to put into the system.   Then… it was onward to the ship!   It was only now that I thought, “Hmm… I should take a picture!”

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We checked in with our cards and then got an embarkation portrait done (in which we all looked like zombies so we didn’t purchase one).  Next thing we knew, we were walking onto the ship, being greeted by the staff and found ourselves in the gorgeous atrium.

Since it was after 1pm at this point, we could get into our rooms so we headed right there.  We made a mistake in taking the midships elevators.  We came to hate the midship elevators because they were always SO busy.  And we needed an entire elevator to ourselves since ourselves and our two strollers took up the entire thing.  Eventually, we got down to Deck 2 and then worked our way aft towards our room.  (Aft is “the back of the boat, to the nautically challenged out there.)

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Woot!  The room was small, yes, but bigger than it could have been.  And our “porthole” was awesome.  We all settled ourselves in (but we didn’t unpack… something else I would probably change should we ever do something like this again) and took some pictures.

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IMG_2116 The view out our porthole at the Carnival ship docked nearby

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As you can see, it’s rather tight near the door (and the doors to the bathroom and shower) with the strollers there.  We would constantly be battling where to park the strollers and often folded them up and put them in the closet to get them out of the way.

We headed back out to get some lunch at Parrot Cay up on Deck 3.  It was the nicer of the two buffets and we were hungry for some good cruise food!  We wandered around a little after that, exploring the upper decks to see the pools.  There were already quite a few people in the pools, particularly the Mickey pool with the slide.

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We also checked out the children’s programming.  We got Harry signed up for the Oceaneer’s Lab and stopped in to check out Flounder’s Nursery too.  Since Liam isn’t potty trained yet, we couldn’t use the Oceaneer’s Club for him, but we could put him in the nursery if we wanted.  We were thinking we needed a break from the little ones so we made a reservation right then and there to put them in for two hours later on so we could enjoy dinner in peace.  It was $6 an hour for the first child, $5 for the second.  $11 an hour seemed a small price to pay for the sanity.

We headed back to our room for the safety drill.  We all had to suit up in lifejackets and follow the instructions on the PA system.

Lifejacket Liam

There was even a wee little lifejacket for Evie which she didn’t care for in the slightest.  We found our assembly point and assembled.  A crew member kindly told us we could take the little ones out of their lifejackets to keep them settled.  That helped a lot!  It wasn’t too long before we could go back to our room.  Our luggage wasn’t there yet, but we set up the pack n’ play crib for Evie and checked out the movies on the television.  We could watch Disney movies at any time of day, and even some other flicks like Star Trek (which I did end up watching several times) and Monsters vs. Aliens.  We chose to sit out the Deck Party/Send Off up at the pools, rathering to chill out instead.

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We were underway!  And we could DEFINITELY feel the motion of the boat.  It was almost like flying, but with no turbulence.   A constant, gentle motion.  And the constant but quiet thrum of the engines below.  Still, it took some getting used to.

We still weren’t used to it when we went up to Deck 3 for dinner at Tritons later on.  We had dropped the little ones off at the nursery and they hadn’t even been sad to see us go.  They had their eyes on all the fun toys in the nursery and couldn’t have cared less about us!  Unfortunately, Harry wasn’t feeling so well.  I don’t think it was entirely seasickness, I think he was tired (again from the super long day we put in the day before and the late night the night before that) and a little dehydrated.  He had a headache and felt dizzy and tired.   Kile eventually took him down to our room so he could sleep and then rejoined the rest of us to eat.

The food at Tritons was great, it was “French dinner” night and while Kile was brave enough to try the escargot, I stuck with the french onion soup.  I had a wonderful lobster pasta dish for dinner and a sampler dish for dessert (I would have the sampler dessert every night, so I could try a little of everything!).  It was all very good but my stomach was definitely not used to the rich food yet!

After dinner, Kile checked on Harry, who was content to stay in the room and then we picked up the little ones from the nursery.  There was a show that night, “The Golden Mickeys” and we all went to see that.

The little kids really enjoyed the show and stayed surprisingly still while it was on.  Evie just loved the song and dance and fanfare.  The applause was probably her favorite part.

By the time the show was over, we were all bushed.  We headed back to the room where the luggage had been delivered (Kile had actually seen it when he first took Harry down to the room during dinner).  We got the kids all set in bed, with Harry in the pull down bunk, Liam on the fold down sofa bed (with a bed rail) and Evie in the pack n’ play.  We pulled the curtain across to block the light in the room from them and settled down.  This is where we found a serious flaw: the tv was located on the kid’s side of the curtain.  We couldn’t have the curtain drawn and watch TV at the same time.  On later nights, we would just pull the curtain across enough to block most of the light while we could still see the TV.  But it would have been nice to have a TV across from our bed.

We ordered from room service and got the infamous cheese platter we had heard so much about.  It didn’t disappoint.

We didn’t stay up terribly late though… we were rather tired from our exciting day.  So with the engines thrumming beneath us and the boat ever so gently rocking, we all fell fast asleep.

Coming up: stopping in Nassau!

Disney Extravaganza: Day 3

Here we go again!

Saturday, August 8

It’s our 11 year anniversary!   But there was seriously NO time to do anything special with just us.  We sort of considered the whole trip to be doing something special.   Besides, how awesome is it to be at Disney World on your anniversary?  Kids or not?  It was also cool that our actual wedding day had also been on a Saturday so it was fun to think about “11 years ago… did we ever expect to be HERE??”.

We had a reservation at the Crystal Palace for breakfast in the Magic Kingdom shortly after 10am.  We slept a little later than we might normally have, to give the boys a chance to catch up after being up SO late the night before!  We weren’t entirely sure where the day would lead us, but we knew we wanted to get as much done as possible since we’d be leaving for the cruise tomorrow.

We caught a bus and made it to the Magic Kingdom.  It was already pretty hot outside but, dare I say it?  We were getting used to it.  I definitely wasn’t as affected by the heat as I was the first day.   I had gotten USED to the sensation of sweat dripping down my back.  Who knew you could get used to such a thing??  We found the Crystal Palace at the end of Main Street, across from the castle.  There were a lot of people waiting outside and we checked in with the reservations gal.  We only had to wait maybe 10 minutes for them to get our table ready before we were ushered into the cool, air conditioned and beautiful interior!

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The staff had taken some Mickey Mouse shaped confetti and decorated our table with a heart, for our anniversary.  Isn’t that awesome?  The kids were hungry and it was buffet style so we got right to serving them up.  It was wonderful to have a “whatever you want to eat” atmosphere after restraining ourselves for several days.  And it was good preparation for the cruise!   Evie in particular had developed a major fondness for watermelon and little else was more important to her that morning than getting more food to eat!

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It was cool to be able to watch all the Winne the Pooh characters traipse around the restaurant.  They made an effort to get to every table and let me say, Liam LOVED it!

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We actually were visited by Winnie the Pooh too but for some reason, I don’t have any pictures of that.  We must have been too concentrated on stuffing our faces.  Or maybe it was when I went to get food and Kile didn’t think to grab the camera.  It’s all good.  Evie could have cared less.  These characters were an annoyance to her, as best demonstrated by her photo with poor Eeyore:

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Oh well.  Someday she’ll be into it, I’m sure.  And maybe someday she’ll regret having shoo-ed Eeyore away.  I always have liked Eeyore… he’s my favorite.

Before we finished with breakfast, the staff brought us a cupcake and sang to us.  We were also presented with a special certificate showing we celebrated our anniversary there that day and was signed by all the characters!  I loved these little touches that Disney did.  It was hard to celebrate just “us” that day, but they made it special anyhow.  That rocks.

After breakfast, we felt full of energy and ready to tackle the day.  Turns out, having breakfast before hitting the parks was the best thing we could have done!  Who knew?  Maybe we wouldn’t have pooped out so soon the other two days had we had breakfast first.  Live and learn!  We wanted to do a few rides before it got too crowded and hot.  So, of course, we did indoor rides!  D’oh!   We did Mickey’s Philharmagic which was awesome.  It’s a show all in 3D and is completely imaginative and amazing.  I’m sure it was lost on the little ones, who wouldn’t keep 3D glasses on.  But I appreciated it!  We were even pelted with drops of water at appropriate times and blasts of air and everything!  Definitely, a must-see!

“It’s a Small World” was across from the theater so we did that next.  You HAVE to do that one while you’re there.  It’s just a RULE.

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After that, we headed towards Tomorrowland.  Harry wanted to ride the cars at the Speedway again.  He’d gone on it last night with Kile and it was quickly one of his favorite rides.  This time, he wanted to ride alone.  It was starting to get really hot though, as it was now past noon.  On the way, we saw a Disney Vacation Club kiosk.  We’d seen these all over the place and even saw the little show on the television in our room about the Vacation Club.  Kile was intrigued and wanted to learn more.  So we stopped and talked to the dude there.  He said he could get a van (air conditioned!) to pick us up right then, take us to the Vacation Club center, put the kids in child care, have some refreshments, talk to a gal about the Club, tour some models, get free ice cream, some FastPasses or gift certificates for our time and then get shuttled to anywhere in the park that we wanted to go.  I think he had me at “air conditioned van”.  We decided to go for it, as it would be a nice break that would take the place of going back to our resort.

We were ushered through a back gate of the park where a van was indeed waiting for us.  There were even car seats set up inside!  We strapped the kids in and off we went.  The center was at the Saratoga Springs resort which is huge and gorgeous.  Not that our resort is awful (because I loved it so!), but some of the resorts on the property were just AMAZING.

We dropped the older kids off at the child care where there was plenty to do (including video games, so Harry was happy) and brought Evie with us.  We had cookies and lemonade and then talked to a super nice lady who did her spiel for us.  I was impressed that it was TRULY a no-pressure deal.  They never once asked for money from us.  Just showed us the club details, gave us some offers and told us to think about it. If we wanted to do it, we had her number to call her back after we got home. Simple as that. Both Kile and I were pretty impressed.  Even moreso after touring the models!  OH MY!  The “studio” floorplan was much like a regular resort hotel room, except there was the addition of a kitchenette.  The one-bedroom floorplan, the next step up, was AMAZING.  Suddenly there was tons of room and ammenities and a full kitchen and I think I passed out somewhere while touring the Bay Lake Towers room.  Holy cow.

After we mopped up our drool, we picked up the kids from child care and were led to a cozy little ice cream shop, just for Vacation Club peoples.  Everyone got a scoop of ice cream to enjoy and we relished that.  When we were back outside, it had clouded up substantially and was even spitting rain just a bit.  I loved it when it clouded up.  I could almost handle the heat and humidity if the sun was out of the picture.

We had chosen the FastPasses, which they had told us there were three but it turns out there were three for each person.  Yes, including Evie!  We wanted to get to Hollywood Studios so the van took us there and dropped us off right out front.  We got there at a great time as there was a parade going on down the street right near the entrance when we got there.

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We were on a mission though, and chose not to stop to watch it.  We wanted to try out the Toy Story Mania ride we had heard so much about.  But, when we finally found it (Hollywood Studios is kind of a confusing place to navigate!), the FastPasses had all been distributed already and the line was an hour long.  Ugh.  We moved on, and chose to go on the backlot tour.  There was no wait, hardly, and we could basically walk right on.  Very reminiscent of the Universal Studios Tour but not as long or without as many attractions.  Still, it was fun.

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And we did get a little wet.

After that, we wandered through an AFI exhibit (that seemed to specialize in Villains, but I never got the whole story).  Harry appreciated all the nods towards Star Wars.

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While on the tour, we’d seen a car stunt show and went to go check that out.  We got there JUST in time, the show was just starting and the place was PACKED.  We were up in the nosebleed section but it gave us a good view.

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After the show, we wanted to go track down Lightning McQueen and Mater for Liam’s benefit.  We had been told they were here… somewhere.  Again, it wasn’t the easiest place to navigate.  But we eventually found them!  And Liam got a picture with his heroes.

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After that, we were a little tired and very hungry.  We decided we wanted to go back to the Magic Kingdom, use up some of our FastPasses and have dinner there.  We checked Toy Story Mania on the way out and the wait time had gone up to 90 minutes!  No way!  So word to the wise:  if you wanna do that ride, get there early for a FastPass.  Otherwise you’ll never see the dark side of it, like us.

We caught a bus that would take us to the transportation terminal outside Magic Kingdom.  Once there, we hopped on the monorail and got another ride through the Contemporary resort on our way in.  The park was MUCH more crowded than it had been Thursday night, but we expected that.  I had to use the restroom, so we wasted no time on Main Street and we hustled over to Tomorrowland, where I had a pit stop at the bathroom outside the noodle restaurant.  My iPhone fell behind the toilet and I put that in my Facebook status (after a good disinfecting, mind you) because that’s just how I roll.  We planned to grab burgers for dinner (at Harry’s request) and get the boy on his Speedway racer.   The restaurant across from the Speedway was chaotic, crowded and dark but it served our purposes.  We were hungry, so it didn’t take us long at all to eat.  I was pretty pleased with the healthy food options for kids at these restaurants.  Virtually all their meals came with fresh fruit or veggies and there was very little fries to be had.

Kile took Liam with him when the boys got in line for the Speedway.  Evie and I chose to check out a gift shop (that was overrun with Stitch paraphernalia… I learned that Stitch is BIG TIME at Disney World) to kill time, and eventually I sat on a bench, enjoyed the evening air, watched people walk by and caught up on some email on my phone.

The boys weren’t long and eventually they returned and Kile showed me a picture he’d snapped:

Speed Racer

Liam had had a GREAT time steering the car, apparently.  This is not surprising news to me, by the way.

It was time to get down to business.  I wanted to use SOME of these FastPasses, darnit!  So we hurried over to Frontierland and I talked Harry into trying Big Thunder Mountain Railroad with me.  He’s not a big roller coaster fan but I assured him that it was a fun ride, not at all scary.  The FastPasses were truly awesome.  I put them in the machine and we got passes to get on the ride RIGHT away!  We essentially were able to walk right on the ride.  That was awesome.  Kile stayed with the little ones while Harry and I had our ride.  And I was right, Harry LOVED it.  He laughed his fool head off the entire time and my cheeks hurt from smiling.  When asked later, he would say that was his favorite ride of them all.  High praise indeed!

Next, I convinced him to try Splash Mountain. We found Kile a better spot to wait with the little ones and again, all but walked right on.  This ride was a bit more crowded but it was still a MUCH shorter wait than it would have otherwise been. And mostly air conditioned, which was downright sweet.

Harry did enjoy Splash Mountain.  That is, up until the big drop at the end.  Then he started to tear up.  He does not like steep drops, that one.  But I praised him thoroughly for giving it a try and he was able to shake it off.  The picture that was snapped was classic, because I swear Harry had the same look on his face as he did when we went on the log ride in Santa Cruz when he was three.  Poor kid.

After that, Harry kind of wanted to go back to the resort.  We headed out but couldn’t resist one last ride on Pirates of the Caribbean.  Again, there was NO line (people were lining up for the parade by now… it was dark) and just before we got in our boats, Kile found a family with a young boy and asked if they wanted the rest of our FastPasses.  They were very grateful and happy to get them.  I hope they were able to put them to good use!  We enjoyed what little we were able to do with them and I do kind of wish we had opted for the gift certificates instead.  Oh well. Live and learn!

Pirates was fun, as usual.  It’s a classic for a reason!  Next, we walked by the Jungle Cruise which the boys had done the night before and Kile insisted was AWESOME at night.  We decided to make that our LAST ride and hopped on board. It didn’t disappoint.  We had a very funny driver and I even remembered parts of the cruise from the last time I had been to Disney World, if you can believe it!

I wanted to try a Dole Whip, but the line was too long and by now Harry was REALLY shot so we just headed out.  It was hard to say goodbye to the Magic Kingdom but we vowed to return someday and this time, to do at least a WEEK there.  Because three days isn’t NEAR enough for all the parks.  Not even close.

We caught our bus and before we knew it, we were back at POFQ.  We stumbled up to our room and I think Harry was asleep before his head hit the pillow.  We had to pack up our bags some… they had to be ready to be picked up by the staff and put on the bus to the cruise ship by 8 am!   Yep, it was going to be yet another BIG day for the Porter family!

Coming up: We meet the Disney Wonder, in person!

Disney Extravaganza: Day 2

I didn’t have a chance to do a post yesterday, sadly.  We had to drive to Winnemucca to meet my in-laws and pick up our dogs from them.  It has been so weird to be without the dogs for two whole weeks!  They’re happy to be home and the drive wasn’t even that bad.  Helped me to get some knitting done at least!  But not so good for the posting.  So I’ll be getting to that now…

Friday, August 7

We were determined to get out of our room and to the parks at a reasonable hour this morning.   I didn’t take a shower, knowing that I would much rather have it mid-day when we came back to the room to recharge.  We loaded up the kids, grabbed some granola bars to munch on and got down to the bus station to catch the bus to Epcot.

We saw my brother and his family on the bus, which was nice.  They were headed for FastPasses at the Test Track and I thought maybe Harry and I would enjoy that too.  So we tagged along with them as we went through the bag check and admission gates and found our way to the Test Track ride.  Our fast passes weren’t for a couple hours yet so we had plenty of time to kill.  My brother’s family was headed to breakfast but we had decided we would rather do lunch in the park instead so we amused ourselves elsewhere.

We went to the World of Energy, or whatever it is called.  It was a ride/show with Ellen DeGeneres that was actually pretty funny and interesting.  I remembered it from my trip there all those many years ago.  Of course, Ellen wasn’t in it back then, but you get the idea.

It was already starting to get majorly hot and we needed to find a bathroom.  It took some wandering around but eventually we found it near a gift shop.  Then we headed over to the Living Seas and did the whole Nemo ride and checked out the aquariums and did Turtle Talk with Crush too, which was fun.  I thought it was cool how they had all the Nemo fish in the aquariums so the little ones were able to identify and get excited easily.  There were also dolphins and manatees and other cool stuff.  Plus, you know, air conditioned.  But, like most things at Disney, strollers weren’t allowed.  And while Liam could walk around on his own, Evie could not and I got tired of holding her.

We were all pretty hungry at this point, so we went next door to the Earth building (the name escapes me, I apologize) and found a big food court there.  We didn’t stay to look at anything or go on any rides.  We were kind of tired and thought maybe we should head back to the room at that point.  Harry and I had missed our FastPass time while having lunch and it was after 1pm.  On our way out, we stopped in a gift shop to browse around (and take some super cute pics of the kids wearing mouse ears).

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Evie's Ears

We also took some pictures of the most recognizable monument at Epcot: Spaceship Earth.  It was starting to cloud up, thank goodness.  I was beat and so were the kids.

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Spaceship Earth

Harry at Epcot

We caught the bus back to POFQ.  Harry was desperate to go in the pool so while the boys all went down there to have at it, Evie took her nap and I took a shower.  I also tried to get some knitting done but wasn’t able to get much accomplished.  Evie woke up before too long and I let her wander around the room.  It wasn’t long after that the boys returned.  We all got cleaned up and headed down to the boat dock to take the boat to the Port Orleans: Riverside resort up the river.   We were having dinner there that night to celebrate my parents’ 50th anniversary that is happening later this year.

Dinner at Boatwrights

We had to split into two tables because there were 19 of us and there just isn’t a table alive that could fit that many people (at least not in a restaurant this size).  Dinner was alright.  The food wasn’t that great, sadly.  And Evie had some serious ants in her pants.  She normally doesn’t act up at all in restaurants but she would not settle down that night.  Kile and I took a couple turns getting up with her so we could each eat.  But eventually I had to just leave.  I let her walk to her hearts content through the lobby of the resort and then strapped her in her stroller and went outside on the docks to look at the river, feel the sprinkles from the sky and people-watch.  Eventually, the boys met us outside and we decided to head back over to Epcot for the evening.  I really wanted to get to the World Showcase.

My wrist was starting to hurt very badly.  I wondered if maybe it wasn’t because of the knitting I had done earlier, but I think it was from NOT knitting so much.  It hurt SO badly that we stopped by the aid station on our way to the World Showcase to get some ibuprofen.  Then… Mexico!

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Liam had fallen asleep in his stroller (I think it was Liam… Evie?  One of them!) (or maybe both…) so I sat outside the pyramid on a bench and watched the world walk by while Kile and Harry went on the boat ride.  After that, we walked around the Showcase, and I took pictures of the different “countries” until I ran out of light.

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We stopped briefly in “Germany” because Harry needed to use the restroom.  The boys also checked out the Christmas shop there and Kile brought me back a glass of the most awesome wine.  Maybe it was awesome just because I NEEDED IT SO BAD.  But whatever.  I took it.   Then… more walking.  We had no time to actually DO anything, which I’m still sad about.  But at least we saw it.  Let me say it here first, folks:  Epcot takes TIME.  Days worth, even.

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Epcot at Dusk

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Aaaaannnnd… then it got too dark to take pictures.  I was using my iPhone too, so there wasn’t much to do about picture quality.  But with my wrist hurting, it was the best picture taking solution for the moment.

We continued on, past Great Britain and  ended up at Canada when we ran into other members of my family who were there for the fireworks show.  We planted ourselves on some benches and settled in to watch the show.

I didn’t have the best view, but best I could tell, they were trying to blow the whole place UP.  It was amazing to see.  I tried to get a picture but pictures just couldn’t do it justice…

Epcot Fireworks

It was all done over the lagoon and was loud and simply breathtaking.  Evie got a little freaked out, even, when the night before she hadn’t been upset at the Magic Kingdom fireworks at all.

Epcot closed down after that, which was a little surprising for a Friday night.  It was all good, we were planning to leave anyhow.  Kile and Harry were going to the Extra Magic Hours at the Magic Kingdom that night, from 11 to 2am!   Originally, I was going to go, but my wrist was still hurting so bad and I was just exhausted.  We took the crowded bus back to the POFQ.

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We got the little ones settled down and the boys left again.  I couldn’t have imagined it… I was rather happy to read some of my book and then go to sleep.  It would have been nice, but I was just plain tapped out at the moment.

The boys stayed the whole time, it sounds like.  Kile didn’t get many pictures, but he got a couple:

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Tiki Lounge

Yep, they did the Tiki Room!  They did a bunch of other rides too, though nothing too thrilling because Kile isn’t a roller coaster kind of guy.  Apparently, there were a LOT of people there.  Of course there were, it was a Friday night!  But it was cooler and the lines were shorter than during the day and the boys had a blast.  Kile even had a Dole Whip, damn him.    Mostly I’m just glad that they had fun.  The late night would take it’s toll though, especially on Harry.  The next day was our last day in the parks and there was a LOT to do!

Coming up: we finally get it right!

Disney Extravaganza: Day 1

There’s a lot to tell about our big trip.  So much that there is no way I could fit it all into one post.  So I’m going to do a post for each day and hopefully I’ll be able to get the whole thing out, do it justice, and not forget anything.  But as I said… there’s a lot.  Now that we’re home, I can’t quite believe that we did all this.  It truly was a dream come true.

Thursday, August 6

We woke up at my parent’s timeshare condo, where we’d crashed the night before.  It was in Kissimmee which is incredibly close to Disney World itself.  It was a really nice resort and condo and it’s a shame we didn’t have more time to enjoy it.  We had originally wanted to get up super early, head to the resort at Disney World (hereafter referred to as “WDW”, like all the pros do) and drop off our bags and hit the Magic Kingdom for their Extra Magic Hour.  But it soon became apparent that we were TIRED.  And we needed to kind of take a little extra time.  We had a little breakfast, cereal and donuts and bananas.  I stubbed my pinky toe HARD on the edge of the high chair and damn near crippled myself.  This little detail will become important later on.

We packed up the kids and the bags and tossed all of them into the rental car (a Dodge Charger!  Rawr!).  It was time to go see the Mouse.  It was around 9 am, if I remember correctly.  Not bad for being as tired as we were.

It wasn’t long before we saw this:

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I think once we saw that, we started getting REALLY excited.  Liam, I think, wasn’t quite sure what all was going on, but fed off our excitement.  We found our way to our resort, the Port Orleans French Quarter (hereafter referred to POFQ, for future reference).   It was small and nothing special but at that moment, it looked like the Taj Mahal.  I stayed in the car with the kids while Kile ran in to see about checking us in, leaving our bags and getting our passes for the parks so we could get to it.  While he was in there, I took a picture of the bus stop that we would come to know and love and use quite often.

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There were two stops there, the far one is the “A” station, which went to Magic Kingdom and… someplace else that I’ve sorta forgotten at the moment.  I wanna say Hollywood Studios.  The near station (which you can only see the corner of on the righthand side there) is the “B” station that went everywhere else (water parks, Epcot, Animal Kingdom).

The resort was more than happy to take our bags so we checked those in with the luggage people and then we were off.  We still wanted to go to the Magic Kingdom and had the rental car for several more hours.  I had the stupid idea of driving to Magic Kingdom rather than taking the bus.  You’ll find we make many mistakes on this trip, but these mistakes made us stronger and wiser.  But this was a key error on our part and I paid dearly for it later on.

We parked in the monstrous parking lot and waited for a tram with about a bazillion other people.  It was hot.  Did I mention it was hot?  IT WAS HOT.  The tram took us to the monorail and we rode that into the park.  We had our bags checked, used our passes to get in and… voila!  We walked down a very crowded Main Street until we saw a good view of the castle.

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And that is when Liam “got it”.  “Disney World!” he hollered, pointing excitedly.  We all felt it in that moment.  We were at Disney World!  Let the magic begin!  As we got closer to the castle, there was a show going on and we stopped to get our bearings.  And take a few pictures.

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Don’t we look like a happy bunch?  I promise, Harry is just wincing at the sun.  He’s not in pain or anything.  And me, I’m starting to hate life a little here.  The heat caught me totally unaware.  Also, notice I wore sneakers with socks.  Another grand mistake that I soon rectified.

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Liam is still obsessed with the castle.  Everytime we would pass it for the next several days he would shout, “Disney World!”  A big fan, that one is.

Kile left us at this point.  He needed to head back to return the rental car.  I know.  We had JUST gotten there!  But it takes so long to get from one place to another.  Taking the car to the park?  BAD IDEA.  Add it to the “mistakes” column!  It took him a goodly amount of time to get the monorail and tram back to the car, drive the car to the return place in Downtown Disney and then take a bus back to our resort.  He had planned to then come back to the Magic Kingdom via the bus.  But it took him SO long to just get back to the resort.  Taking the bus to the resort: mistake.  Should have taken the boat.  Boat is BETTER.  We were making mistakes right and left that morning!

It soon became apparent to those of us left at the Magic Kingdom, that there were too many babies in strollers and not enough pushers to do much of anything interesting other than stumble about looking for shade and a cool breeze.  Harry wanted to go on a ride, but everything had an obscene

line and I couldn’t go on anything with the babies.  We eventually decided on the Dumbo ride.  The line wasn’t too long and there was some shade for me to sit in while I waited.  I was able to keep an eye on Harry and sit and feel the sweat drip down my back at the same time.  Score!

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Harry is on one of those elephants, believe it or not.  He liked it, and felt better for having rode SOMETHING.  After he got off, I needed to change Evie and I knew there was a “baby care center” in the park that was supposed to be the bee’s knees.  Luckily, it was rather close so we headed over there.  I struggled with leaving the strollers outside (WDW hates strollers, and they aren’t allowed anywhere, just about) but eventually ditched them because the air conditioning inside won me over to the dark side.  I was able to change Evie, the kids could sit and watch some cartoons, I fed them some Teddy Grahams and we felt a bit better.

But we couldn’t stay there forever and eventually plunged ourselves back into the furnace.  I saw a nifty bird and took a picture.

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Little did I know, I would see dozens of these birds over the course of our stay.  What were they?  No clue.  But there were a lot of them.  And some of them were black.  Who knows.

We continued to stumble around, exploring.  We went through Adventureland, boggling at the lines for the Jungle Cruise and Pirates of the Caribbean.   I found a seat outside of a restaurant where we could feel a touch of air conditioning.  I was tired.  We were all hungry.  Tired.  HOT.  Miserable, basically.  Do you know what it’s like to be miserable in the Magic Kingdom on your first day there?  Very discouraging.  I got ahold of Kile and that’s when I found out he was close to getting back to the resort.  There was some hemming and hawing before I decided that we would head back to the resort ourselves.  I knew it would be hard to manage the kids and the strollers on the bus without Kile’s help, but staying in the park sounded AWFUL to me at that point.  I wanted lunch and someplace cool to sit.

As we were making out way out of the park, I stumbled a bit, stubbing my foot.  The same foot that I had smashed my pinky toe on earlier that day.  And OH MY SWEET JESUS, the pain.  I could hardly walk without limping, feeling the toe swell and throb inside that hot sneaker was just adding to my joy.  Getting on the bus was the goal though… and it was just as difficult as I imagined it would be.  Thankfully, a kind Samaritan helped me by getting one of the strollers on the bus for me.   The bus was blessedly air conditioned and the ride back to the resort felt awesome.  We got there, let Kile know we had arrived (he texted that our room was ready, just before 1pm… not bad!) and he told us he would come meet us.  We stumbled towards the resort entrance from the bus stop and at the same time we spotted Kile coming toward us, my dad and my brother Tom stepped off a car rental shuttle bus.  Great timing!

We all headed to our rooms together.  We were all on the third floor of building three.  We occupied a whole row of rooms, our room connecting to my sister and her families room.  I collapsed on the bed and didn’t want to ever move.  Even my hunger was eclipsed by my need for rest and cool air.  Harry, meanwhile, was desperate to go in the pool there at the resort.  We arranged for him to go down there with my brother.  I stayed in the room and took a shower.  I learned that day that I needed to just take a shower each afternoon or so to feel halfway human.  I felt like before that shower that I stunk worse than any human being has ever stunk.  I wanted to BURN my clothes.  It was awful.  The shower felt like HEAVEN.  I put new, clean, dry, non-smelly clothes on and felt like a new person.

With that taken care of, we had to go get something to eat.  We knew there was a McDonald’s, among other things, at Downtown Disney.  We decided to head over there.  The boat that shuttled back and forth was just down by the pool so we were able to easily hop on board and away we went.  That boat ride was wonderful, winding through the backwoods of the Vast Disney Compound, taking us directly to Downtown Disney which is sort of a mall-done-Disney-style.  It was still unbearably hot, but the sun had been obscured by clouds which was a blessing.  I grew to love clouds during our vacation (not that I didn’t love them before!).

It took us a while to find McDonald’s but we eventually got there, found a table in the crowded dining room and Kile fetched us some food.  Which I think I devoured in about 10 seconds.  The food did wonders for us.  Much like the shower had done, I felt like a new person.  I was re-energized.  No longer did my legs feel like jello and my head feel so dizzy.  Who knew that you needed to EAT to keep your energy up!  Lesson learned!

We browsed around a little after that, and explored the enormous “World of Disney” store which was like a regular Disney store on crack.  This place was roughly the size of a city block and was filled with every sort of Disney product you could ever hope to find.  We got Evie a stuffed Minnie Mouse and Liam a stuffed Lightning McQueen.  Both were huge hits right off the bat.

We headed back to the resort, since we figured Harry might be looking for us and we had spent several hours there.  We finally took an opportunity to take a few pictures.

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After we returned to our room, we met up with my sister and her family.  While the menfolk went down to the lobby to deal with checking in for the cruise (a debacle all in of its own), we caught up on news (she’s pregnant!!) and the kids played and got wild.  It was getting late though, and dinner was needed.  Patty wanted to go to the Magic Kingdom to eat and hang out.  I was admittedly nervous about going back, judging from my poor experience earlier.  I had even entertained the idea of staying in my room the remainder of our stay.  It was THAT bad.  But, it was cooler a tad and not as sunny so maybe not so bad.  We headed out on the bus, deciding to give it our best shot.

The ride from the resort the park was a piece of cake and I felt stupid for not doing it earlier in the day.  It was raining just a bit when we got there and it was downright pleasant.  I felt encouraged.

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We decided on a counter service restaurant in Liberty Square.  It happened to be right across from the Haunted Mansion and when we were done, I couldn’t help but notice there was NO line.  My sister’s family had been on that ride earlier in the day and they wanted to go through the castle so we agreed to meet up after we went on the ride.  We ditched the strollers, grabbed the kids, and went for it.  Liam got a little freaked out in the elevator, but the ride was just as fun as I remembered.  Harry enjoyed the ghost in our “doombuggy” at the end.

After that, we decided to go for Pirates of the Caribbean.  Again, there was NO line.   I decided that evening/night was the best time to be at the Magic Kingdom HANDS DOWN.  Of course, it was a Thursday night and I was sure it’d be busier on the weekend.   Still.  Less lines and cooler?  Sign me up!   The kids really enjoyed Pirates of the Caribbean and I did too.  I hadn’t been on it since the changes were added after the movies came out so that was kinda nifty.

After that, it was parade time.  My sister and her family wanted to see the parade and it sounded like fun so we found a spot in front of the castle and set up camp.

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The parade was typical Disney magic.  I’m not generally one for parades but this was a good one to see.  And it was kinda fun watching the castle turn colors while we waited.  Afterward there was about a half hour until the fireworks so we decided to stick around and watch.  We killed time by going to the Monster’s Inc “Laugh Floor” in Tomorrowland and that was a lot of fun.  Evie was even picked out of the crowd for being a cute baby!  It was the perfect thing to do because just as we exited the theater, the fireworks were starting.  We found a spot nearby to watch from and I tried to take a couple pictures.

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The fireworks were spectacular.  Dare I say, they even brought a tear to my eye?  I feel like our vacation began that night… we were finally “getting it”.  It truly was magical and I’m SO glad we went back to the Magic Kingdom that night.

It wasn’t even that awful getting the bus back to the resort.  The bus was crowded but not excessively so and we managed well.  We arrived back at our room in good spirits.  And everyone transitioned nicely to their sleeping arrangements, thank goodness.  Evie was set up in a pack n’ play and Liam was in one of the double beds with Harrison, accompanied by a couple bedrails.  Evie was a little cold because dumb me forgot to pack her blanket.  I covered her with a towel but she was still cold in that air conditioned room.  Still, we slept like rocks that night.  All the better to rest up for the next day!

Coming up: Epcot!

Traveling with Toddlers

In a word? Don’t.

We made it back from our big Disney Extravaganza yesterday. Well.
Today, actually. If you wanna get technical. And I do. The kids did
great on vacation. But traveling was hard on all of us.

I’m going to save the warm and fuzzy details for my warm and fuzzy
posts about the trip. This post is for the Traveling. Which was
neither warm nor fuzzy. And may have included me having a nervous
breakdown in the Denver airport.

Going out was… interesting. I mean, all in all, it was pretty
smooth considering. But we weren’t used to traveling at that point
and the whole business just had us frayed before we even got on the
plane, I think. We left fairly early on Wednesday morning. Kile’s
co-worker who lives near us came by and rode with us in the van down
to the airport where we unloaded our junk and the carseats and she
took the van to work with plans to leave it at our house on her way
home from work, picking up her car which was parked there. Make
sense? Everyone with me so far? Good?

The carseats… were a pain. I mean, I know we needed to have them.
But lugging them through the airport was AWFUL. I had the bruises to
show for it too! We hadn’t purchased Evie her own seat (since she can
qualify as a free “lap child”) but were able to score her a seat on
the plane anyhow so we brought her seat on the plane with us. And
that was hard! Pushing a stroller and carrying a carseat along with
the other carry ons was a nightmare, but then having to carry Evie
(having left the stroller at the jetway) and the carseat on the plane?
OMG. There are no words. I’m already starting to block it from my
memory, it was so bad.

And the moment the plane started moving, Evie got upset. And I’m
talking pulling back from the jetway. The stewardess finally told me
as we were taking off that I could take her out of her seat and hold
her. So I did and that chilled her out. So much that she started to
fall asleep so I put her back in her seat and that was all well and
good.

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The boys were fine and dandy and other than Liam’s propensity for
kicking the back of Evie’s seat, he did pretty well too. Harry soon
discovered that flying was pretty cool and he liked ordering soda from
the stewardess and getting packets of peanuts and cookies.

We went first to Los Angeles, which seemed counter-intuitive. But
whatever. I saw the Hollywood sign as we were landing and tried to
point it out to Harry but he couldn’t see it. We landed and felt
rather smug for surviving our first (short) flight. We didn’t have to
get off the plane because even though it was stopping, we were riding
the same flight clear through to Orlando. Or so we thought.

While chatting with a fellow passenger, we found out that our plane
was busted. Oh yes. Busted. And at first, we weren’t sure when
they’d be able to find another plane for us to use since fixing the
current one was not going to happen anytime soon. But before I could
properly figure out how to react to this, they found us a plane. And
it was at another gate! Clear across the LAX airport. Soooo… we
unstrapped the carseats and tried to book it as fast as we could to
the other gate. We were following the flight crew and they promised
to get us on board. But at the gate, the agent there was a crabby
wench and made us wait and then snapped at us and was generally rude
to everyone she spoke to. We were finally let on board and scored new
seats and all was well.

The next leg was to Phoenix and was pretty uneventful. We landed. We
took off. Blah blah blah. The kids were getting used to it by now
and this time Evie only had minor complaints. But the flight from
Phoenix to Orlando was a long one and with the bumpy ride over the
gulf (wee!) I wasn’t sure we’d EVER get there! But we did, and landed
just as the sun was going down. The Orlando airport is all kinds of
awesome and we were easily able to find baggage claim. I hung out
there, grabbing our bags, while Kile went and got our rental car. It
was when we got outside baggage claim to get into the car that I had
full understanding of the heat and humidity. And this was after the
sun had gone down. GULP.

We found directions on my iPhone and drove to my parents condo for the
night. The whole toll road thing blows my mind. They really know how
to soak the tourists, don’t they? The whole east coast does that…
do regular residents/commuters find non-toll roads to use? Or how
does that work? Cuz I can’t imagine having to deal with that on a
daily basis. Bah!

Now…

The trip home was something else entirely. I made a decision that we
would check Evie’s carseat. I simply could not comprehend trying to
deal with it again. I had been having intermittent wrist pain all
week long (a result of not knitting? I have no idea.) the carseat
would have been too much. We had more stress than usual since we were
flying Southwest and they don’t have a sweet hookup with Disney like
some of the other airlines. Other people pack up their bags on the
boat and then don’t see them until they land at home. NOT US!

Oh, and we had to get off the boat at the asscrack of dawn. We were
up at 6am, at breakfast at 6:45 and then they made it clear they
wanted us off the boat ASAP. We tried to hang around as long as we
could but ended up on transfer bus around 9am. The trip to the
airport was quick and we were there by 9:30. We got our bags up to
the check in counter only to find out… you can’t check bags if your
flight is more than four hours away from taking off. Our flight was
scheduled at 4:20 so… yeah. We rented one of those Smarte Carte
things, loaded it up (you should have seen it! WHY didn’t I take a
picture??) and headed out. The airport is basically a MALL so we had
no trouble keeping ourselves occupied for a while. Especially once we
found the rest of my family hanging out. NO one had flights that were
leaving anytime soon.

Note to self (and anyone else planning a similar vacation): DO NOT
hesitate to schedule your flight earlier in the day! 12:30/1pm would
have been PERFECT. CURSE YOU, late flight!!

After Kile finally was able to check the bulk of our baggage, we
grabbed lunch at the food court (see? MALL!) and I was finally able
to try the infamous Chik fil-A. I had a chicken sandwich that was
mighty tasty. We browsed around the shops after that, and I was
mighty tempted to buy yet MORE Disney goodies at the Disney store
there. I showed restraint but even now, I’m sorta wishing that I
hadn’t. There was the cutest Tinkerbell coffee mug!

Anyhow, after that we braved security which had a whole bunch of
people from other countries going through. More than usual, I would
say. But by that point, I was so used to people from other countries
and foreign accents that I’m surprised I even noticed. Security was a
lot smoother than in Reno, simply because we were “old pros” at that
point. We found our gate and set up camp near some electrical outlets
so we could charge up our phones some more. We said goodbye to the
remaining family members and it wasn’t long before our flight boarded.
It went a lot smoother for me without the carseat. The bad news is,
it was a very full flight and every seat was taken so there wasn’t
much room to set her down or anything.

We took off a little late because there was some weather in the area.
But nothing awful and we were able to land almost on time in Denver.
Evie didn’t sleep a wink the whole flight and was extremely wriggly.
But we managed.

I have to say right now that I have extremely negative feelings about
the Denver airport. I like Denver. I do not like Denver’s airport.
There is ALWAYS turbulence (but then, there is in Reno too), but more
than that it’s the whole layout of the airport. The wasted space, the
inefficiency, the uselessness of the second floor “waiting” area.
WTF, Denver?

This is where we realized just HOW stupid our flight schedule was. We
were on the last flight from Denver to Las Vegas, which was then
continuing to Reno. And as such, we had to wait. There was a flight
from Philadelphia that had been delayed by weather and as luck would
have it, 30 or so people from that flight were on our Vegas flight.
So… we waited. We already had a 2 1/2 hour layover (and ate at a
restaurant that turned out to be exceedingly expensive). Add on
another hour. On top of tired children and parents and we were just
ready to be home. I didn’t handle it well. I was frustrated. I fell
in the trap of counting up the hours we’d been awake, how many hours
until we could be home. It was overwhelming. Liam and Evie had had
it. Harry was exhausted. I was beyond tired. We were all just DONE.

We finally got on the plane and got up in the air. Evie fell asleep
before we even took off so she was taken care of. I still had to hold
her, which meant my arms fell asleep. But at least she slept. She
woke when we landed in Vegas, but fell asleep as we took off for Reno.
Praise be! Liam slept too, which was great. He had slept most of
the way from Orlando to Denver too so Kile made out pretty well on
that deal. Harry slept on my shoulder the majority of the time. But
as we landed in Reno, he was awake and had the biggest smile I think
I’d seen on him all week. He wanted to be up in his bed so bad and I
couldn’t blame him.

Baggage claim in Reno is notoriously slooooooooow. Harry and I waited
for bags while Kile went out to look for his co-worker who had again
graciously offered to ferry us. That was a small mercy, let me tell
you! We FINALLY got our bags and FINALLY were on our way homeward.
It was after 1am by the time we got home. I could barely see
straight. Evie was interested in a diaper change and then BED. She
was out before she hit the crib mattress. Liam complained for maybe a
minute before dropping off. Harry was dead to the world. It took
Kile and I NO time at all to fall dead asleep.

And that… as they say… is that. We made it there and back in one
piece. That, my friends, is amazing. Flying with toddlers is a pain
unlike anything else. It’s just damn lucky that this whole trip made
it SO WORTH IT. Details to follow!

A quick update from the Disney Extravaganza

I don’t have long, and I’m tapping this out on my phone which is always a pain in the butt. But I’m chilling (literally) in our air conditioned room while Evie naps and the boys are down at the pool. I wanted to share a couple observations of the trip so far:

* it’s hot
* lugging giant car seats through airports SUCKS and I have the bruises to show for it
* when I say hot, I mean REALLY hot
* it’s beautiful here
* our resort is perfect! Not terribly fancy but nce and has everything we need
* the Magic Kingdom totally redeemed itself last night after kicking my ass earlier in the day
* I now know for sure: I AM NOT MEANT FOR HOT WEATHER
* Downtown Disney is awesome… The perfect combination of outdoor mall and, well, Disney
* the “World of Disney” store is a MECCA of Disney crap. You could spend daaaaaays in that place.
* I’ve learned that I have no business in any theme park here after about 11am and before about 5:30-6pm.
* when your legs turn to jelly and you feel like passing out? Time to eat something.
* fireworks rock
* I’ve had so much fun and done so much and this trip isn’t even near half over yet. Amazing!
* everyone here is truly so nice!

Okay… I’m off to knit and then get ready for dinner with the whole fam later on. Tomorrow: a character breakfast and our 11 year anniversary! Woot!

Bold Declarations

It’s time to make some statements.  Are you with me?

1)  I AM GOING TO BLOGHER ’10.  No, I don’t have tickets.  That hasn’t changed.  I’m still looking at after Christmas, because I would have a hard time justifying spending that money on tickets when it could be saved towards Christmas gifts.  But the point is: I am determined.  I am GOING. If they sell out, I’ll just have to find someone selling their tickets or win a contest or go anyhow and just gatecrash the cocktail parties.  WHATEVER.  I’m going.

Look, this is in New York City.  I have been wanting to go back there ever since our rather abbreviated visit back in 2002.  And while I know I’m liable to be busy with, you know, actual CONFERENCE stuff while I’m there, how can I pass up the opportunity?  Who many other times will I be able to say that I stayed at the New York Hilton (or is it The Hilton New York?) for a mere $200 a night?  (Hopefully less as I’m hoping to find roommates.)  Right in the heart of midtown?

There are two non-conference things I need to do while I’m there though.  One is going to Central Park.  When I was there, we walked just in front of it, but never explored more than that.  Maybe renting one of those horse-pulled carriages or something?  That’d be a hoot.  The other thing is I want to go down to Rockefeller Center at the butt-crack of dawn on Friday morning and see Matt and/or Meredith and/or Al and/or Ann.  I mean, COME ON.  I can’t possibly pass that up.

Anything else?  Is GRAVY.

But yes, I am going to BlogHer ’10.  I’m determined.  It will happen.  I expect you, oh great and wise BlogLand to hold me to it, mmkay?  When I falter, you need to give me a push.

So… anyone wanna be my roommate?

2) I am DETERMINED that this Disney Extravaganza is going to be the best, most awesome vacation ever in the history of vacations.  I’ve spent a lot of time the last year either ignoring the reality that is this trip or stressing out about it.  And why?  I mean, who out there wouldn’t give their right arm for an opportunity like this?  Me, I guess.  That’s who.

Partly, I think, because we’ve gotten SO used to isolating ourselves here.  It’s easier, simpler and CHEAPER to just stay at home and do our thing here.  Once in a blue moon we might venture out to visit one of our families. It’s pretty pathetic, really.  We’ve gone and gotten ourselves tied to our home and our routine and our things.  Well BAH, I say!

We’ve had a couple rough experiences.  One was the trip to Elko last June that ended up lasting a week longer and involved Kile’s unexpected hernia surgery.  That was stressful!  Even though it was great to have Kile’s family there to help us out (oh boy did we ever need them!), it wasn’t home.  And I felt out of my element.  And, frankly, since Liam was full on in “ornery turd” mode then and Evie was all new and needy, I felt we were a drain on my poor in laws.  And trying NOT be a drain while I had no choice but to be a drain caused me stress.  It’s goofy, I know.

Then, a little more than a month later, we went to BlogHer ’08 in San Francisco.  And… gah.  That was worse.  Much worse.  Harry stayed with my parents but we took the little ones with us and the business of trying to deal with the hotel and and living out of a hotel room and doing the conference and running around and having to miss out on things and tirednosleepkillmenow…. I was a wreck when we had to drive away.  Just a wreck.  I felt so disappointed and so frustrated and I still do when I look back.  And I think that I’ve transferred a lot of that to THIS trip too.  I mean, if that trip was such a disaster, and it was only OVERNIGHT, then what the heck will happen on THIS trip?  Which is 8 days long?? And involves long plane rides with people who might not want to hear children hollering across three states.  And long, sweaty, busy and overstimulating days?  Unfamiliar rooms, situations, people (to my kids, at least)…

I think you can kind of see why this trip has had me freaking out silently on the inside.

But really… it won’t be the same as San Francisco.  Liam is older and so is Evie.  There will be more for the kids to do there, more excitement in general…

This trip is an amazing opportunity.  I would be a fool to just let it go to waste by stressing out the whole time.  So I’m going to have fun.  Damnit.  We’re ALL going to have fun.  We’re going to spend too much money on stupid things like character breakfasts (*cough*) and cheap souvenirs and walk too far and get sunburned and eat ourselves sick on the cruise.  And we’re going to LIKE IT.

So there you have it.  My bold declarations.  You can take it to the bank!

The Disney Extravaganza

You’ve heard me mention this big ol’ obnoxious trip I’m going on this summer, right?  Surely you have.  And it’s time I talked some more about this trip, seeing as a week from tomorrow (GULP) I leave on it.  And I pretty much will have ZERO internet access the entire week I’m gone. That’s right, folks, get your slackermama fix while you can!

This will be a long post.  And I’m sorry for that, but there’s a lot to say.

I grew up in California, but this doesn’t mean I went to Disneyland with my family a lot.  Or at all, really.  We lived in the Bay Area, which meant there were no casual weekend trips to Southern California.  We also had Great America right there.  And I did go there every year at least, and the summers where I had a season pass, I went almost every week.  But no Disney.

My first trip to Disneyland was in middle school when a friend and her family invited me to come along.  The next time I went, was my senior trip in high school, a mere month away from graduation.  In fact, I went to Disney World before I ever went to Disneyland.  Strange, isn’t it?  I went in February of 1986 with my parents while we were in Florida visiting my grandparents.  My grandmother lived in Sebring, south of Orlando, and we drove up to the park.  One day we went to the Magic Kingdom, the next we went to Epcot.  I have more memories of Epcot than I do of the Magic Kingdom.  Isn’t that strange?  I think there was just more to see and do there.  Things are probably different now, since a lot has changed at Disney World between 1986 and now.  God damn, that was 23 years ago!

My kids have never been.  In fact, we’ve never taken any vacation even remotely like this in all the years we’ve been married.  When Harry was 2 1/2, we flew out to the east coast to stay with my sister and her husband and visited NYC, Maine and Boston.  That was a long time ago.  2002.  And it was only three of us flying.  One child in a car seat.  Easy, comparatively.

This trip is… different.  There will be five of us.  Two in car seats.  Two strollers.  Two sippy cups.  Two in diapers.  Flying, across country.  Airports.  GAH.  This scares the pants off me.  We’re flying Southwest, leaving out of Reno around 9am on the 5th.  Our plane stops in Vegas, but we don’t get off.  Then we fly clear through to Orlando, getting in after 8pm local time.  That’s a lot of time in the air.

We’re renting a car when we get there.  This was the subject of much angst and woe around here for quite a while.  See, our vacation “officially” starts on the 6th, when we can go to the parks and check into our resort and all that groovy stuff.  But flying from the west coast, we would miss out on half the day if we had flown out of Reno on the 6th.  We considered doing a “red eye” flight that night before, getting in early on the 6th.  But then we would all be exhausted and spent and there aren’t many flights out of Reno that qualify for “red eye” status.  So the day before it was!  My parents are flying in several days early and have a time-share condo they’ll be staying at in the meantime very close to the park.  They offered us up some space to crash for the night and even offered to pick us up from the airport since we wouldn’t qualify for the Magical Express.  Bonus!  Saving money is always good, especially when we have to travel on a strict budget like we do!

Well, then there was a change up with my parents rental car.  They didn’t want to pay the extra to rent a minivan, instead choosing to rent a compact car instead.  So that made picking us up at the airport a wee bit more difficult.  There would have to be two trips made.  This was… a hassle.  For us and for my dad to have to come get us.  We looked into a cab.  Cabs are outrageously expensive.  It would have been over $80 to take us from the airport to the condo.  So, we looked into a rental car.  And I found some great deals online.  And it turns out that after taxes and fees, we’ll be able to rent a car for under $60.  This is doubly good because it’ll get us all to the condo (we got the “standard/full” size, which is basically a Dodge Charger) that night and then the next morning it’ll get us all to the resort at Disney World.  We wanted to go early to take advantage of Extra Magic Hours and I would have felt bad making my hoof us over there (two trips again!) so early.

Our plan is to go to the resort as early as we can the next morning.  We’re going to be at the Port Orleans: French Quarter resort.  We’ll leave our bags there because they won’t have our room ready for several more hours.  We’ll get our park-hopper tickets and then hit the Magic Kingdom.  Our philosophy is: “go early, return early, go again”.  We’ll come back around lunchtime, cool off, go in the pool, take naps, etc and so forth.  And when things settle down, we’ll go back out.  Maybe after dinner.  Friday, we’re looking to do Epcot.  Saturday, we’ll hit Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom.  Saturday, as it happens, is also our 11 year anniversary.  I don’t know if we’ll be able to do anything special, but I imagine being at Disney World will be special enough all by itself.

Sunday morning, we pack back up and get on the bus to head to Port Canaveral.  There, we’ll get on board the Disney Wonder and go cruisin’!  Anyone who has known me for any length of time, knows that I have a thing about cruises.  I have ALWAYS wanted to go on one.  I used to read The Babysitter’s Club books when I was younger and I remember that first “super special” book when they took that amazing Disney World vacation?  They went to the park and then on the cruise (or was it the other way around?).  This was before the Disney Cruise Line but I remember thinking that was an AWESOME idea.  And now?  I get to go.  It’s going to be amazing.

I don’t know what to expect from the cruise.  I have the vaguest of vague ideas.  I expect a lot of sun.  A lot of fun.  A lot of food.  After four days on that, we’ll get dumped back off in Florida and then shuttled back to the airport.  Turns out, we’ll be spending a good chunk of time in the Orlando airport, waiting for our flight.  But that’s alright.  I’m sure we’ll all find something to do to keep us occupied.  I imagine we’ll be tired!  We fly back to Reno fairly late, local time, and will have a stopover in Denver when we have to change planes.  We’ll get into Reno very late.  We’re lucky enough that we know someone who has said they will be willing to take us to and pick us up from the airport so we’ll save on cab fare there too.

The next day, Kile and Harry both have to go back to work and school, respectively.  Ha!  I hope to sleep.  And then maybe sleep some more.  And after that, I might sleep.  And sit in front of the air conditioner.  And sleep.

This trip is huge.  There is no way we could have afforded this trip on our own.  My parents are generously footing the bill for all of us (19 people altogether) and my mom likes to talk about this is the last time we’ll all be together except for a funeral or something.  HAPPY THOUGHT, Mom.  But I know she’s probably right.  We’re all scattered to the four winds, busy with our families… This trip is a way to bring us all together, forge some happy memories.  As nervous as I am, as stressed as I have been… I am beyond excited about it.  I hope I can take about a bazillion pictures.  I hope I can remember every moment.