Saturday, August 29, 2009
Sea World
After the long day on Tuesday it would have been a good idea to rest up a bit before taking on another big day. Did we do it? Hell, no. It was Sea World day for us and Universal day for Uncle B's family. We had to be at the parks for opening for tickets and logistical reasons. We had Uncle B's youngest and his mother-in-law with us. Noni and Popi and Jack were along too.

We started off with the stingrays. They were pretty cool. Popi fed a couple of them and they repaid him by splashing him a good one. Next we went to the area where they were feeding the dolphin. We wanted to see them before their show, Blue Horizons, started at 10:00 a.m. We found good seats for the show, but it was hot as Hades up in the stands with the air barely circulating. Sea World did good business off of us with those little hand-held battery powered fans. The dolphin show was entertaining. But it's remarkable that all the shows have been "new-ageified" or "Cirque de Soleiled." Very different from what I'd seen in the past.

We planned to try to catch the Shamu show, Believe, next. That meant we had half an hour to hike all the way across the park and secure good seats. Popi and I were the advance crew. Noni caught up with us. Next to arrive were M and Emma, who needed a snack along the way. At the last possible minute MIL and Little J arrived. The Shamu show did not disappoint. Even with the new-agey trappings it was still quite a spectacle.

We headed to the Arctic building next. Now you have to wait in line to even get in the building. Ridiculous. But I really wanted Emma to see the polar bears. We saw one bear sleeping. Boo. Last time we were there we saw one swimming underwater. I had hoped to see that again. We also saw beluga whales and something else which I've already forgotten.

From there it was time to give the baby a break. We headed to the baby center and decided to have our packed lunch then too. This is where my day went all to hell. Someone had a meltdown, and it wasn't one of the kids. Everyone's been there, and don't say you haven't. But it was ugly. Still, we pressed on. I refused to let it keep me from seeing the penguins.

Emma, M and I went on to see the sharks, the penguins and the seals. We also saw the Clyde and Seamore show with the sea lions and otters. That was a hoot. There were 3000 of us packed in that stadium in the afternoon heat. They had a mime entertain the crowd for 15 minutes before the show started. Believe it or not he was probably the highlight. That doesn't mean the show wasn't great, it was just that he was damned funny poking fun at people arriving.

We knocked off around 3:30 p.m. again and headed back. The rest of that evening was unremarkable other than the fact that I finally got to actually rest.

Flamingos again.

This photo was taken by Aunt K's mom. I hope they don't mind my using a few of hers in these posts. She got some good shots.

This was half the set from the dolphin show. You can barely see a high-diver in the middle of the picture.

You can see the sweat dripping down her face.

Shamu plotting to remove the guy's head. I'm pretty sure.

Hey-O! Meet Shamu!

Uncle Monkey got something stuck to his legs while standing in line for the Arctic building.

Emma with an unidentified mascot.

The penguins.

A baby seal nursing on his mama. Awww.


Friday, August 28, 2009
We headed for the exit from Magic Kingdom around 3:30-4:00 p.m. A seven hour day on their feet was pretty respectable for the kids. We went back to the villa and the kids went swimming. Uncle B and Aunt K came home from their day at Epcot and made everyone spaghetti. Then we all high-tailed it back to Epcot to watch the fireworks at 9:00 p.m. This time we took the extra Jeep umbrella stroller in case Emma collapsed. The Extra Magic Hours for Epcot that day were 9:00 p.m. to midnight. Uncle B wanted to take advantage of those in order to catch some rides where the lines were too long during the day.

After the fireworks the AARP contingent decided to head back home. They took Jack with them. My brother had us all bolt for the ride "Soarin'" Unfortunately it seemed like everyone else in the place had the same idea. When we got in line I think the wait was supposed to be 50 or 60 minutes long. We went for it. It's a lot more fun standing in line with the whole family to entertain each other. Soarin' was worth the wait. I thought it was the best ride I did all week. It's not a thrill ride in the rollercoaster sense, it's a movie combined with moving seats. It was fun.

After that we did Nemo's ride with everyone. We were able to walk straight onto that one. Uncle B wanted to do Mission: Space, but Emma was adamant about not doing it. I think she thought she'd really be going to space. We couldn't convince her so we left Uncle B's family and struck out on our own while they did the 40 minute wait for that ride. We ended up taking Emma into the sphere for Spaceship Earth. Boring. But it's more interesting than 13 years ago because each "pod" had its own video screen. Emma liked it well enough.

By the time we had accomplished all that it was nearly midnight and closing time. We waited near the sphere for Uncle B's family to catch up with us and then headed home. We had dragged Emma around parks from 8:00 a.m. to midnight, with a swim break in the middle. The only thing that eased my conscience was seeing all the other parents at midnight who were grinding their kids to a nub.

Waiting for the fireworks. Little M is standing on the iron railing around the gardents.

Chillin' out in the stroller.


Oooooh! Aaaaah!

Uncle B's pic of his family on the Mission: Space. He said that ride left him feeling a bit queasy.

The iconic sphere at Epcot. M took this picture.


Thursday, August 27, 2009
The Magic Kingdom
The day started early for us. The group consisted of Noni and Popi, M, Emma, Little J, C-man, and me. We wanted to take advantage of the Extra Magic Hour from 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. which is reserved for guests of Disney's Resorts. We drove to the park and then took the monorail to the front gate. We headed straight through the Magic Castle toward the Dumbo the Flying Elephant ride. My goal was for Emma to get Dumbo and the Teacups under her belt early. Once M and the kids were in line I bee-lined it across the park for Thunder Mountain and got Fastpasses. When I got back they were still in line. Blech.

After Dumbo we tried out "It's a Small World." I'd noticed on my walk back from Frontierland that it had no line. We all got on it except Noni and Jack. Emma was enthralled. She loved it and wanted to go again (we didn't know at the time, but this was a recurring theme with her). The second time through we took Noni and Jack. Jack wasn't as impressed. After small world we did the Cinderella's Golden Carousel (twice) and then the Mad Tea Party. All the adults were happy to let the kids do that one by themselves. We finally had to head for Thunder Mountain because our fastpasses were coming due. On the way we stopped at the Haunted House. Emma opted out of that one, wisely, it turned out.

We coaxed Emma onto Big Thunder Mountain, knowing we might be bringing down her wrath upon us. As it turned out, she loved it. She cried because we couldn't go again. We went next door and picked up Fastpasses for Splash Mountain. On the way back through Frontierland the kids decided to take the floating raft to Tom Sawyer's Island. They spent a long time over there while Noni and I chatted on the bridge, watching them. Then the clouds started rolling in so I took the stroller and found shelter on the porch of a candy store. We ate our packed lunch while waiting out the rain.

We trekked over to Tomorrowland to see what we could accomplish. The answer was not much. The lines were just too long by then. We saw the Carousel of Progress. Then Little J coaxed most of them into seeing "Stitch's Great Escape" (from Lilo & Stitch) show. When they came out M pronounced it stupid. Emma didn't like it either. I'll give C-man credit, he tried to warn us, but it was the one thing Little J really wanted to do. While they were in the show I accomplished the feat of going to the bathroom while holding Jack in one arm. Much harder than you suppose. I also bought C-man and myself an ice cream. Word to the wise: There is no lingering over an ice cream cone in the Florida heat.

We gave up on Tomorrowland and headed back to Frontierland to use our Splash Mountain Fastpasses. M and Emma bowed out along the way because Emma didn't want to get wet. They went to Adventureland and did the Magic Carpets of Aladdin and the Enchanted Tiki Room instead. Splash Mountain was fun. The irony is the whole ride is still based on the theme of "Song of the South" a movie Disney had buried in it's vault and will probably never release again. When we were done we had two leftover Fastpasses. I scanned the back of the 50 minute line for a twosome (harder to find than you'd think among all the family units) and gave them our Fastpasses. It's fun to make someone's day. They turned out to have British accents, so I was advancing diplomacy too.

After Splash Mountain we rounded up M and Emma and started meandering toward the exit. We hit the big Swiss Family Robinson Tree along the way. When we got to Main Street USA the parade was about to begin. From the back of the pack we were able to see it pretty well. A fun parade featuring all the elusive Disney characters. When the parade was over we hit the gift shops, bought some goodies, and then headed back to our apartments. All and all a fun day, but it wasn't nearly over...

The iconic Magic Castle...

The Dumbo ride. Everyone should be able to say they've "been there, done that."

Emma taking in the wonder of "It's a Small World."

Jack is not so impressed.

Emma got the pretty horse she wanted the second time on the ride. The first time it was snatched away by a girl who intercepted her. Not cool.

Neither one destined to be King. Sigh.

The Teacups of Doom (only for adults).

Jack says, "Am I tall enough to ride Space Mountain?" We had to tell him it was closed.

The Crew on Tom Sawyer's Island.

Noni and Jack, the dynamic duo.

Beware the Jack Attack!


It's hard to live with a Superhero
Emma has be very argumentative lately. She tries everything to get her way, bargaining, persistence, acting the victim, whatever. The other day she found a couple of small picture frames with magnets on the back that I bought at Disney. She wanted one. I told her, no, those were mine. She wanted to have one. I told her, no, I was going to put her picture in one and put it on the refrigerator, that it would belong to the whole family.

Why didn't I buy her one? She should have one. I pointed out that she got six princess dolls in a case and Aunt K bought her an awesome Jasmin and tiger and she got a bracelet and a Shamu, and mommy didn't get anything except these few frames. Was I expecting empathy? I must be daft. The situation was excalating and the tears were deployed. She beat, and beat, and beat the dead horse. She was sent to the steps, but after she served her time and was let up she'd start in on it again. She was put on the steps again. That went three or four rounds. Then she was sent to her room. She could not find it in herself to be quiet. It drives me nuts. She started going on about how she's not a part of our family. I had no idea where that came from.

Anyway, by then Daddy was home and had supper on the table. We got her to calm down enough to sit with us. The thing she decided to fixate on was that I had said the frames belonged to the whole family.

So she starts explaining how she's a Superhero and Superheroes don't have families.

"Yes, they do," I said, "Spiderman has an aunt."

"No, Superheroes don't have families and I'm not a part of our family so I should have my own frame."

"If you're a superhero then what are your superpowers?"

"I can't tell you. A Superhero can't tell you their Superpowers or they'll lose them."

Honestly, these are not the scenarios you picture when you're all starry-eyed looking at ultrasounds. How do we get from there to here?
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Our first park, Animal Kingdom
We went by bus. I swear it took nearly an hour to get there that way, including waiting at the bus stop. It was hot, hot, hot out. You can pretty much guarantee we'll be sweating in all our pictures. Since this was our first park we had to wait in line for a while to get our week-long Disney passes activated. After that we headed straight to the Dinosaur ride to get Fastpasses. Then we went to Dinoland so the kids could ride some rides. Emma and M did the Triceratops Spin. It became apparent fairly quickly that twelve people is a cumbersome group with so many agendas in mind.

As far as our day went, it began with a lot of standing around waiting on everyone to do their thing. Then we went on the Dinosaur ride with the fastpasses. Next we split up for a while and then reunited to take the Kilimanjaro Safari. That was the one thing I really wanted to do there. It was worth the 40 minute wait. We also did a 3-D movie "It's Tough to be a Bug," based on the "A Bug's Life" movie. The experience freaked Emma right the hell out. She was unhappy. Shortly after that M, Emma, Jack, Aunt K's mom and I went back to our rooms. There just wasn't a lot at Animal Kingdom. My summation is that it looks like there's a lot going on there, but there isn't. I wouldn't go again if I had to pay anywhere near full price.

This is the kids waiting at the bus stop. The "soft focus" is to compensate for all the digital camera noise because my camera was on the wrong setting for the first three days.

Uncle B is also a baby-wearer, pass it on. (I couldn't get him to tuck up the flap, I tried)

The official "Yes, we were there" picture.

Froggie went a' courtin'...

Noni in her role as baby wrangler. She did it for us all week. Don't worry, we gave her some free time ;)

Waiting for the Safari ride. Dripping sweat all the while.

The best pictures from the safari...flamingos.

An elephant.

And a lion.


Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Downtown Disney
After we checked into our rooms around 4:00 p.m. we spent a while unloading and unpacking. We made supper and shared the meal in our "apartment." We were staying at the Old Key West property which is a Disney resort. It was a very, very nice place and afforded a lot of amenities. Uncle B's membership in the Disney Vacation Club brought us a lot of perks too. Not the least of which was free parking at all the Disney parks.

After supper we hopped a boat and rode over to Downtown Disney. It was fairly packed as they have a lot of arrivals on Sunday. We spent the most time in a Lego store and a giant Disney store. We ended up riding the bus home to save some time and avoid the mosquitoes that were feasting on my sweet, succulent husband.

The whole gang.

A giant Lego shark.

Lego Loch Ness Monster. Emma's an expert on Nessie.

Four princesses.

In the Disney store we had a lot of fun trying on hats. I know...simple minds, simple pleasures.


Monday, August 24, 2009
Florida Vacation - the trip down
We met up with Noni and Popi at a McDonalds where we catch the interstate. They were gracious enough to offer to take Jack in their extended cab truck. That way Noni could sit beside Jack and they could entertain each other. She could also attend to his needs. In our car no one can help him because by law Emma has to be in the seat next to him.

We left our house at exactly 7:00 a.m. as planned. Yay for me and my planning and packing! We got half a mile up the road and had to turn around and go back because M realized he'd forgotten his wallet. Boo! Even so we were on the road again at 7:05 a.m. We met up with Noni and Popi and resumed our travels at about 9:00 a.m. Lunch was in Mooresville, NC at a Chick-fil-A. Ten and half hours after leaving home we reached our Saturday evening destination of a Microtel in Walterboro, SC. We ate a nearby restaurant and then everyone took advantage of the pool. Or most everyone as I still had the duty of washing the baby's bottles in the hotel sink.

Uncle B's family had traveled south on 95 and hadn't had much luck. They'd hit at least two traffic jams and were delayed a good bit. They missed the swimming but were pretty excited to be at the hotel shortly after dark. Now that we were all assembled it felt like vacation had finally begun.

We ate the continental breakfast at the hotel and then hit the road again. Saturday's journey had taken us 10.5 hours and we expected to be at Disney in another six hours. It actually didn't take quite that long. We were ahead of schedule so we blew a goodly amount of time at a nice McDonald's with an incredible playland in Palm Coast, FL. We arrived at Disney right around the 4:00 p.m. check-in time.

Saturday morning breakfast at McDonalds where we met Noni and Popi.

Unwinding in the hotel pool.

Jack's first official dip.

Continental breakfast at the Microtel, which was a surprisingly nice hotel for the money.

Big cousin holding Jack.

None of the girls wanted the Happy Meal American Girl crap. They wanted the Lego cars. Here they're working on adding the stickers.

Jack's ready to hit the road again!