Monday, May 11, 2015

Niall's Birthday, Part Two - Legoland

We headed down to Legoland for the first time today, as part of Niall's birthday (he skipped having a birthday party to do this). I had a hard time finding good, solid info ahead of time, so I was really worried about how it would go, but it turned out awesome.

We got there a little late. We were just getting out of the car at 10am, and we had to stop to pick up our homeschool tickets (an amazing deal, btw, if you homeschool). We were going to do Lego City (Driving School and Boating School - Flying School was closed), but the maps suck and by the time we found ourselves in the Technic area, we decided to just do those rides instead of doubling back. We rode Project X twice (walk-on both times), Wave Racers twice (didn't even get off the after the first time), and only waited through one cycle for Technicycle. 

Then we went into Lego City (oh, after stopping to buy flip flops for my Fiona, as hers broke). It was probably close to 11 by that point. There was no wait for Boat School or the Jr Driving School, but we did have to wait about 10 minutes for Driving School. Rescue Academy was the first ride we weren't too thrilled with (though it was a walk-on, at least). Way too much work for just a simple ride!

The Jr Driving School was too hard for the littles, and the regular one was too boring for the big kids, so we'd probably skip those again.

We went into Land of Adventure next, and rode Coastersaurus, Safari Trek, and Lost Kingdom Adventure (skipped Beetle Bounce). Fiona was really scared about riding Coastersaurus, but went on anyway and did great.  I will note that as a bigger woman, Coastersaurus was uncomfortable and my husband had to actually help push in the restraint enough for it to unlatch when the ride was over.  Super embarrassing, and made me appreciate Disney all the more.  The kids also played in Pharaoh's Revenge and had an awesome time. The only thing we had to wait for was Safari Trek because it loads so slow, but that was only about 5-10 minutes.

We got food at Castle Burger. OMG, is the food there overpriced.. even moreso than Disney. We read up beforehand and saw that you can bring snacks into the park, so we brought a small cooler with Gogurts, cheese sticks, and granola bars to cut back on our food spending.

After eating, we rode the Royal Joust, played at the Forestmen's Hideout, then rode The Dragon (Fiona and I skipped it), and Merlin's Challenge. The Dragon was the only ride that had a wait - maybe 10-15 minutes. After that, Doug took the big kids to do Quest for Chi while I took the littles to Duplo Valley. They still play with Duplo a lot, in addition to regular Legos, so my littles LOVED Duplo Valley. We rode the train, played in the barn (oversized Duplo stuff to climb on/play in), and rode the tractors. 

My boys showed up part-way through, completely drenched. They wanted to ride Quest for Chi again, but Doug didn't, so we sent them off on their own. We took the littles over to the splash pad and THEY got drenched, while the big kids rode the Chima ride four more times. At least one or two of the rides, they were the only people in their boat. We spent about 10 minutes in the big store on the way out, and were back in our car around 4:40.

So.. we skipped most of Miniland, though we saw it a bit while walking through. We also didn't do any of the shows or other non-ride attractions, and we skipped Flying School (it was closed), the carousel, Beetle Bounce, and Island in the Sky. We didn't even go into the Imagination Zone. However, all they wanted to do was ride rides (and play at two of the playgrounds), and they got to ride several of them multiple times. Since we're local, we'll be able to go back and check out the other stuff another time, especially with that homeschool discount.

But I can't imagine doing everything in the park in a single day. However, if you've got bigger kids, you could easily skip the younger stuff to make room for the shows and Mindstorms thing.. and if you've got littles, you'll have plenty of time to do the stuff geared toward them. Trying to fit every single thing in one day, especially if you go on a busy day, seems too stressful to me. We had an awesome time, though.. got lots of stuff done without rushing, and spent very, very little time waiting in line.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Niall's Birthday, Part One - Hollywood Studios

My baby turned five, can you believe it?  Such a strange mix of feelings with that.. lots of nostalgia and bittersweetness, but also just lots of sweetness.  Look at this adorable little guy!

Our day started out with chocolate chip pancakes, of course, and then we stayed at home until around 4pm or so.  It felt weird not going out and doing something during the day, but he was so happy to just get to play in the sandbox and have screen time.  I'm proud of myself for consciously letting Niall do what he most wanted to do, regardless of what I felt like we "should" be doing to celebrate his birthday.

Mainly that was because we did have a big evening planned!  We got to Hollywood Studios (riding the tram, above) maybe an hour and a half before our dinner reservation.  Niall wore his birthday buttons - I made him two (one with Spiderman letters, and one with a train).  We did MuppetVision 3D which we hadn't seen before.  It was alright.. some of the kids liked some of it, but I don't think we'll be in a hurry to see it again any time soon.  Doug met up with us then, and we rode Toy Story Mania, which we hadn't done since our vacation in September.  After that, it was dinner time!

For Star Wars Weekends, Hollywood and Vine has been having Star Wars character meals, where you can meet the classic Disney characters dressed up at Star Wars characters.  Pretty fun, right?

The character interaction was pretty awesome.  Goofy, being so tall, was a little intimidating, but he was really sweet, tousled Niall's hair, etc.  We got into a funny on-going conversation with Chip, Dale, & Donald when we asked Chip if they could take Donald in a fight, since the Ewoks beat the stormtroopers in Return of the Jedi.

Obviously, Donald did not like hearing that, and nearly got into a brawl with Dale, right in the middle of the restaurant!  You couldn't get the characters' autographs, which was okay with us because we weren't planning on getting them anyway.. but given the price of the buffet, I'd have been pissed if I was on vacation and they wouldn't sign.  The characters all came around twice, so I don't understand why they wouldn't have time to sign an autograph at each table.

The food was alright.  Nothing to complain about, but nothing fantastic.  Maybe Applebees quality.  The kids absolutely love buffets, though, so that's where the value came from for us.  They were thrilled with it.  Everything was labeled with some sort of Star Wars name, which added to the fun, too.

The dessert station was over the top and really fun.  There was a Light side and a Dark side, and all of the desserts were themed accordingly.  Niall got a bunch of cupcakes and cookies, but I think his favorite was the plain old soft-serve.

Fiona couldn't figure out where to start, or where to put it all!

We gave Niall the option of staying for Fantasmic, but he didn't want to.  So after dinner, we rode Star Tours, then headed over to one of the gift shops to get his birthday present.

He has wanted one of these Disney World trains ever since we started coming to Disney World.  The reviews say they're not that durable, so we tried to hold off as long as possible.  This year, the ONLY thing he asked for was this train, though, so we gave in.  He was beside himself when we got it.  Look at that face!  How could you not buy this kid whatever he wanted?

We got home pretty late, but we had a cake waiting for us.  Niall requested chocolate cake, Nutella frosting, and sprinkles, M&Ms, and chocolate chips on top.  We only ate a little bit, but it wouldn't have felt complete without a cake and singing Happy Birthday.

Niall had a pretty awesome birthday, I'd say.  We all had a lot of fun, too, and the dinner was only slightly appallingly expensive.  Considering we will never wait in line to meet these characters at Star Wars Weekends, the price felt somewhat justified, especially since we got better interaction with them than we would have at a regular character meet and greet.

The birthday celebration will continue with a trip to Legoland!

Friday, May 1, 2015

First Lessons

Man, will I ever NOT worry about socialization?  If it's not my poor, sheltered, un-socialized homeschooled kids (joking!), it's the puppy.  Just like with children, socialization is crucial for puppies.  Unfortunately, at 8 weeks old, Luna isn't fully vaccinated and isn't technically supposed to leave our house and yard.  But I'm certainly not waiting for two whole months to socialize her, because that critical fear-imprinting window will have closed by then.  Thankfully, there are ways to get around that.

Luna has come with us to Lowes, Petco, and Petsmart, riding in the cart while we shop (usually taking a little longer than we would otherwise, because we get stopped a lot by fellow shoppers).  She gets to see different, unfamiliar things, and meet different, unfamiliar people, all from the safety of her towel-lined cart.

We've gone through the drive-thru, even though it wasn't quite lunchtime, just so she'd have the experience (and yes, we did get a cup of water just for her).  She usually naps on the way home, 'cause shopping is tiring.

Some socializing we do at home.  We've spent time wearing large and/or funny hats so she won't be scared of people in hats.  We usually listen to a recording of rain and thunder as we fall asleep, so there's thunder taken care of (though I did read a suggestion to rub your dog with a dryer sheet if a thunderstorm is approaching, because most of the time, they're freaked out about the static electricity in their coats rather than the noise).  We've spent lots of time out back listening to the birds, and out front, we watch lots of different types of cars drive by.  We even got to see Tru-Green spraying a neighbor's lawn, and a front end loader doing some work across the street.

This evening, we went to a farmer's market and just carried her the whole way (so no pics, sorry).  She got lots of pets from a wide variety of people, saw a 3 month old puppy (no contact, though), and heard plenty of car horns.  Tomorrow we're having friends over.  I have a few repeat and prospective dog-sitting clients who I need to do meet-and-greets with, so we'll hopefully set those up next week or the week after, so she learns to accept other dogs into our house.

Whew.  I forgot how much work puppies are!  I've got to look up puppy classes, too.  Petsmart does them starting at 10 weeks, but honestly, I'm not thrilled with the idea of a Petsmart trainer.  Although, it's the puppies I care about, not so much the training at this point.  We'll see.