Sunday, September 21, 2014

Days Thirteen and Fourteen - Jupiter and Blizzard Beach

It was time to wrap things up!  On Saturday, we picked up a rental car and drove down to Jupiter to visit my family.  We had a great time talking with Amma, Rik, Maria, and Emily.  The kids had a great time playing with little Rikki!  Fiona especially got into some sort of chase game with him, it was really sweet.  Emily opened up after a bit and told us all about her cosplay, which was cool to hear about.  We had a lovely lunch, but then before we knew it, it was time to head back.  We were back in the Orlando area around 6:00pm, but drove around a bit checking out houses for rent on Zillow (well, not the actual houses, but the neighborhoods that they're in).  It was nice to see that there were big houses, with pools, in safe areas for not too much money.

We packed up a lot that night when we got back to the room, just leaving a bit to finish in the morning.  After we were all ready, we checked our bags with Magical Express (LOVE that service), left our carry-ons with Bell Services, and hopped on a bus to Blizzard Beach.  After getting changed, we grabbed a chair in the Tikes Peak area (we were late so only got one, but no biggie) and Doug and the bigs went off to slide while I hung out with the littles.

When they came back, we were all getting hungry, so we got some food from the main quick service place, then did a lap in the lazy river and played in the wave pool.  We also did another ride on Teamboat Springs, which Fiona was thankfully excited about instead of scared.  They all had a great time on the slide.  Doug and I took the littles back to Tikes Peak and told the boys they could play in the Ski Patrol area or go in the lazy river so long as they stayed together, and that we would come and get them in a bit.

 Well, when it was time to go get them, we could only find Colwyn.  It turned out that Lachlann had missed the 'stay together' part and had gone to the lazy river.  He was fine, but it was a sticky few minutes and Doug even went so far as to go check the Lost Kids area while I watched the lazy river from a bridge.  Finally we spotted him, and then it was time to head out.  We changed and posed for a picture (or four) near the exit, then headed back to our resort for dinner.

Nobody was especially hungry, but we still had five quick service meals to use up, so we got food (we shared a bit, too).

We all wanted one last Mickey bar (except for Colwyn, who got a bag of gummy candy.  Once again, Fiona's fell off the stick and onto the floor, but 'luckily' I hadn't eaten too much of mine, so I gave her mine.  We also grabbed a few cookies and Rice Krispie treats since we had extra snack credits leftover.

And then it was time to board Magical Express and head home.  It was definitely a mixed feeling - after being so sick, tired, and hot, we were almost glad to come home.  Plus, with the interview Doug had, there's always the possibility that we'd be back soon!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Day Twelve - Magic Kingdom

Our last day in the park!  Awww.  We decided to head towards the Big Top area, though we stopped and rode the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh and the Mad Tea Party first.  Dumbo was next (we skipped the play area this time) and we got some pictures in the 'specially trained Dumbo' out front, too.  Since one of Niall's favorite rides was the Barnstormer, we rode twice.  That was all before 9:30 or so.. it was pretty empty over there!

We still had some time to kill before Crystal Palace, so we squeezed in one more ride on Buzz Lightyear and the Peoplemover.  And then there was STILL time to kill, so Doug took the kids on the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse while I enjoyed the ambiance on Main Street and watched the Trolley Show.

Crystal Palace was fun and the kids enjoyed the food.  The characters were sweet and the kids all (mostly) gave them hugs.  I'm always happy to see Eeyore!  After eating, it was time for the Seven Dwarves Mine Train.  Fiona elected not to ride, so we sat in Pinocchio's Village Haus so she could tell me a story.  Once the boys were done, we met Cinderella and Rapunzel, then the Fairy Godmother.  We had Fastpasses for Peter Pan next, which, if not Fiona's favorite ride, is at least the ride she's most animated on.  We crossed over to It's A Small World next, where the CM in the loading area gave Lachlann a hard time about our tie dye shirts, asking him if it was all his fault that our laundry got messed up.

We'd wanted to get Fastpasses for Enchanted Tales with Belle, but they were all out.  The wait was listed at only 20 minutes, so we got in line anyway.  Well, let me just say it that it took a lot longer than 20 minutes.  Ugh.  The show was cute and all, but not worth a 40 minute wait.  I had gotten a 4th Fastpass for Pirates of the Caribbean, so we did that next.  Colwyn and Lachlann wanted to ride Splash and Thunder again, but obviously Fiona and Niall did not.  So we split up with the plan that the littles and I would just ride the train around until they were done, but then we realized we hadn't met Woody and Jessie yet.  We got there a bit before their next set, and there was some question as to whether they'd meet because it was threatening to rain, but we got in line anyway.  The family behind us were very funny and helped entertain Fiona and Niall.

Woody and Jessie were awesome.  Niall showed Woody the Yeti Train first, which Woody pretended to be terrified of.  I gave the autograph book to Jessie, which showed the scene of her jumping from the airplane with Woody in Toy Story 2.  She cowered and covered her eyes, and the handler remarked that Jessie is afraid of heights.  When I told her how brave she was to jump anyway, she perked up and acted very proud of herself.  Fiona showed her Sharp Claw, and Jessie took it and snuck up on Woody with it to scare him, and he jumped a bunch when he saw it.  Niall and Fiona thought it was hysterical.  Niall refused to take a posed photo with them, though, so just Fiona got hers taken.

When we were done there, we went up to the train station and boarded the train.  We had a nice, relaxing ride around the park, and Doug and the boys were waiting for us when we got back to Frontierland.  They'd had a great time on Splash and Thunder.  We decided to check the wait for Jungle Cruise next, and as it was only 10 minutes or so, we went for it.  Luckily, too, because we got a great captain who ad libbed most of the jokes.  We did the Magic Carpets of Aladdin, but Niall freaked out because he wanted to do the controls, so Doug took him on it again while Colwyn, Lachlann, Fiona and I did the Enchanted Tiki Room.

That was pretty much the end of our day - we stopped in at the Emporium to shop for some souvenirs (Mickey tongs, some magnets, etc), and we got snacks from the Confectionary.  It was getting insanely crowded at that point, so we were pretty glad to get out of there.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Day Eleven - Magic Kingdom

I woke up feeling pretty sad that our vacation was almost over at this point.  Only two park days left, both Magic Kingdom.   At least they promised to be full of our favorite rides!  Thursday was a morning Extra Magic Hour day which we had been mostly avoiding, but we wanted to have a chance to watch the Main Street Electrical Parade and Wishes, so we had to go against the Disboards wisdom this time.  It was foggy, and when we arrived, we could barely see the castle.  We hit up Tomorrowland first, with Doug, Colwyn, and Lachlann getting a ride on Space Mountain while I rode Buzz Lightyear with the littles.

When we met up after, we went to the Tomorrowland Speedway to get in a ride before it too sunny and busy.  The line was actually annoyingly long (as in, 10-15 minutes).  I drove with Fiona and Niall and Fiona steered, but boy, was Niall ticked off.  When our lap was over, Doug ended up taking Niall back on (I grabbed Fastpasses for them) while the rest of us headed over to meet Merida.  We were the second family in line (we got there at about 10 to 9:00), so we were glad not to have to wait forever.  When we got our few minutes with Merida, the kids were all totally wooden - Merida jokes that the kids must have had haggis for breakfast since nobody looked happy.  It was a pretty funny joke, considering I'd let them have leftover brownies and chocolate milk for breakfast!  They were all happy to have a turn practicing their archery afterward, though.

We had a late breakfast reservation at 1900 Park Fare, so we were running out of time, but I wanted to see if we could meet the Fairy Godmother before heading over to the Grand Floridian.  Unfortunately, we got bad advice from a CM on where she meets, so we missed her.  But Fiona and Niall got an extra ride on the Carousel out if it, so it wasn't a total loss.

1900 Park Fare was running really late, so we had to wait for a bit in the lobby.  The kids were happy to finally get seated and hit the buffet (oh, how they love buffets), and we had enough time to get everyone food before characters started appearing.  Tigger and Pooh were appropriately interactive with Fiona's stuffed animal, Sharp Claw, and Niall's monorail (Tigger pretended to be afraid of the Yeti), but the Mad Hatter was pretty meh (especially disappointing since we had so much fun with him last time).  Alice totally made up for it, though, and had a really long conversation with Fiona and Niall about their toys.  First, she called the monorail a caterpillar, which elicited crazy giggles from the kids.  Then when Niall showed her the Yeti Train, she asked why the Yeti was trying to scare Mickey.  Niall told her that the Yeti was actually trying to kill Mickey - and you should have seen the look on Alice's face!  They had a fun conversation about why the Yeti was so grouchy, then went back to calling the monorail a caterpillar.  It was so much fun, and quite a nice surprise as the last time we met Alice, she was a little flat.  We missed Mary Poppins during our extended visit with Alice, but our server was nice and got her to come back.  She was fun, but being Mary Poppins, a little stiff.

We took the monorail back to the Magic Kingdom and went right in to meet Tinkerbell.  We lucked out with yet another great interaction with her.  Lachlann had his sword with him and she wanted to know if he was a pirate, and if so, whether he was good or bad.  This involved checking out his teeth to see if he was missing any (pirates always have missing teeth), and smelling him to see if he smelled like a codfish (he did not, so apparently he's a good pirate).  Lachlann had been generally annoyed at having to meet girly characters, but I think he really liked the attention.

After we finished up with Tink, we ducked into Tony's Town Square Restaurant and got Lady and the Tramp's autograph, then found their pawprints in the cement outside the restaurant.  Marie was next, in the blazing sun by the flagpole.  But she didn't have a long line, so we went for it.  She was very cute, and Fiona was happy to meet her since we missed her last time.  We finally signed up for Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom after that - the kids love the game, but we'd avoided it thus far because so many of the portals are right out in the sun.  We had forgotten our Key from our last trip, but the CM asked how far we'd gotten and set our new game to start after the first round or two, which was nice.

We did Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor after that, even though I would have been perfectly happy never setting foot in there again after getting picked on horribly during our first trip.  But the kids enjoyed it and thankfully, we were left alone (no tie dye shirts on!).  We got frozen slushes to soothe our sore throats, then caught Carousel of Progress.  I love CoP for the nostalgia (and the song!), and Lachlann admitted afterwards that it wasn't as bad as he thought it would be.  I'm sure you can imagine my exasperation!  Next up was meeting Buzz Lightyear, and Niall thought he was awesome.  Buzz took Niall's Yeti Train and got down on one knee to roll it back and forth with him - which I found really impressive because of his limited mobility (which makes him sound like a senior citizen in an ECV, ha).  Niall was over the moon, though.

We didn't have much else to do until our Fastpass for Anna and Elsa opened up, and since it was so busy, we just played Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom a bit.  Finally our Fastpass window opened up and I took Fiona and Niall in while Doug and the boys continued their game.  Fiona was just in absolute heaven.  Both Anna and Elsa were very sweet - they thought the Yeti was Marshmallow - and Fiona and Niall got big hugs from Anna.  Fiona thanked me profusely on our way out, so I got to feel like Mom of the Year.

We had some time to kill before our Be Our Guest reservation, so we went over to Under the Sea.  It listed a 20 minute wait, but we got in line anyway because the queue is at least shaded and air conditioned.  The line was one of the longest we'd been in so far, but still not more than 15 minutes (probably more like 10).  Fiona and I had a great time pretending that we were turning into mermaids as we descended under the sea, and vice versa when Ariel turns into a human - but funnily enough, the ride stopped just at the transition between sea and land, so we had a great time pretending we had to hold our breath and that we were running out of air.  That little girl is so funny.

Be Our Guest was next and we were seated in the Rose Room.  It was beautiful, and Fiona was relieved to not be in the West Wing (she doesn't like the thunder and lightning).  The service and food were great, and the kids were so excited to get to try the grey stuff (okay, I was, too).  But it took a lot longer than we thought it would, so we were really worried we were going to miss the Main Street Electrical Parade.  Well, Lachlann was all for skipping it and going back to our room, but I was looking forward to it (and Wishes) so much that he got outvoted.  We lucked out with no wait for Beast and then practically ran over to the Hub, struggling to find entrance to the Fastpass viewing area since it was already packed.  We managed to find our way in and secured spots to sit in the 'second row'.  Huge relief!

It started to sprinkle a little, but we assured the kids that it would stop soon.  We did cover the stroller anyway, just so our autograph books wouldn't get wet.  We only had to wait a few minutes for the parade to start, and Doug and I giggled like little kids as soon as we heard the music start.  I can't really explain it, but we both totally love the MSEP.  Anyway, just after the first float got to us, the skies opened and we got hit with a torrential downpour.  The littles jumped into the stroller, where they stayed dry under the rain cover, but us bigger people (Colwyn and Lachlann included) were not so lucky.  It was literally like someone was just upending buckets of water on us.  Thankfully, we were all able to keep our sense of humor and thought it was quite funny, and a novel way to view a parade.  Some of the characters got into it, notably Smee (everyone was yelling at him to row faster!).  It was very strange, though, watching CMs covered in what are basically Christmas lights dancing around in the rain.  We were mildly worried we'd end up witnessing an electrocution (okay, not really, but still, it was weird).  I can't stress how much it was raining - I could barely see for the water pouring down my face and had to shield my eyes just as if it were sunny.

I also took the opportunity to hug the boys as much as possible.  During our trip, Colwyn got into the strange habit of asking for hugs at our most hot and sweaty moments, and I felt bad for telling him no all the time.   But we were not hot and sweaty then!  We stayed for the duration of the parade (20 minutes!), partially because we were already soaked, but also because we were surrounded by crowds and they tell you not to leave your spot when the entertainment is going on (since they dim the streetlights).  After the parade was over, though, we left with the majority of people.  I assume they canceled Wishes, but we saw a surprising number of people entering the park as we were exciting.  Leaving the park was tricky because I could barely see and I was pushing the stroller.  We were walking through rivers of water that washed almost ankle high.

The bus ride home was fun as there's nothing like a downpour at Disney to make people chatty, I guess.  I got to talk with a couple other adults, but Niall was really the star of the show, entertaining the whole back of the bus with his chattering to another little girl.  Of course, I can't remember any of the specifics of what he said, but he had most of the adults back there cracking up.

Once back in our room, Doug changed his clothes and ran to get Mickey Bars for everyone (the rain had lightened up to a light shower by then).  Of course, both Niall and Fiona dropped their ice cream bars on the floor, but not after enjoying most of it.  I was a little disappointed to have missed our one chance at Wishes, but the 'unique' evening made up for it.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Day Ten - Animal Kingdom

After staying up so late for Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party the night before, we decided to 'sleep in' a little on Wednesday morning.  Of course, sleeping in with the kids means sleeping until 8:30 instead of 7:30, so we were still up earlier than Doug and I would have liked.  We were a a little surprised to see it was raining when we stepped outside, but I was happy to have a break from the sun and blistering heat.  We didn't get on the bus until maybe 9:45am, but were pleased to have a very chatty bus driver - a first for us.  He gave us all sorts of tips on what to see and do in Animal Kingdom, how to stay dry, and also told us to check out Kilimanjaro Safari because the animals usually like it when it's rainy and cool.

We headed straight to the Safari, where the CM at the loading area loved our AK shirts.  The Safari started out pretty normal, though there was an ostrich standing right next to the fence in front of the cheetahs, and boy, were those cheetahs interested in the ostrich!  It was fun to see them actually engaged versus just dozing on their hill.  The real excitement came when we got the the lions area, though.  The male was on his big rock, and two females were clearly visible lying on rocks, too.  That was plenty exciting as is, because maybe 8 times out of 10, you can only just barely see one lion, or none at all.  But then as we rounded the bend, the male started roaring.  After a couple roars, both females started roaring back at him.  They had a long conversation while we all just sat dumbstruck.  The tour guide told us all to make sure we got video because that NEVER happens.  He sounded really emotional, actually, it was so sweet.  We sat there for way longer than we were supposed to and had to hurry through the rest of the safari, but it was so worth it.  The guide couldn't stop talking about it, telling us how he has the best job ever.  This was definitely one of the top two or three moments of our whole trip.

We all had the feeling that we could just go home at that point and still have had a great day, but obviously we didn't do that.  We boarded the train to Rafiki's Planet Watch next, and oh my gosh, was Niall happy to be on that train.  While on the train, I used MDE to push our FPs back a bit to give us more time and not cause so much criss-crossing of the park and had no problem getting the times we wanted.  While walking to the Planet Watch building, we stopped and played Habitat Habit, picking up Wilderness Explorer booklets and our badges for the game.  Once inside, the kids got to pet a ball python, looked at all sorts of creepy crawlies, and met Rafiki (though we forgot our autograph book in the stroller, so only got his picture).  We petted some goats in the petting zoo, then headed back to Harambe.

We were a bit hungry at that point, so we grabbed Rice Krispie treats and brownie paws from Kusafiri.  Holy cow, are those snacks huge!  We spent a relaxing few minutes eating at the tables outside Tusker House, then headed over to the Festival of the Lion King.  The kids enjoyed the show (probably their favorite show at Disney World), and Doug and I appreciated the convenience of the new theater.

After the show, we took turns riding Expedition Everest with rider swap, and Niall found a toy train that had Mickey and the Yeti in it.  He really wanted it, but we convinced him to wait until later.  Next up was Dinoland USA, where I took the boys on Primeval Whirl and Doug took the littles on Triceratop Spin.  We finished way before Doug, as their ride shut down for a few minutes while they were in line.  The upshot was that we got some great pictures and video of them on the ride.

We went into Restaurantosaurus for lunch and got to sit in the Airstream.  The food was alright - like most quick service places, the food is kind of 'eh', but at least at Restaurantosaurus you get great theming.  The kids were happy to get buckets and shovels with their meals, though, and Fiona spent most of the time looking through her Wilderness Explorers booklet.  After eating, Doug took the boys on Dinosaur while I took Fiona and Niall to get some badges, as she seemed really into it.  

The first badge was identifying dinosaur skulls, and the CM there was super friendly and chatty.  We joked a bit about Niall's obsession with monorails and trains (that was all he wanted to talk about, even though she kept trying to bring the conversation back to dinosaurs), our shirts, and when she showed us the dinosaur teeth, we joked about what dinosaurs would get from the tooth fairy.  Fiona gave her one of the CM Thank You cards we had, and she seemed genuinely pleased.  The next badge we did was the signaling badge at the entrance to Dinoland, and by the time we were done there, Doug and the boys were done with their ride.

We still hadn't met Baloo and Louie yet, so we got in line for them next.  They were fun, and Louie noticed our Magic Bands first, which is surprising because - well, he's an orangutan.  Their handler really liked our shirts, though, asking in detail how I made them.  But, you know, we hate that sort of attention, so next time, we're just wearing plain shirts.

Colwyn and Lachlann wanted another ride on Kali River Rapids, but Fiona and Niall weren't interested - Fiona really wanted to get more badges.  So we split up again and I took Fiona around to get the badges that were nearby.  We did Asian Culture where we played an instrument and learned about Indonesia, then we learned about Animal Sounds and Forestry, and finally, the one she'd been most looking forward to - the Yeti Badge!  Fiona gave me a very enthusiastic, heartfelt thank you for helping her get her Yeti Badge, which made me feel like the best mom ever.  We ducked into the Expedition Everest giftshop next and got Niall the Yeti Train (because even though we hadn't told him we'd get it, he'd convinced himself that we would and I sensed a tantrum in the making if we tried to bypass it).  As we were walking toward our rendezvous point, we bumped into Doug and the boys - and a good thing, too, because he was on his way to get the Yeti Train to surprise Niall with!  He was a little disappointed that he didn't get to be Super Dad, but I assured him that it was the thought that counted.

We headed out of the park then, glad to have an short day, but an especially awesome one.  We lazed around at the hotel a bit and got pizza and sandwiches in the food court for dinner.  The one hiccup with our sleeping arrangements happened that night - at some point, we woke up to hear Fiona crying in her room.  Doug went running in, and she said, very sadly, that Niall was lying on her hair and she couldn't move her head.  We got a chuckle out of that because anyone else would have just shoved him off, but poor Fiona either couldn't or wouldn't.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Day Nine - Epcot and MNSSHP

After such a difficult time the day before, we decided to rearrange our plans a bit for Tuesday.  Since most of our reasons for going to Epcot in the morning for extra magic hours involved riding things Fiona didn't want to do, I stayed at the resort with Fiona and Niall while Doug got up early with Colwyn and Lachlann and went to get in a few rides at Epcot.  We got to sleep in a bit and lounge around in bed while they road Soarin', Test Track, and Mission: Space again.  They also rode Sum of All Thrills for the first time, though Colwyn and Lachlann were a little disappointed because they weren't tall enough to go upside down.

After I finally dragged myself out of bed and got us ready, we headed over to Lost and Found to get the hat that Colwyn left on the Seas on Thursday and the sunglasses that he left on Primeval Whirl on Monday.  Lost and Found is always fun.. first you take a bus to the Magic Kingdom, but instead of going into the park to have fun, you get on a monorail to go to the TTC.  Then you take a really nice walk through lovely expanses of concrete and turnstiles to get to the most un-Disney building on property.  Thankfully, all the CMs we've met in there have been super nice, so I guess that makes up for a it a bit.  Doug and the boys found us while we were in Lost and Found, and once we had retrieved Colwyn's treasured belongings, we got back on the monorail to go to the Polynesian to have breakfast at 'Ohana.

I'd just like to say this about the monorails.  You think they're so convenient, especially if you're not staying at a monorail resort.  As you leave the Magic Kingdom, all hot and sweaty and exhausted, you think, 'Oh, woe is me!  I have a long walk to the bus stop, but look at those privileged people who get to take a short, fairy-dust sprinkled jaunt over to the monorail station, which will deposit them directly in front of their rooms!'  Well, let me just point something out - those ramps up to the monorail station are steep.  I'd rather walk a little further to a bus stop than scale those suckers.  

Anyway.. 'Ohana was perfectly lovely, though busier than I remembered (probably since it was free dining).  Niall really got into meeting the characters finally.  He loved showing them his monorail, and he also enjoyed telling them random bits of trivia from his life.  Breakfast was delicious, of course.  The highlight (for me) was the Hawaiian Roller Coaster, but sadly, none of our children wanted to participate.

As we were halfway through our trip and still hadn't had the pleasure of tasting a Dole Whip, we decided to seek out the new Pineapple Lanai and get a late morning treat.  It was (obviously) deserted when we got there, so we got our Dole Whips without the two hour long line like at Aloha Isle and ate inside a little lobby-type area in the main building.  The kids had fun coming up with names for the hollow spot inside the Dole Whip - like Dole Pit and Dole Hole and some other funny creations I can't remember.

We headed back to our resort to rest for a while in anticipation of staying up ridiculously late for MNSSHP.  We strapped the kids in bed, turned the lights off, and told them we'd beat them if they didn't sleep.  Okay, I may be exaggerating a bit.  Nobody actually slept, of course, but we did rest for a while.  Once we were all costumed up, we headed to MNSSHP.  It took us longer than expected to get there.. I think it was around 4:30pm when we arrived.  We headed to Fantasyland first, expecting to meet Ariel with little wait (since we were all dressed as Little Mermaid characters), but the line was actually long.  Instead, we did a circuit on the train, then rode Under the Sea.  We got some fun comments from CMs about our costumes, and one asked me very politely to please not steal Ariel's voice, that she needs it for the attraction.

We took photos outside in front of the King Triton statue and then got a Photopass picture in front of the ship with Ariel on the prow.  The photographer also insisted we get a Magic Shot of Fiona with Sebastian.  It was getting close to 6pm by that point so we got in line for the Dwarves (which already had about 20 minutes worth of people in front of us).  Doug grabbed us food from Pinocchio's Village Haus and we ate in line.  The tween girl behind us was very talkative, but helped pass the time.  Weirdly enough, she kept complaining that she was cold.  None of the kids were especially thrilled to meet the dwarves, they all look like Grumpy in the picture.  Ha ha.  Another annoyance was that when we got back to our room and checked the Photopass pictures, the one with the dwarves has a crazy blue tint, as if we were all standing under a blue tarp.  I was able to make it a little better with Photoshop, but not everyone has that ability.  I'd be pissed if I waited in line for over an hour just to get a photo that made us all look like Smurfs.

We went to go check on the Witch's line next.  The Evil Witch from Snow White was a new addition this year, so we were surprised to see only three or four families in line for her.  I was excited to be able to meet her, but I don't think the kids really were.  Either that, or they were just very suspicious of the basket of apples she was holding.  After meeting the witch, we went to go check on Ariel's line and even though it said 20 minutes, we decided to wait.  It ended up being more like 10, so that worked out well.  Ariel was awesome, and would have been worth a much longer wait.  She was thrilled to see us all in costume and instructed Colwyn in how to pose just like Prince Eric's statue.  Then she taught Fiona how to make adoring faces at Colwyn.  It was absolutely adorable.  Then she told him to stand in between me (Ursula) and the girls and draw his sword, like he was protecting them.  So much fun!

After Ariel, we rode the teacups and Buzz Lightyear since there was no line.  While I'd have been happy doing only special MNSSHP activities, we figured the kids deserved to ride some rides instead of just waiting in line for characters.  After Buzz, we got in line to meet Lotso.  Another Photopass photographer (not Lotso's) came over to our line and was taking pictures of people waiting.  He asked Colwyn who he was (Eric), then asked who Lachlann was.  When he told the guy he was a chef, the photographer asked him what he liked to cook.  Doug and I both answered, "Crab!" and pointed at Niall.  That got a laugh from the photographer and he took everyone's pictures.  He moved on to the people behind us, but after a few minutes, he came back and told Colwyn to come with him.  There was a 20-something girl behind us dressed as Ariel in her ropes and rags ensemble, and she didn't have an Eric with her.  So Colwyn got pressed into service and posed for a bunch of pictures with her.  It was a riot, and I think Colwyn was very pleased with himself.

We stopped by the Monsters Inc Dance Party for a few minutes, but Colwyn was the only one in the mood for dancing.  We did get to see Boo, which was great!  I love Boo.  By the time we finished up there, though, it was getting close to Hallowishes, so we got a spot right behind the Partners statue.  Doug ran off to get a drink, but came back with a couple of those huge ice cream sandwiches from the Plaza Ice Cream Parlor.  We waited through one of the Villains Mix 'n' Mingle shows but couldn't see that well, but it was a great spot for Celebrate the Magic and then Hallowishes.  After the fireworks, we were going to go check out the Villains dance party, but it took forever to cross into Liberty Square, and we decided to just hold a spot for the Boo To You parade that would be starting soon.

Fiona zonked out while we were waiting, but woke up in time to see the parade.  Niall thought the headless horseman was awesome!  The parade was wonderful, of course.  Everyone was pretty tired afterwards, so we thought we'd start wrapping things up.  We took a slight detour over to see if Jack Sparrow's line was long, and it wasn't bad at all, so I got in line while the kids trick or treated nearby.  Only Colwyn and Lachlann wanted to meet Jack, and I think they were a little intimidated, but it was pretty cool.  Doug decided to take the boys on Pirates of the Caribbean while I headed toward the exit with Fiona, who was dozing in the stroller.  We grabbed one of the special Mickey Popcorn buckets, then got some water from the Main Street Bakery.  We ducked into the Confectionary to kill time while waiting for the boys, and a CM thanked me for giving up my evil ways and taking good care of Ariel while she slept.

We headed out to the Town Hall area to wait for the boys, and I showed Fiona the statue of Roy and Minnie.  For some reason, that perked her up and she agreed to sit on the bench next to Minnie for a picture.  Once we were all back together, we headed out to the bus stops.  It was a great party, but it was hard being sick, hot, and tired.  We were so glad we went with the Little Mermaid costumes because we got SO many comments from CMs.  The kids really love getting attention like that (okay, and I do, too).

Monday, September 15, 2014

Day Eight - Epcot

Monday morning meant up bright and early to hit Epcot!  Doug was pretty happy since he'd get to spend the whole day with us, yay!  The boys made a beeline for Test Track right at rope drop, but Fiona declined to ride again, so I took her on Spaceship Earth.  We had fun trying to get her little Rapunzel doll in the picture with us.  After we met back up, we rode Soarin' with our Fastpasses.  Again, Fiona had us all in stitched with her adoration of the little blue lights set into the floor of the loading area.  So silly!

Next up was the Seas with Nemo since Doug had missed it last time.  The ride went much faster than before, so that was a relief!  We spent a few minutes in the Seas exhibits, then Doug took the boys off to do Mission: Space while Fiona and Niall finished up playing in Bruce's area.  On our way out to meet the bigs, we stopped and got Doug a water bottle that features the Nemo seagulls saying, "Mine!  Mine!  Mine!" - his favorites from the movie.  We met up outside Spaceship Earth and rode that again, then headed back over to the west side of Future World to ride Journey Into Imagination with Figment.  Fiona was incredibly nervous about this, as we may or may not have teased her about how absolutely terrified she was of the ride last time we were there (as in, she screamed and cried so badly, we figured she thought Figment was going to murder her).  We managed to convince her to ride, and she did absolutely fine, though she did close her eyes and cover her ears at some parts.  At least there was no crying!  We played with some of the games in the post-show area, then the littles bought two little monorail toys.

We were getting hungry by this time, and it was pretty hot.  I had also come down with a nasty cold so I was feeling pretty miserable.  We decided to get lunch at Les Halles in France.  The walk was mildly torturous, but we managed okay.  We got two ham and cheese sandwiches, a turkey BLT, and two bleu cheese salads; for dessert, we picked out one eclair, one parfait, one creme brule, one chocolate mouse, and one giant chocolate chip cookie.  The food was really good, and we were sitting in AC, so that was nice.  But before we knew it, it was time to get up and solider on.

We decided to look for Jasmine and Aladdin in Morocco, and you can imagine my relief to find out that they were meeting inside in the AC instead of on those little paths next to the lagoon.  We managed to convince Niall to show Aladdin his monorail, and Aladdin totally went with it and played with Niall with the monorail, making it fly through the air and so on.  Thus was the start of a lovely routine of interacting with characters using his toys to break the ice!  

Somehow we made it over to Germany - I'm not quite sure how, I may have blacked out.  Niall obviously wanted to stop to check out the trains, so I ditched him and Doug (perhaps with one or two other children).  Colwyn and I ducked into some of the stores for a bit of a break from the AC.  The others caught up with us in the toy shop - I loved the new Playmobil 123 sets but was sad my kids are past that stage; Lachlann fell in love with a small stuffed husky but was shocked to see that it cost $40.  I had been looking forward to getting something from Karamel Kuche but the heat and my cold conspired against my appetite (and not just mine - the heat kept everyone else's appetites low, too).

Thus we pressed on to China in search of Mulan.  We were far to early for her meet (I had imagined us actually enjoying the countries in World Showcase, not plowing through them in search of air conditioning).  We went into the shops in China, expecting to enjoy looking around, but Fiona decided to have a massive meltdown when I told her she could not buy yet another stuffed animal.  Even though she was crying, I refused to take her outside (which is what I normally would have done so as to not annoy other shoppers), so instead we just sat on a bench while I did my best to console her.  I was not at my best, parenting wise (or any other wise, for that matter), but we eventually came out of our funk - just in time to get in line for Mulan!

There was one other family in front of us, and they had decided to sit on a bench in the sun.  No way no how, so I introduced ourselves, chatted a bit, let them know we were waiting for Mulan as well, then stood on the other side of Mulan's area in the shade (she meets in a corner, and the benches are on one side in the sun, and the other side of the corner is in the shade).  I got slightly worried as people started forming a line behind the family in the sun, but as the time for the meet got closer, we moved over to the other family to chat with them.  For some reason (they must have asked for some sort of favor), I quipped, "Well, so long as you back me up if someone says we're NOT second in line behind you guys!"  The family behind them said, "Oh, don't worry, they already told us you guys are in line after them!"  It was all very good natured and a huge relief, as I was having visions of it all going horribly wrong.  Which is all a very long way of saying, "The line for Mulan was not an issue."

Mulan was fun and very sweet - Fiona gave her the autograph book, which I made a point of encouraging since on our last trip, we'd let one of the other kids give Mulan the book and Fiona pouted in her stroller for the whole meet.  After we were done with Mulan, we grabbed some smoothies and then sat in the outdoor seating area in Norway.

Refreshed and in a slightly better mood, we made for the perennial favorite - Gran Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Caballeros!  What a mouthful.  We rode it once, then as we were getting off, one of the kids got a minor injury, so we rode it again to cheer up.  On our way out, we decided to head over to Duffy.  Niall excitedly held out his monorail toy to Duffy and said, "Look at my monorail!"  Duffy jumped and turned around to look at the real monorail tracks behind him, then made a confused gesture.  The next minute or two passed with several repeats of that, with much giggling on the kids' parts.  It was very cute.

We got a quick family photo in front of Spaceship Earth, which reminded me that we get a special character meet and greet as Disney Visa cardholders, so we went into Innoventions to check that out.  Thank goodness I'd remembered, as it was pretty awesome!  It was just Minnie and Pluto, but we were the only ones there and they spent forever playing with the kids' monorails, being silly, and then checking out our Magic Bands.  Minnie and the CM liked them a lot, and we got a bunch of cute photos.

It was almost time for our reservation at Garden Grill, so we hustled over there, pretending to race Pluto (since it's kind of weird that we'd just seen him at Innoventions and then would see him again at dinner).  Garden Grill was great, of course.  The characters there are always especially fun.  Dale played with Niall's monorail on the table, and Fiona tried to feed her monorail to Chip.  I told Chip that he's Niall's favorite, then noticed that Mickey was only four or five feet away, so I joked, "Maybe I shouldn't have said that, with Mickey right there!"  That got a 'laugh' from Chip.

We made it just in time for the last Circle of Life show, which I found a lot more enjoyable than I'd imagined.  Probably because of the Lion King music.  On our way out of Epcot, we got a bunch of pictures since it was cooler and not as bright as the surface of the sun.  We got Photopass pictures in front of Dory and Marlin, then a Magic Shot of Stitch popping out of the ground.  Then we tried to time a picture with both Spaceship Earth and the monorail in the background.  I got one shot timed right but didn't think it came out good, so we spent another 10 minutes trying to get it - and it turned out that the first shot was the best.

We did Club Cool again (briefly), then got photos in the Leave a Legacy area before finally heading to the buses.  We'd had a really good ending to a mixed day - the morning was decent, but man, was that mid-day rough!  We knew when we booked the trip how hot it would be, but I wasn't exactly planning on getting sick.  Even though we had a good time in the parks (most of the time), it was really frustrating to not 'look forward' to going to the parks.  By this point in the trip, most of the time when we were at the hotel, I was just wishing we could stay there.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Day Seven - Typhoon Lagoon

Sunday was a little more relaxing than Saturday, thank goodness.  Our only plans for the day were to hit Typhoon Lagoon.  We took our time getting ready and got there just after rope drop.  The changing rooms weren't quite as nice as at Blizzard Beach (it is an older park, after all), but worked just fine.  Since we were a smidge late, we missed out on the good lounge chairs, but we snagged a few regular chairs in the shade.  We tried out Castaway Creek, the lazy river, first as a way to get oriented in the park.  Doug and I really preferred this lazy river as it was deeper, so not as much scraping on the bottom for us.

After one lap, the littles and I got out to play in Ketchakiddee Creek, the play area for little kids.  There were some fun little slides, a lot of water fountains, hoses, and squirt guns.  The kids loved the ship part of the play area.  It wasn't quite as much fun on my end, as there wasn't a nice shady spot in the pool where I could sit and watch, but oh well.  Niall and Fiona had a fantastic time.

Doug took the boys on a lot of the slides.  They did Gangplank Falls, Humunga Kowabunga, Keelhaul Falls, and Storm Slides together.  Doug let them do Crush N Gusher on their own while he waited in the pool at the bottom.  As expected, the boys absolutely loved all the water slides.  They were going to swim with the sharks in the Shark Reef, but Lachlann chickened out so they just took some pictures in front of the giant shark teeth.

We split up for lunch - while the boys were sliding, Fiona and Niall got hungry so we wandered over to one of the quick service places to get some food.  While we were eating, we saw a black cat hanging out in the bushes.  The littles thought that was very cool for some reason.  We took the lazy river back to Ketchakiddee, stopping on the way to shoot the water cannons at people in the river.  Doug and the big kids got food, too, then we switched turns.  I took Colwyn and Lachlann into the big wave pool, despite being really nervous about their ability to swim.  They can manage okay, but they're not especially strong swimmers (and it certainly isn't pretty).  But they did fine!  We tested the big waves out in the shallow end and the kids thought it was hilarious how difficult it was to stay standing when the wave hits. Then we went out deep and had fun dunking under the big waves.  After 3-4 waves, though, they were done, so we did a lap in the lazy river before catching up with the others.

While in the river, my face started stinging really badly.  I had reapplied sunscreen before heading to the wave pool, so I guess that's what it was, but it hurt an awful lot.  Fiona had complained of something similar while we were in the lazy river after eating.  I was pretty much done because I was so uncomfortable, but the boys wanted to try the Shark Reef again, and Niall wanted to do one of the slides near the wave pool.  So Doug took the boys to get Niall to go down the slide (with Colwyn and Lachlann catching at the bottom) while Fiona and I stayed in the shade on the path.  Lachlann caught Niall at the bottom just as a big wave was coming, so he grabbed him and "saved him from the wave" as he put it.  But he got knocked down somehow and scratched his knee, which put an end to the Shark Reef idea.  I don't think his scratch would have caused a feeding frenzy or anything, but it was enough to push Lachlann over the edge and we decided to just go.

We got back to the room around 4pm or so after doing that stupid transfer at Epcot and pretty much just hung around for the night.  It was really nice just relaxing for a change!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Day Six - Blizzard Beach & Downtown Disney

For our first water park day, we decided to go with Blizzard Beach.  The choice was pretty easy as we had plans to go to Downtown Disney in the evening, and Typhoon Lagoon's bus schedule is just ridiculous (after 2pm, you take a bus from Typhoon Lagoon to Epcot, then switch to a different bus to get to your resort) - and I didn't want to deal with that and then have to deal with the bus to Downtown Disney, too.

The water parks open at 10am which gave us an extra hour to sleep, woohoo!  It was novel not having to wake up the kids.  We made it to the water park just in time for rope drop, though that wasn't exactly necessary.  The changing rooms were pretty nice, and before we knew it we were claiming our lounge chairs in the Tikes Peak kids area.  Fiona and Niall were in heaven - little water slides, fountains, a waterfall, and a pool just deep enough for them to be 100% comfortable playing in.  I hung out with the littles for a while so Doug could take the bigs on some of the big water slides.  Slush Gusher was first and while they liked it, it hurt their backs a fair bit.  Then they went on Downhill Double Dipper, Snow Stormers, and Toboggan Racers.  Apparently the racing slides are kind of a pain if you actually want to race because it's difficult to get everyone lined up to go at the same time.  They also did Runoff Rapids, which was a fun ride but the climb sucked.

When they came back to the Tikes Peak kiddie area, we decided to do a lap in Cross Country Creek, the lazy river.  Fiona and Niall thought that was awesome as it was shallow enough that they could walk.  We still used a life jacket for Niall because of his tendency to get knocked over by the inner tubes.  It was a little annoying that it was so shallow for me and Doug, though, as it made it harder to float without a tube.

Next we did the Teamboat Springs, the family raft ride (taking the chairlift up, which was fun but a little nerve-wracking boarding and unloading with the littles).  Fiona was really anxious about it and fussed a fair bit while we were boarding, but she ended up loving it.  Niall and the boys really liked it, too.  From there we hit up the wave pool - lots of fun with waves that were high enough to be fun, but low enough not to be terrifying.

After the wave pool, I took the little kids back to the Tikes Peak area while Doug watched the big kids at Ski Patrol, the area for pre-teens.  They liked the zipline, but Colwyn said he swallowed too much water when he landed.  The slides were fun, too, as was walking across the 'icebergs'.

It was getting on into the afternoon then, about 2pm, so we wrapped things up.  There was a lovely CM in the changing room that directed me to a handicap stall so I'd have more room to get Fiona and Niall changed (we had the stroller with us).  We stopped off at the hotel to drop off our things and got on a bus to Downtown Disney.  The boys were super excited about going to Disney Quest, which we hadn't done before.

I'm not a huge fan of Downtown Disney to begin with, but it was an absolute nightmare with the construction.  We had to walk what felt like five miles across the entire complex to get from the one remaining bus stop to Disney Quest, all along crowded, shadeless pathways bordered by scrims.  It was a nightmare and I honestly thought some or all of us might pass out before we got to our destination.  We stopped at Wolfgang Puck's for a quick bite to eat and to 'cool off' in the outdoor seating area.  I was seriously annoyed at the un-Disney-like experience thus far.

Disney Quest was a little better - it was at least air conditioned.  We did a quick loop checking out the areas, then Colwyn and Lachlann did Cyberspace Mountain.  While they did that, Fiona and Niall played with the Living Easels which were a huge hit.  After the boys were done, we tried to go do the Jungle Cruise game, but Fiona chickened out.  Niall had a (understandable) tantrum because while he was allowed on the raft, he was not allowed a paddle.  He refused to do the Pirates game (along with Fiona, who was still freaked out by the noise), so I took the littles upstairs on a meandering walk to find Fix It Felix Jr while Doug waited in a really slowly moving line at Pirates.  

We gave Colwyn and Lachlann some freedom then, telling them that they just had to stay on the same floor as each other, and that we'd come find them when we were ready to go to our T-Rex reservation.  We played a few more games in the cheesy arcade area, as well as a ridiculously loud tank shooting game.  It was really just too much for Fiona, so after a bit, we went into the food area to just sit at the counter and chill out where it was a smidge quieter.  The boys got to do Cyberspace Mountain again, which was obviously the big hit there.

Finally it was time to go, and the walk to T-Rex was marginally better - mainly because it was halfway between Disney Quest and the bus stop, so not as far to walk.  T-Rex was enjoyable if you like insanely loud restaurants.  Seriously.. I think it's the loudest place I've ever been.  Every 10 minutes they do a meteor storm which makes 90% of the children under age 6 in there (which is a lot) scream and/or sob hysterically.  Then approximately every 90 seconds someone has a birthday, which involved a lot of improbably loud clapping.  That aside, it is a pretty cool place, visually speaking.  The kids really enjoyed their food, and my ribs were tasty.  Colwyn again took advantage of the dining plan and ordered the Boneyard Buffet - half a rotisserie chicken, a full rack of ribs, waffle fries, and mashed potatoes.  OMG.  It was hysterical.  Needless to say, we brought a lot home with us.  The real fun part is dessert - Chocolate Extinction, which is four slices of chocolate cake, eight big scoops of ice cream, and lots of Butterfinger crumbles and chocolate sauce.  Oh yeah, and it comes with a big cup of dry ice smoking all over the table.  So much fun.  Yes, fun.. until a trip to the bathroom becomes necessary because, just like last time we ate here, the food did not agree with my stomach.  I spent the next couple of hours very uncomfortable, and I vowed to never eat there again.  I do like the souvenir glasses we got, though.

By the time we emerged from the Jurassic Period (please forgive me if it's actually set in the Cretaceous or something, I don't feel like looking it up), the sun had set a bit and it was a little more comfortable.  We spent some time in the Lego Store, aka Heaven on Earth for my kids.  We only ventured into the World of Disney store briefly, and only really to check out the Magic Mirror thing they have there.  Every adorable 4-7 year old girl lines up to take a turn standing in front of a magic mirror, where various Disney Princess dresses appear overlaid on their image.  Every adorable 4-7 year old girl loves it.  It was actually pretty cute, but it needs a more formal queue because 4-7 year old girls aren't always great at taking turns where Princesses are concerned.

We really wanted to check out the Co-op Marketplace, and it was pretty cool in some ways.  Definitely better than the generic Disney giftshop, though only the kitchen area really appealed to us.  Once Upon a Toy was next, and the kids all did some shopping.  Fiona was disappointed that they didn't carry Princess Palace Pets, but Niall picked out a Cars headset that didn't fit (the cashier was really great about warning us that it would probably frustrate him, but we thought he'd be more upset to put it back, so we bought it anyway.  We should have just put it back, as it did frustrate him quite a lot).  Colwyn and Lachlann shared the Build A Droid as a souvenir.

We were pretty much done at that point, so we headed out.  The bus stop looked like a nightmare and I honestly felt like crying, but a CM appeared from nowhere and asked us where we were going, then flagged down a bus that had already closed its doors and let us on.  I was a little nervous as we approached the bus as our usual MO was to wait for an uncrowded bus, but there were still plenty of seats left, so whew!  We got back to the hotel fairly late and just crashed.