Our Williamsburg, Virginia Top Ten List

B, the hubs and I spent 4 days in Williamsburg, Virginia.  It was a lovely and well-needed mini vacay!  Unfortunately, we were unable to experience Revolutionary City this time.  However, since we are starting American History in 5th grade this month (how is he a 5th grader already?!), we will definitely be making a trip back.  Instead of writing the usual post about our trip, I decided to create a Top 10 List, a la David Letterman.  Although, knowing me, I won’t be able to limit each item to just one sentence.  But, it will limit me to only ramble on about 10 things.  ;o)  Disclaimer: these are not all necessarily the best things about our trip, merely the ones that stand out the most.  Here we go…

Our Williamsburg, Virginia Top Ten List 
10.  Stopping at Bass Pro Shop on the way to Williamsburg was the best decision I made!  The hubs got to spend a few hours in his happy place which brought out “vacation hubs”.  Trust me, vacation hubs is much more relaxed and easy-going than workday hubs.
9.   This particular Bass Pro Shop has a restaurant and we had lunch there.  The hubs ordered an alligator appetizer and we all tried it.  It had the consistency of cooked shrimp and tasted good.  But one bite was enough for me, thank you very much.
8.   I saw the results of worry and fear over future gun laws in the US – half-empty gun display cases and the inability to restock certain kinds of ammo.  Some people are so afraid they will not be able to buy everything they want in the future, so they are buying it all up now and manufacturers cannot keep up with the demand.
7.   The Cheese Shop makes excellent sandwiches.
6.   B’s favorite ride at Busch Gardens turned out to be mine as well – Da Vinci’s Cradle.
5.   Seeing the pride and self-satisfaction on B’s face when he won the prize he’d set his sites on the very 1st time he tried.  It is a giant banana with dreadlocks and a Rastafarian hat.
4.   B was so happy he finally went on a roller coaster that went upside down.
3.   The hubs and I went to Busch Gardens years before B was born and had our portrait drawn.  On this trip, we had a new one drawn with all 3 of us.
2.   Even though we weren’t able to enter Revolutionary City, no child should visit Williamsburg without getting a 3-point hat (or a bonnet) and a toy flintlock pistol, IMO.  B got both.  I remember getting my 3-point hat at Williamsburg as a girl and I played with it for years.
1.   And my absolute favorite things about our trip to Williamsburg was….We spent four days there and not a single person asked B, “Why aren’t you in school?”  School systems still had 1 – 2 weeks left before Summer vacation, but there were plenty of other homeschoolers down there.  Due to the historical education to be gained in the area, Williamsburg must be used to us homeschoolers about all year long.  It is so nice not having to explain why you are out in public to complete strangers!

And the winner is…

I want to thank all of you who entered my $20 restaurant gift card giveaway!  I feel like a winner, too, because I got some great dish recommendations to try in my future eating out endeavors.   The winner, chose by Random, is Heather P.!  Congratulations!  I’ll be contacting you to get you your GC as soon as possible.

The Rest of Our New England Trip in August

Sorry I’ve left you hanging on the rest of our trip to New England last month.  I took notes while on the trip in on of those 6″x 9″, top-spiraled notebooks so I would remember what I wanted to blog about.  However, I had not been able to find the book again for the past week to continue my story.  We must have at least a hundred of these books around the house!  I don’t know where they come from!  I don’t buy them.  I found my notes in the 6th notebook I looked through tonight.  *sigh*  Anywho, I’m just glad I found it and when I’m done tonight, I need to put in a place where the hubs can’t include it in his “straightening up”.

I love how sparsely settled Vermont is compared to where I live.  Just mountains and valleys of green that go on and on.  The view kept me so occupied during the drive.  I never get tired of seeing the shadows of the clouds on the mountains nor the trees growing out of the rock faces where the roads were carved out of mountains.  Those trees are a wonderful example of perseverance!  When I was a kid, we would drive up to Vermont at least twice a year and I’ve missed it.

On the afternoon of August 19th, we went to The Vermont Country Store, one of the very few places I actually go willing to shop.  I wanted to buy everyone on my Christmas list presents there.  In the morning we were hanging at the rec room of my Nana’s apartment complex, playing board games and doing laundry, when a storm rolled in.  The thunder is amazing to hear, rolling down from the mountain tops and echoing back up.  What a beautiful symphony of nature.  There was a piano in the rec room and B wanted to try it.  He does not play; we don’t even have a piano.  My ILs have a small, electric one and B loves to sit for a bit every time we visit them in Baltimore.  He tries to teach himself parts of songs by ear, like Row, Row, Row Your Boat.  He sat down at that upright, in the rec room, in the middle of a storm in Southern Vermont and his fingers just flew over those keys.  He wasn’t playing a known piece; he was creating his own.  It was an absolutely beautiful concerto!  He played hard and soft, high and low, cords and notes.  What a concert between his playing, the steady rhythm of the falling rain and the echos of thunder.  I was so mesmorized, I didn’t even think to get out my camera and record his playing until he was done.  I am so upset at myself for that!  One of the other residents was heading out for a walk when the storm hit and ducked into the rec room to wait it out.  She also felt blessed to hear this spontaneous creation of B’s that day.

We headed down to Massachusetts on Saturday morning to attend my cousin’s wedding that afternoon.  It was a beautiful ceremony with the most poignant vows.  When an officiant says the standard, “for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health” to a bride and groom, most of us have no idea what worse, poorer or sickness could possible be waiting for us and plenty of us are not equipped to deal with it.  But this minister had realistic and direct vows that couples nowadays could use and truly live by, “I will love you even when you drive me crazy; I will respect you even when we argue”.

The wedding was an interracial marriage and there was no bride side or groom side for sitting.  We all mingled throughout the seats.  There was a vase with a hole in the middle that the couple went to during the ceremony.  The minister held a bottle of white sand, the bride a bottle of light green sand and the groom a bottle of black sand.  The minister poured half of his sand in the bottom and the bride and groom then poured in their own sands, sometimes together, sometimes taking turns, until their bottles were empty.  Then the minister poured the rest of his white sand on top.  The white sand represented God, the foundation and roof of their union.  Sometimes a layer of green sand was thicker, sometimes the black, symbolizing when one will be strong and the other will lean on the 1st.  It was a lovely vase to display in their home as a daily reminder.

The reception was fabulous!  We were still eating dinner, the DJ was playing some music in the background and B asked if he could go visit my parents who were assigned to another table.  Their table happened to be right in front of the DJ and when he got there, the song changed to one he really liked.  The wall behind the head table was mirrored and my boy justloves watching himself in a mirror.  Forgetting that the room was full of people, he turned to the mirror, got into his zone and just danced.  Table by table, people started turning to watch him and the videographer came up behind him, filming, but he was completely unaware.  He was in his happy place.  When the song ended and the place erupted in applause, he finally noticed his audience; and he was hooked.  I don’t think I got him to sit down for the rest of the night.

By the end of the night, the DJ was ready to hire B as his partner because he said B could get a crowd going and keep it going.  B and one of his 10 yr old female cousins, H, were selected to get the whole place on the dance floor.  H was shy and did not want to dance in front of everyone, but B told her not to worry, he would lead.  And lead he did!  It was awesome!  After a minute, the DJ stopped the music and that was the cue for B & H to go grab a new partner from the tables.  Every time the music stopped, if you were on the dance floor you had to run and pull someone new onto the dance floor, too.  It was crazy fun.  We also did the Soul Train dance line!  I’d never done that before and it was so awesome!  It was such a proud night for me.  When so many people from both families told me what a great dancer B was, I knew my baby really had a gift.  And he had such confidence.  On the way back to the hotel he just beamed.  As I tucked him into bed he said sleepily, “Mama, my objective was to dance with the bride tonight and I danced with her three times.”  You sure did, baby.  You sure did.

Some of My Trip to New England

One of my (many, many, many) cousins got married last Saturday and B and I went.  My parents were driving up and let us come along.  The 1st day of driving, B and I did school in the car.  I had intended to teach every day in the car, but that so did not work out.  One of his Language Arts lessons is teaching him how to write paragraphs.  The lessons give him a topic and he needs to come up with 3 things, in order of importance, and then a sentence that incorporates all 3.  That’s all we’ve gotten up to so far. One of the topics on this particular day was “Mom Is Great” and he needed to write down his 3 favorite reasons I am great.  My musical son immediately starts singing the Bill Cosby song, “Dad is great!  He gives us chocolate cake!”, and then proceeds to make up his own words to fit the melody: “Go, Na-na! She gives me Nu-tel-la!” and “She won’t topple! She feeds me lots of waffles!”  I love that he has inherited my and my dad’s gift of creating new words to songs on the spot.  He is hilarious!

One of the other topics he had to write about was “Homeschool Is Great” and his 3rd sentence caught me off guard, “I don’t get bullied at homeschool.”  I asked him if that happened a lot when he was in public school (he went for kindergarten and 1st grade) and he said, “Hmmm…about 3/4 of a lot.”  He went on to tell me that a group of 2nd grader bullied him daily!  While he was in school, he only told us about 2 incidents, and neither one had to do with this group of 2nd graders.  When I asked him why he hadn’t brought it up to us before, he just shrugged and said he told the teachers about it everyday and they told him to just ignore the kids.  But ignoring them did not stop the behavior.
We have talked to B about bullying several times over the last 4 years to let him know what is OK, what isn’t, what he has our permission to do to a bully and what we will do to him if he bullies others.  And yet, we must have been telling him too much and not asking him enough.  So ask your kids about bullying.  Just because they don’t come to you and tell you are getting bullied doesn’t mean they’re not.
When we got to the hotel in Albany, I took B to the hotel pool to burn off some energy.  He was so good in the car for a boy who needs to move all the time.  I cannot believe how excited he was to get in that pool!  And it was not your standard, “Olympic-sized” hotel pool.  That thing was 6′ wide, 10′ long and cloudy.  But it was the bomb as far as he was concerned.  I mean, he was last-day-of-school excited!  I love how the little things are all he needs.
The next day I drove, my mom navigated and B and my dad sat in the back, watching a movie.  They wore headphones so we could not hear the movie, but it was so funny to hear the two of them giggle or burst out laughing together.  My dad treated us to Bromley on the way to my Nana’s house in Vermont.  We had a blast.  At Bromley last year, B successfully climbed his 1st rock wall.  This time, he did all 4 levels.  We also got to do the water slides this time.  B was his normal, outgoing self and talked to everyone (that boy’s never met a stranger) but what really impressed me was how aware he was of others and moved carefully/accordingly.  For example, when he got to the bottom of an alpine slide, he got off, picked up his sled and proceeded to the sled drop-off area.  After a few steps, he realized a man was at the next sled with his camera up.  B stopped and waited and finally a child came down that slide, the man took a picture and thanked B for waiting.  B’s never done that before, especially in an exciting place!  I was very proud.

When we got back in the car to head to my Nana’s house, B went into the all-about-me’s.  I want another movie; read me Harry Potter.  When we got to Nana’s it was play a game with me.  Although most of the day had been about him and having fun, now he needed to back off and let us do what we needed and wanted to do – unpack, rest, visit with Nana.  He was frustrated, unhappy and tired.  Instead of whining or continue to pester us, he decided to run laps in the parking lot to burn off his frustration.  I have one smart cookie!

Due to limited room, my parents stayed at my Nana’s house and B and I stayed with my dad’s brother and his wife.  We had this wonderful carry-out pizza for dinner and my dad asked B if he wanted a knife and fork to eat his pizza.  My little smart-ass said, “No, thanks.  I don’t eat like Donald Trump.”  OMG, I about fell over laughing!  My dad, of course had no idea what B was talking about and I could not explain it to him.  B was talking about this story on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart where Donald Trump disrespects New Yorkers with his pizza selection and way of eating it.  You have to watch it, it’s so funny!

Day Six at Disney – Leaving :o(

I forgot to tell you another thing we did at Epcot in my last post – Turtle Talk with Crush! We went into a small auditorium with the adults sitting on benches and the kids on the floor up front. The screen in the front of the room is supposed to be like the side of an aquarium and you can see the ocean. Then Crush from Finding Nemo swam up to the “glass” and had an interactive conversation with the kids! B was the 1st kid he talked to and he was so excited. It made up for Mike Wazowski not using B’s joke on the Laugh Floor in The Magic Kingdom. Back to day 6…

Our original return flight left Orlando at 8:40pm to allow us at least another half day in a park before leaving. The airline cancelled our flight and put us on one 3 hours earlier. Since we were taking the Disney Magical Express back to the airport, they told us we had to get on the 2:30pm bus. I guess we could have arisen at o-dark-thirty, packed and hightailed it out of there to a park, but we didn’t want to rush and be stressed. Flying out of a busy airport is stressful enough.

So we had breakfast, packed up everything, stored our bags in my parents’ van and checked out. I was worried about the amount we would owe at check-out. Although we had the meal plan, that does not include tip at your sit-down restaurants. Plus, we had charged our souvenirs to the room. We got 2 surprises at check-out. 1) We only had $86 and some change on the room and, 2) my dad had paid that amount for us. He also did the same for my brother. :o)

During the week we had been on all of WDW’s modes of transportation but one – boat. So we went down to the dock behind the resort and got on a boat. We rode to Magic Kingdom and then to The Floridian Resort. We got off there to explore and had lunch. It’s a very nice, resort, but not for me. I think it would be the perfect resort for my ILs to stay at – quiet, elegant. I encountered my one and only rude cast member at The Floridian – a senior citizen working in the gift shop. B was in the restroom with the hubs and I was browsing. I noticed she had a pin lanyard, but it was turned around so that I could not see her pins. B was looking to collect a specific series of pins and I wanted to see if she had any. If so, I would have brought B in there to trade with her. When I asked if I could please see her pins, she responded rudely, “No! Trading is only for CHILDREN!” OK, I did not have a child with me and some of these pins are collectible items and could be worth money, I guess. So, there are probably some adults out there who try to trade to get good ones for themselves or to sell on eBay. But that does not mean I deserved to have her opinion of such people unleashed on me. I told her that I was aware of that, but that my son, who was in another part of the resort, was looking for something specific so I wanted to just SEE what she had. “Oh,” she huffed. “Fine,” and she flipped her lanyard around. Walt would not be happy with her and I wish I had said that to her. I told the hubs about my encounter and he wanted to go in there and give HER a piece of HIS mind. I stopped him. I did not want our vaca to end like that.

We got back on the boat and headed to the Polynesian. Although there was no one on The Floridian’s beach, the Polynesian’s beach and pool area was full of people. We did not get off and explore. We had to get back for our bus. We said goodbye to my family and boarded the bus. The driver was even able to tell us which terminal our return flight would be located. Riding back to the airport was like walking the plank. All of our hearts were heavy b/c we did not want to go.

We got into the long line for Security and slowly shuffled forward with the masses. Than it REALLY hit B that we were going home and he broke down! He started ugly crying and telling us, loudly, he didn’t want to go home and wanted to go back to the hotel. People were staring, but we didn’t care about that; people ALWAYS stare at my little performer. What we were worried about was him drawing Security’s attention and them not letting us through until they were certain we were not kidnapping him. But this was not one of his typical Drama King moments; his heart was genuinely breaking, the adrenaline was finally wearing off and the late nights and exercise was catching up with him. The hubs picked him up and held him while he cried. B just laid his head down on the hubs’ shoulder; my heart melts when any child does that and my boy looked so young and vulnerable just then. *sniff, sniff*

A snowstorm had hit home while we were gone but our friends had taken care of us. We got picked up at the airport and came home to a shoveled out house and the heat turned up!

As a Valentine’s Day surprise, the hubs created photo albums online and had them shipped to us, my parents and my brother. It is our 1st official coffee table book and that is where it will stay! When we get caught up in the hustle and bustle or are having a blah day, we stop, snuggle up on the couch and go through our book to relive the magical memories. And it WAS a magical trip. I will always be thankful for and grateful to the hubs for whatever sacrifices he made to take us to WDW. After B and himself, it was the best present I’ve ever received.

Day Five at Disney – Epcot

When we got home from The Magic Kingdom the night before, I had a voice mail at the lodge that made me VERY happy. My dad got us reservations for the character dinner at Chef Mickey’s!!! I had tried before we left and while in WDW to no avail. It’s a very popular experience, evidently. But my dad got us 6:35pm dinner reservations on our 5th day in WDW.

I’m sad to say that Epcot did not get the attention it deserved. In my defense, I did not know it needed said attention until it was too late to do anything about it. From my perspective, Epcot did not offer too much to interest my 8 yr old, just a ton of walking and things for adults to look at.

After breakfast, I took our clothes to the laundromat in the lodge and washed some things we needed for our last 2 days (the things we’d been wearing everyday). Since World Showcase in Epcot did not open until 11am, I knew the front part of the park was going to be crowded in the morning, so I was in no rush to get to the park first thing.

The only 2 things the hubs wanted to do in WDW was to get on Test Track and Soarin’ in Epcot. We went straight to Soarin’ upon entering the park and got Fast Passes that were not good for another 2 ¼ hours. So we went and stood in line for Test Track for 45 minutes. That was a cool ride. We ate lunch afterwards, road through the Disney greenhouse and then went on Soarin’. That was a little too realistic for me and I was scared a couple of times but it is a fabulous ride (I tried not to say amazing again).

The only other thing we wanted to do in Epcot was for B to go on a Kim Possible Mission. The hubs’ knees were hurting from all the walking that week, so he decided to rest in the UK’s pub while B, my brother and I went in search of a Kim Possible station. We only had time for him to do 2 missions – one in the UK and the other in France – but they were so much fun! B got a cell phone from the KP station and that was his “communicator”. He received his missions via videos and text messages on that phone and went all over each “country” doing little missions and gathering clues to help Kim catch the bad guys.

For example, B went into a phone booth in the UK, entered a code and a golf ball came rolling out. He had to find the right store to take that golf ball to, find the ball washer and put it inside to be “analyzed”. Turns out the ball contained GPS info on the bad guy to help us track him to his lair. In France, B and I had to find and then position ourselves in front of a particular awning, look up at the Eiffel Tower and enter a code into the communicator. Evidently there was a camera on top of the tower that took our picture and sent it to the communicator for us to view. B was so funny as a spy, ducking here and there, hiding behind things, pressing himself up against walls and peeking around corners. At one point, we could not find a street we needed and he had to ask a cast member for directions. Oh, the story he made up for why he needed to find that street so they didn’t figure out that he was on a secret mission was hysterical! He took his missions VERY seriously. LOL! The hubs was very sorry he missed these missions after B described in painstaking detail everything he did.

That was all we got to do before it was time to leave Epcot and head to the Contemporary Resort for our Chef Mickey dinner. But we will definitely plan more time for Epcot if we get back. We took the famous WDW monorail to the Contemporary Resort! :o) We checked in and they called us back to the inner-waiting area where we got some family pictures taken with a Chef Mickey statue. Later we were taken to our table, our waiter took our drink order and we were free to help ourselves to the buffet. Preparing for this trip, I was looking forward to eating WDW’s world-renowned food. Then we got there and I found that everything is cooked with a soybean/olive oil combination and I am allergic to olive oil! :o( I had been eating plain meat without any fat or seasonings and plain, steamed veggies all week. The food at the Chef Mickey buffet looked so good and I’d had enough suffering. I decided I was going to eat everything I wanted to on that buffet just as it was. Oh, it was so good! When I went back up for my 2nd helping, I realized my face felt awfully hot. When I got back to the table I whispered to the hubs, “I think an allergic reaction had started to the food. Can you get me the allergy meds from our bag, please?” While he is digging, my mom looks over at me and yells, “Oh my God! Your face is COVERED in hives! What’s wrong with you?!” *sigh* Luckily it was pretty noisy in that place and I don’t think it drew too much attention. Plus, the allergy meds worked pretty fast. Don’t know why I did not think to take them on the monorail ride over…

Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Pluto and Goofy stop by every table while you are there and will sign autographs and pose for pictures with you. We had gotten signatures from all of them at parks earlier in the week, so we just concentrated on getting pictures. When my dad got his picture taken with Minnie, he was so excited! He even kissed her! The staff sung songs while we all waved our napkins in the air and lots of the guests knew the words. While we were eating, we noticed that a cast member went to the tables on either side of us to show them the pictures taken with the Mickey statue when they arrived and discussed the prices if they wanted to buy any. I thought the price for each picture was steep and was pretty sure we would not buy ours, but I did want to see them. By the time we were done the picture guy still had not visited us. The waiter went in search of our pix and came back empty-handed. It was almost 8:30pm by now. My brother, the hubs, B and I had planned to go back to Epcot to catch their night show, but the hubs changed his mind. He did not want to be out in the cold again, like the night before, and wanted to get B in bed. So my brother and I headed to Epcot and my parents decided to stay at Chef Mickey’s and find out what happened to our pix. They were finally found and my dad was given all of them for free b/c of the mix-up. World-class customer service in WDW, I tell ya!

My brother and I had our coats with us this night, b/c our parents had brought them to us at Chef Mickey’s. We were nice and warm with the coats but also since there was no wind on this night like there was at TMK. There is a lot more spread out space to watch the evening show in Epcot, so we got right up front. I liked the show. My favorite part was the projection of movies on the continents of the globe in the middle of the lake. But I liked TMK’s night show better.

On the way out, I stopped at a vendor cart full of all the light up things that kids want after dark. B had been eyeing a rainbow lightsaber with Mickey’s head on it and I wanted to see how much it cost. Things like this are always expensive at fairs and amusement parks. It was only $7!! That thing would have cost at least $15 in Kings Dominion. So I got it for my B. The hubs and I were pleasantly surprised at how reasonably priced most things were in WDW. Leaving Epcot was the 1st time we were not able to get on the 1st bus to our lodge. But that’s OK; people watching is fun, especially when you have such a variety of people from all over the world to observe.

Oh, I wanted to tell something I left out on my Day One post. I believe that the slight majority of people at the parks when we were there we from outside of the US. That is just another testament to how awesome WDW is! People from around the world spend their hard-earned money to come to the US and experience WDW. Anywho, as we were waiting for the Fantasmic! show at Hollywood Studios to begin, we the crowd entertained ourselves by doing the wave back and forth! Isn’t that awesome? No matter what country you were from, your race, religion or language, we all not only KNEW the wave, but did it. Together. And laughed. Together. That’s something. That’s hope.

Day Four at Disney – The Magic Kingdom

Here is where my reading and planning REALLY paid off. We did what everyone told me could NOT be done – we did The Magic Kingdom. In. One. Day. :o) One WDW veteran told me she sets aside 3 days to do TMK. I was pretty scared, especially when people told me I have no idea how big that park is. I did not think it was very convenient to maneuver around Animal Kingdom b/c of the way it was laid out. After we left AK, another guest told us that TMK is set up the same way but is 4x larger. I honestly did not feel like it was any bigger than Kings Dominion in Virginia, but maybe that is my perception b/c we did not hit everything.

I don’t know if I can describe how I felt when we walked through the entrance and saw Cinderella’s Castle. TMK is the most exciting place I have been as an adult. I don’t think any 5 year old girl walking in there with her princess dress on and getting a hug from Belle herself could have been happier than me. The extra wrinkles/cracks I caused on my face from the ear-to-ear grinning that day was totally worth it. I am tearing up right now, just thinking about it. The memory of that feeling will always be with me and will be pulled out and relived on bad days and during discouraging moments.

I realized that I had taken the same detached attitude towards this trip as I did with my pregnancy. We had tried to get pregnant for 6 years. We had been to many specialists who tried to help, but couldn’t and to some who flat out told us there was nothing that could be done and we should adopt. So when I finally got pregnant, although I seemed reservedly happy to others, I was unemotional about it on the inside. I stayed detached but went through most of the motions and did most of the right things you are supposed to do as a pregnant woman. But I would not get excited; I would not hope. I knew in my bones that this baby was not going to come out alive. I could not survive the loss if I had thrown myself whole heart and soul into that baby. A friend of mine had to register for me b/c I refused to do it. Paul kept pushing me to to the nursery and I refused. What was the point in picking things out and getting a room ready for a child that is not going to live there? Finally, 2 weeks before my due date, Paul pulled out the “Obey” and told me, “If you don’t start on that nursery TODAY, I am going to tell your mom to do it and I don’t think you’ll like what she does!”

I’ve always wanted to take a vacation to WDW, but never thought I’d actually go. Whenever we’ve gotten a little set aside some car or medical or house emergency would come up. So, when the hubs told us in October that we were going in January, I was reservedly excited. He would not, and still hasn’t, told me how he managed this trip. But I figured something would come up during those 3 months that would cancel out the trip. The hubs and I have been together for 16 years and have only take 3 weeks off in that time. We took the week after our wedding off, but never took a honeymoon. We visited people during that week. Then 4 years later, a family friend let us stay at her house on the Eastern shore for a week for our anniversary. The hubs had to go back to work halfway through the week. 10 years after that, this past September, we went back to that beach house for a week and we all stayed the week. So, I objectively did my research and planning without any heart in it, b/c I didn’t think a “real” family vacation was in the cards for us.

Even though we had been in WDW for 3 days, it wasn’t until I walked into TMK and saw Cinderella’s Castle that I got that really-here-alive-and-breathing-my-own-baby-placed-in-my-arms feeling.

It was the perfect day to go. I did not think it was crowded. The Birmbaum book had said that Mondays and Saturdays are the busiest days in this park and I get that. So many people, like us, arrive in the beginning of the week and of course you want to go to TMK first! By Wednesday, when we went, I think a lot of people had moved on to the other parks. We got Fast Passes for every ride on my list that offered them and there were little to no lines for the rides that did not offer FPs. Ben got to ride lots of rides here, which made us both happy. Although he enjoyed the other 2 parks we had been to, he hadn’t gotten on too many rides. It was cool in the morning, but our sweatshirts were enough, then warmed up beautifully. The evening, however, was cold, and I wished we had brought our coats. The temps did not, however, make us leave the park and miss the show at the end of the night. No one puts on a show like Disney!

Something occurred frequently in this park that we had not seen on the 3 previous days – meltdowns. There were a lot of those in TMK. Screaming, crying, kids throwing themselves down in the middle of the streets. Those poor kids. It can be overwhelming and exhausting for us adults, too.

We had been in the park about an hour and the hubs, my brother and I were waiting while B and my folks went on a ride in Tomorrowland. We were amazed at the number of birds in this park! There was one of those stroller parking lots outside this ride and we were marveling at the bold birds that were all over them and in them, eating the crumbs and crackers left by the children, when a bird pooped in my hair! That had never happened to me before, but it’s alright – it was a Disney bird and I made Paul wipe it all out with pride! ;o)

My brother and I were the only ones brave enough to ride Space Mountain. B wanted to ride, but we said, “No”, after what happened in AK. I’m glad I went on it so I have no regrets. I wish we had gone back and rode it again. Now that I know what to expect, I think I would enjoy it. The Hall of Presidents was amazing (I know I keep using that word, I’m sorry)! My mom and I cried. Ben wanted to argue with me for half an hour after we left the Hall that those were NOT robots, they HAD to be REAL people! Another iconic ride I’m glad we hit was the tea cups.

The 2nd shop in WDW in which you can make your own Mickey ears hats was in TMK and B made another one. He had $72 of his own to spend on this trip between Disney GCs he received from relatives at Christmas and his piggy bank money. He even came home with $6. This hat is navy blue with a red mohawk down the middle, 2 black ears covered with fireworks and the words, “Mickey Rocks” embroidered on the front.

The nighttime show at TMK was the best, in my opinion. Unbelievable how the colors change on the castle, how the bricks appear to fall off and over 200 pictures of us tourists taken by cast members throughout the day appeared on the front. Tinkerbell flying by and the fireworks coordinated with the music brought back the feeling of walking into the park that morning. Again, the best and most exciting place I have been as an adult.

Day Three at Disney – Park Break

A friend of mine who’s been to Disney before shared all her knowledge and tips with me before we went. Thanks to her, I had the Birmbaum Guides to read and help me plan our week. I knew we would not be able to everything at every park. So, I made a list of the main things we wanted to see and it worked out great!

I planned Tuesday as a day of rest (especially for our feet!) from the parks. The original plan was to hang at the lodge – read, be lazy or swim, in Ben’s case – in the morning and early afternoon then head to Downtown Disney for shopping and dinner. The weather, however, had other plans. A storm was due to start late afternoon and include heavy rain, hail, tornado warnings and 50+ MPH winds. So we changed our dinner reservations at Wolfgang Puck’s to lunch reservations and headed out to Downtown Disney mid-morning.

Like I said in my last post, that place is amazing! We had much more time to go through lots of shops this day and took advantage of it. B made himself a Mickey ears hat – I didn’t even know you could do that! I thought that they just sold the standard black hats with black ears and you had the option to add a name and/or Minnie’s bow. He picked a bright blue hat with sparkles in it. He chose 2 different ears – one was silver with a raised impression of Mickey and the other was black with a “bejeweled” Mickey head outline in rhinestones and pink hexagon jewels for the face and ears. He added a patch to the front that shows the 5 main characters (MM, MM, DD, P & G) and says, “My 1st Trip to Walt Disney World” and had his name embroidered on the back in hot pink thread. He was SO PROUD of that hat! He had seen many other people walking around with ears on for the last 2 days and he finally had his own!

The hubs wanted me to get ears, too, but I did not want to spend the money. He begged me to at least try on a Minnie pair he liked b/c he said I’d look so cute in them. I tried them on for him and then he told me to look in the mirror, convinced I would want to buy them after I saw myself. I looked in the mirror and, you know what? I looked ADORABLE! ;o) It was hard to resist, but the practical gal in me did.

We must have spent an hour in the pin trading hut, looking at, buying and trading pins. That pin trading is such an awesome idea and the cast members seemed just as excited to trade as B was. We went into Goofy’s Candy Co. and could not believe the homemade confections in there. I wish I had taken pictures of the large portions. After looking at the rice crispy treat cakes, Ben asked if I would make him one for his next birthday. Surprisingly, he did not ask me to buy one thing in that store. He did take the mint fudge sample a cast member offered us and it was good.

We had planned to do the Character In Flight tethered hot air balloon ride, but the winds had been getting stronger all day, so it was grounded. Bummer. That was the only way Paul would ever get me in a hot air balloon. But the lunch at Wolfgang Puck’s made up for it – excellent food and service.

There is a life-sized Loch Ness Monster made out of LEGOS in the lake at DD! There is also a 6′ tall Woody from Toy Story and a robot and T-Rex taller than the store, all made out of LEGOS. Paul and I went ga-ga over all the Disney-themed kitchen stuff you could buy. A co-worker had asked the hubs to get her a Disney shot glass and we bought B a tea mug with it’s own spoon. So we did not have to carry it around, and so we could surprise B with it back at home, we had the items sent back to the lodge from the store. Isn’t that a great service? Anything you buy, anywhere in WDW, can be sent back to your resort so you don’t have to lug it around. And if you are not staying at a WDW resort, your purchases in the parks can be sent to the front of the park to pick up on your way out. All free of charge. I had heard that Disney’s customer service was exceptional and, for the most part, they did NOT disappoint.

2 minutes after we boarded a bus back to the lodge, it started to rain. It stopped when we turned onto the lodge’s property (I think even God was excited that we had finally made it to WDW ;o) ). But almost an hour later, the skies opened up and it poured. We got wind, but all the tornado activity stayed in other parts of the county from us. The lodge was full of people b/c everyone had abandoned the parks but there was plenty of entertainment and food to go around. We got to bed early and got another good night’s sleep.

Day Two at Disney – Animal Kingdom

Since the hubs and I were up the day before from 4am to 11pm, I planned for us to go to Animal Kingdom on Monday. The park closed at 5pm, forcing us go straight to our dinner reservations and, hopefully, call it an early night. Luckily, our breakfast waitress at the Lodge did not yell at us nor yell our business throughout the restaurant. Probably b/c we were there when they opened and there was hardly anyone else up that early. :o) B thought that the blankets on his bed were nailed to the floor b/c he was unable to loosen them at all during the night. hehehe They were just really tucked in well!

The Tree of Life in Animal Kingdom is a wonder to behold. We stopped and looked at it from several different angles and raced against each other to see who could find the 300+ different animals carved into it first. The Safari ride was awesome! To get that close to so many animals! I don’t know how Disney got us that close without us seeing any barriers to keep the animals from the vehicle we were in. We rounded one corner and a black rhino was walking down the narrow road right at us, not 20 feet away! There was no room to go around him and I don’t think that was a “planned” part of the ride.

I was bummed that I could not go on every ride b/c of my back problems, but my ride-phobic husband said he would rise to the occasion and gone on EVERYTHING with B that I could not. So, I sent my mom, my brother, the hubs and B off to Expedition Everest while my dad and I found a shady spot to rest in another section of the park. Unfortunately, no one got to ride that roller coaster. The hubs begged off at the entrance, leaving B, my mom and my bro to go on. After B and my bro were harnessed into their car, B FLIPPED OUT! It really affected my brother, seeing that kind of “episode” in his nephew (I’m used to it and no longer worry about what strangers around us think). The roller coaster did not bother B; he’d been on plenty before. However, the Yeti inside the mountain scared the crap out of him and B was unable to get past that fear. A cast member saw the scene and unlocked their harnesses. When my mom saw B and my brother getting out, she also asked to get out. B was evidently hysterical walking down that exit ramp. He felt so ashamed and I wish I could take that away from him! He flew into his daddy’s arms at the end of the exit ramp and refused to show his face for at least 30 minutes after that. :o(

We had Fast Passes to the ride Dinosaur, and we ALL had doubts about Ben getting on that one after his reaction to Everest. He said he wanted to try, so all 6 of us headed in. We were watching the video of Phylicia Rashad explain the adventure were about to embark on, when B elbowed me. I leaned down and he whispered in my ear, “I changed my mind; I want to get out.” My dad was only too happy to go out with him! LOL I’m glad B did not go through with that ride. It was dark, loud, things jumped out at us and it took every muscle in my body to keep from cracking heads with the family members on either side of me. There is no way I would have been able to hold and shield B during that ride and not crack something against another rider.

B got more autographs and pix in this park so it was another success from his perspective.

When the park closed, we headed to Downtown Disney for dinner reservations. That place is amazing! B and my brother could have spent all day in the LEGO store, alone. I did not realize that dinner was at a restaurant that did not take our Disney dining plan – Fulton’s Crab House. Although the service was attentive, the food was not that good. The free crab dip appetizer was wonderful and, like everywhere we went, the drinks were great, but only 2 of us enjoyed our entrees. Not worth the high cost of the meal and long time it took for our entrees to arrive.

I Can’t Believe We Actualy Went to Disney! – Day One

We went to Walt Disney World last week, 1/23 – 1/28. Back in October, when the hubs surprised B and me with the Disney trip as a combo anniversary present for us/birthday present for B, I ignorantly told everyone that the reason I was so excited is that none of us had ever been. That’s right – a 43 YO man, 38 YO woman and 8 YO boy had never been to WDW. But I was mistaken. See, I thought “Walt Disney World” was a PARK. I now know that what I thought was WDW was actually The Magic Kingdom, just 1 of 4 WDW parks. So, I apologize for telling a lie. When I was a sophomore in high school, my school chorus went to Orlando for a national competition. While there, we had approx 6 hours in which we could go to “Disney World” (The Magic Kingdom) or Epcot. Since I had been to neither one, I relied on my friends to make the decision. They said that “Disney World” was for little kids and I should go to Epcot with them. So, I did. I had enough time to buy myself a hat in China and have a meal in Morocco, at which I tried calamari for the 1st time. That’s it.

So, now that I have that off my chest, here is our 1st day in WDW…

Our very good friends picked us up at 5am on the 23rd to take us to the airport. While we were checking our bags at the counter, I realized that I had left our Magical Express stuff at the house! Magical Express is the Disney transportation from the Orlando airport to our Disney resort. It included bag tags that would automatically send our bags from the plane to our resort and our tickets to get on the Disney bus at the airport. The airline ticket agent took our bags and told us we would just have to collect our own bags at baggage claim in Orlando and carry them to the Disney bus ourselves. OK, but I still had no way to get ON the Disney bus! I called our friends, in tears, and the wife had to calmly talk me out of my tree before she could figure out what the heck I was upset about. We keep each others’ house keys, so they went back to the house for us, collected our Magical Express envelope and brought it back to the airport for us. Just the 1st of many blessings our wonderful friends would bestow upon us during this trip…

We got to see the sunrise from the air in our plane; it was so cool! I have never flown into Orlando before, but they must have some HUGE spread down there because, I kid you not, we taxied for at least 10 minutes back to a terminal. At one point B asked, “Is the plane driving us all the way to our resort, Mama?” LOL We finally got to the terminal, collected our bags and got on a Disney Express bus to the Wilderness Lodge. My parents and brother had taken the 2 previous days to drive down to Orlando and were waiting for us in the Lodge’s lobby. After checking in, getting our room/park/meal plan cards and stowing our luggage, we got some lunch at the Lodge and then hopped a bus to our 1st park – Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

By the time we arrived, it was almost 1pm. All the Fast Passes were gone for rides and Jedi Training Academy was full. But I’m a smart mom, and never told B about those things. :o) So he does not know what he missed out on. What we did get to do and see, B was TOTALLY excited and happy about and that’s all that matters. We saw the Indiana Jones stunt show and B got autographs from and pix with Indy’s and Miriam’s stunt doubles. That was a great show! The only objective B went down there with for Hollywood Studios was getting into the Playhouse Disney LIVE! show, and we did. He got to holler and dance with the best of them! No matter that he was the oldest kid there by at least 3 years; his dance moves impressed and entertained all the other parents.

Santa had given B an autograph book for Christmas and our travel agent had given him a lanyard and his 1st trading pin. His biggest excitement was walking underneath “the hat” in this park – the wizard hat Mickey wore in Fantasia. The pin selling and trading hub of the park was located there. He bought some pins, with his own saved money and GCs received at Christmas, and made his 1st trade with a fabulously friendly cast member. We got pix and autographs from Disney characters and B got to dance in the Disney ROCKS! teen show. It was 4:52pm and I was filming B in the Disney ROCKS! show when reality FINALLY sunk in – I’m. Actually. In. Walt. Disney. World. I could NOT believe it!

We stayed for the 6:30pm Fantasmic! evening laser/fireworks/story show. To tell you the truth, we could have done without it, but we only know that b/c we stayed. If we chose to skip it, we’d always wonder and regret. Lessons learned. We got back to the hotel and the 4:30am rising had taken its toll on B. My mom put him to bed and stayed with him while the hubs, me, my dad and my brother went down for dinner. The Whispering Canyon Cafe at the Wilderness Lodge is quite an experience. They throw things at you, yell at you, yell your business to everyone else in the dining room and talk to you as if you were family. However, every Disney restaurant impressed me b/c the chefs came out to our tables to discuss our food allergies and bent over backwards to try to accommodate. B’s peanut allergy was no problem; my olive oil allergy was another story. Everything on Disney properties is cooked in an olive oil/canola oil mix. Bummer for me. I was SO looking forward to experiencing world-class dining but, due to my olive oil allergy, my food had to be cooked in a pan w/o oil and seasonings and could only be accompanied by steamed veggies. Oh, well. B got to eat WHATEVER he wanted and that made me so happy!

Our travel agent secured us the best rooms at the Lodge and we were so pleased. We all got a great night’s sleep.

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