Friday, January 29, 2010

Day 14: Hoosiers

We had a break today from driving, and we’re staying two nights here in Southern Indiana. We just missed the winter storm that slammed Kentucky and Tennessee. Thank you, Jesus!! But it’s bitter cold here and a stark contrast to the flip flop weather we had in Florida. I’m telling you, the Florida snowbirds have the right idea!

We were looking forward to browsing the shops here in Nashville, IN but it’s so darn cold that we only went into a handful. Many of the shops were not even open this time of year. So we were off to Bloomington for a driving tour of campus, and lunch at the infamous Nick’s English Hut. Yummy burgers! I stopped by the Indiana Shop to get a few new IU T-shirts and a baseball cap for Sean. Then we stopped by the student union to check out the bookstore there. It’s a busy campus!! Most often we visit in the summer or on a weekend, so being on campus in January on a Friday midday I remembered how vibrant the campus can be. Oh, to be so young!
After all that energy, we had to come back to the hotel and nap. Ahhhhh. Just what we needed!

We met one of my best friends, Myrna, for dinner tonight. She lives outside Indianapolis and it was so great to see her and spend even a little bit of time together. I can breathe a little easier when she’s around because she knows me so well. It was a wonderful way to end our vacation.

Tomorrow we head home. To our own bed and our own pillows… why do all hotel pillows suck? My neck and shoulders will thank me soon. We’re sad that our vacation is over, but at the same time we’re looking forward to getting back to the comfort and routine of home. Jeff will go full court press on the job search, and my teaching starts again on February 8. And then I turn 40. Bring it on.

Day 13: World of Coca Cola

Our stay in the Holiday Inn Express in Decatur, GA was very nice. Newly remodeled, quiet and clean. What more can you ask for? Oh yea, cinnamon rolls! Jeff clued me in on this little bit of heaven last night and I was dreaming about it all night. Breakfast at 9am and then off to the World of Coca Cola… and found our Mapquest directions to be completely wrong. UGH!! We finally asked someone while stopped at a light and we found our way.

What a great place! The polar bear even greeted us upon arrival, and we were able to take our picture with him. How fun! Like Disney, but sweeter and no autographs =) History, advertising, international development, memorabilia, pop culture, bottling process, etc. It’s all there! There is a 4D movie experience that needs some work, and I sorely wish I’d sat in the non-moving seats row with my in-laws. C’est la vie! I was nursing my upper back/shoulder before going in there, and now I’m really hurting.

You also have the opportunity to taste test 64 different flavors of Coca Cola brands around the world. Jeff tried 32, so he’s proud to say he tried half of them. I did try out Beverly which they claim is the worst tasting, and I concur. Yuck. Don’t want to try it again. The good part was I had to drink an entire glass of Fanta Orange to get rid of the taste. Yum! We received a complimentary bottle of Coke for visiting, and then were dumped out into the gift shop. This reminded me of the 80’s fad of Coca Cola clothing – anyone remember that? I had a Coca Cola sweatshirt that I loved. I’m sure I have a photo of me in it somewhere and will have to post it for you soon.

Now we’re on our way to southern Indiana for a few nights. Hoping to outrun a weather system that is moving east. Fingers crossed we don’t get stuck in it.

Day 12: Ten Things I'll Remember about Today

  1. Packing
  2. Bye bye animals
  3. Headache the size of Texas
  4. 8 hr car ride
  5. Learning Resources Index
  6. Picnic lunch
  7. Happy to arrive in Atlanta
  8. Holiday Inn Express
  9. Finally finding Ruby Tuesday
  10. So drunk tired I couldn’t hold my spoon to eat dessert

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Disney Day 11: Lots of pixie dust & a split lip

Wow, today was full of little and big memories. We woke early and arrived at the Magic Kingdom shortly after the park opened, and beelined it straight over to Tomorrowland. This year Sean is big enough to ride some things that he didn’t last year so today was pretty fun to see how he did with some “big boy” rides. First up was the Indy Speedway, and then blast off on the Astro Orbiter. He was crying after both, of course, because he didn’t want it to end. Then over to Buzz Lightyear’s Space Command which we were lucky enough to ride twice… it reduced the crying some. I hate to think what he’ll be like the next time we come when he REALLY gets it! We might have several major meltdowns.

Next up was Toontown where we visited Mickey’s house, played in Pluto’s park. Sean loved the slides and discovered pushing was an effective way to get a girl’s attention. Oh, and he rode his very first roller coaster – Goofy’s Barnstormer! It really was pretty zippy for a “baby” roller coaster. We all loved it, and rode it twice to keep the crying to a minimum. Thank goodness we were touring the park early so we could take advantage of very short lines!

Last on our agenda was to visit some princesses (Cinderella, Belle & Aurora) and fairies (Tinkerbell, Silvermist, and Rosetta). I counted up all of the autographs we received, and in total we visited with 60 characters. CRAZY!! It certainly didn’t seem like that many, but like today we often would hit 3-6 at a time. I’m already designing a board book of characters for Sean in my head, as well as a new Disney digital scrapbook. Stay tuned for some new products!!

We rode the train one last time, and then headed back to the resort for lunch and a nap. Well, Jeff napped… Sean goofed around, and I packed. Right after dinner Sean was goofing around with bags and luggage. You guessed it, he fell down and split his lip. Man, did it bleed!! For a second I was imagining a trip to the ER, but all is well and he is now the proud owner of a swollen lip.

Our last hurrah was a magical evening at the Magic Kingdom. We arrived around 6pm, and stopped by the Main Street bakery for a homemade chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwich. Sounds heavenly, doesn’t it? IT WAS!! Oh. my. God. I told Jeff I think I could live on them, but he reminded me it wouldn’t be for long. Silly man to burst my magical bubble. I meant to take a picture of it for you all, but once it was in front of me all I had on my mind was eating it. We even had the luxury of sitting at a table right outside the bakery. All the stars were aligning!!

After that little bit of heaven, we strolled over to the hub outside Cinderella’s castle to scope out a spot to watch Wishes, the fireworks show. We found a perfect spot, Jeff saved it and Sean & I strolled over to Tomorrowland to ride Buzz’s Space Command again as well as the Tomorrowland Transit Authority (a personal favorite and Sean loved it too!). Then back to the spot to wait for the Wishes show. It was magic! We saw Tink fly above, and the castle was beautiful all lit up. The music is amazing as well as the entire story of making wishes and dreams coming true. At one point I turned to see Sean’s face with a little grin, and I couldn’t help but get a little choked up. My dreams are coming true!!

OK, enough sappy stuff… one last story about today. During the fireworks show I was slightly annoyed by a man who was in front of us. He brought two of his daughters out from the sidewalk we were sitting on into the street and made enough ruckus that I noticed him. Then he was yelling to get his wife’s attention behind him. The good news is he did have the courtesy to crouch down for most of the show. About half way through he got on his cell phone. Seriously. You would not believe the number of people I have seen every day on their phones, mostly texting or browsing their PDAs. On the bus, in lines, walking in the parks. Each time I wanted to scream, “You’re in freakin’ Disney World! And your kid would love to share it with you!” This man missed seeing his daughter doing a pirouette during the princess sequence. It really was the cutest thing ever.

After the fireworks were over, this man turned around to his family and asked where Jacob is. They lost one of their kids! My heart sank, and then I got a little angry because this man and his wife weren’t paying enough attention during the 12 minute show to notice one of their kids was missing. We immediately told them to talk to one of the cast members to alert them. And then one of the other dads who was beside us went off to help. About five minutes later he came back and said the little boy was at the Baby Center. So all’s well that ends well. As we walked away I started to cry. That is one of my worst nightmares to have Sean go missing, and I pray I never have to experience it.

The moral of the story? I have no idea. All I know is we’re leaving tomorrow with a newfound respect for how technology really doesn’t bring us closer together, a split lip, and lots of pixie dust to share with everyone.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Disney Day 10: Passport to the World

A day for culture. A day for characters. And a day for walking! Back to EPCOT where we first rode Spaceship Earth (aka the ride inside the big golf ball!), and then decided to talk to the turtle Crush one last time. It’s such a cute and funny attraction, and SO clever. And finally Ellen’s Universe of Energy which was 45 minutes long – did you know that? It’s a great attraction, but way too long. For us it was perfect today because the World Showcase didn’t open until 11am, and this killed 45 minutes until we could move on and explore all the countries.

Canada was first where Sean was able to pick out his Kidcot mask and color it. We had also bought him an EPCOT passport at the gift shop, and it was $10 well worth the money. Each country we visited stamped his passport and wrote him a little note in their native language. What a keepsake! I’m proud to say we made it to every country which is a feat in itself, and only possible because we took two days to tour EPCOT.

We saw the characters June & Annie from Little Einstein’s as we were leaving Canada and on our way to the UK. We were pretty excited since we hadn’t been able to meet Annie at Holllywood Studios the other day. As we got closer we noticed back in an alcove were a whole bunch of characters. Jackpot!! We met Ghepetto from Pinocchio, Daisy Duck, Bolt from the movie Bolt, Meeko from Pocahontas, King Louie from Jungle Book and Goofy’s son, Max. Did anyone know Goofy had a kid?

As we made our way around the country’s we met a few more characters. In France we had the honor of meeting Princess Aurora (Sleeping Beauty). Sean was intrigued that she was talking to him and didn’t skip a beat, jumped right in talking with her. Such an Irishman!

In Morocco we met Princess Jasmine and Aladdin. In Germany we met Snow White.

And in Mexico we met Donald Duck. He is one of Sean's favorites! And really the only character that Sean said "hi" to using his name. He must have said "hi Donald Duck" ten times and then "bye Donald Duck" another ten times. So many characters, so little time! Sean’s autograph book is nearly full.

We stopped on our way out to snap a Photopass professional picture in front of Spaceship Earth. It was really windy as you can see, and we had to literally rouse Sean awake since he had fallen sound asleep the short walk from Mexico to the main corridor. The poor kid really needs his regular schedule back!

The very last stop before heading out was to the special meet ‘n’ greet for Disney Visa cardholders. It’s a great little perk as you get special one-on-one time with characters in a themed room. You’re the only ones in the room so you don’t feel completely rushed. This year we met Minnie Mouse and Goofy (the same as last year), and we got a great family photo. You get a free 5x7 so we chose this one before leaving for the day.

We came back to the resort and stopped by the savannah to check out the animals during the day. We saw all sorts of animals, but the giraffes were our favorite. Back in the room all of us crashed for a few hours. A much needed nap!! Tomorrow is our last day to soak up the magic.

Disney Day 9: What is the meaning of down day?

Today was our second scheduled “down day” aka a day to relax, unwind, etc. But now that it’s over we’re exhausted and wondering how our best laid plans went out the window? We did try to sleep in, but somehow the alarm clock went off at 7am which woke Sean up. He did go back to sleep but not for long. Ugh! We took our time getting ready, and went to 11:30am mass. Man, it was packed!! We had to walk about half a mile to get from the parking lot to the church. Yikes!

After church we went to Downtown Disney to pick up a few packages and grab lunch. While there we talked to the Disney Vacation Club booth and found out we could view models of the newest resorts over at Saratoga Springs, so we decided to take advantage of the opportunity. We were able to see the Bay Lake Tower model which just recently opened next to the Contemporary near the Magic Kingdom. Super contemporary and sweet!! I think we’ll stay there soon to enjoy the views of the Magic Kingdom and the short distance to the park. Jeff wants to come back for his 40th birthday (18 months)… just enough time for me to plan a vacation of a lifetime!! LOL

Next we decided to head over to Hollywood Studios. We had forgotten to get a Photopass (professional photo) of the three of us in front of the hat. Plus, there was something we wanted to pick up at a gift shop. While we were there we decided to go see the character meet ‘n’ greet for the movie Up. Since we missed Russell a few days ago, we really wanted to meet him and get his autograph. And by golly he was there!! Our fingers were crossed in line that he wouldn’t suddenly need to leave for an Expedition Explorers meetings or something. But nope! We met him, got his autograph and a family photo with the whole cast!! Persistence pays off.

One our way out of the park we happened upon the singing crew Mulch, Sweat and Shears. So we stopped and listen to them for a short time. Great tunes from the 80s!! And the MC took notice of Jeff calling him Teddy Roosevelt. There is a resemblance, though I’d never thought of it before. What do you think?

Last stop of our day was back to the Wilderness Lodge, this time to have dinner at the Whispering Canyon CafĂ©. YUMMY!! Jeff and I had the all you can eat skillet which included pulled pork, beef brisket, roasted chicken, short ribs, mashed potatoes and corn on the cob. Oh, and all you can drink milk shakes. Wow, were we full by the time we were done. Sean shared our meal and loved all the interaction, noise and general foolhardy nature of the place. It’s a place we’ll visit again for sure.

Disney Day 8: Bring on the magic!

We got up bright and early this morning to open the park at the Magic Kingdom. We beelined it straight to Dumbo in order to avoid the outrageously long lines later on in the morning. Unlike last year, Sean really enjoyed the ride and cried and cried and cried until he realized we were in line for the Winnie the Pooh ride… and then he cried and cried and cried again when that ride was over.

This time Daddy jumped back in line with Sean while I went to see the Wicked Stepmother and the ugly stepsisters who were out and about “greeting” guests. I figured it was an opportune time to meet these famous characters. Anastasia asked if I knew of any eligible bachelors, and then the Wicked Stepmother asked who the lucky gentleman who bestowed such lovely jewels on my hand. Ha! Too funny.

Next up was the carrousel, and again Sean cried and cried and cried when he got off. I guess he is like every other toddler/preschooler and loves Fantasyland. We had taken too much time to ride Pooh a second time as well as meet the step sisters, and the line for Peter Pan grew to be a 30 minute wait. So we grabbed fast passes instead to ride it later, and then enjoyed the happiest boat ride EVER on It’s a Small World. It’s fun to ride that with Sean since it’s such a long ride and slow moving, he can take it all in… there was a lot of pointing, laughing and talking coming from little shorty.

We made our way over to Liberty Square and found Haunted Mansion had only a 5 minute wait so we took advantage of it, and jumped in line. Sean didn’t bat an eye at the kinda scary ride. We attempted to get in line to see the new princess Tiana from Princess & the Frog, but the line was closed.

So instead we got in line to meet Lilo & Stitch – a much shorter line than the new princess AND characters that Sean can relate to (Jeff was hesitant to have Sean meet a princess!). We grabbed a few fast passes for the Jungle Cruise and then popped in to see the Tiki Room birds.

Before lunch we decided to walk over near Splash Mountain to see Woody & Jessie. Sean has seen Woody so many times now that I think he might be getting a tad bored of the fellow. He did enjoy seeing Jessie up close and personal, and gave Woody a hearty fist pump. We had lunch at Columbia Harbor House, and then ventured back to Adventureland to ride Jungle Cruise… where Sean promptly fell asleep. This is the second year in a row where he has missed one of the class Disney rides! Last year he was out cold too. We grabbed a Dole Whip ice cream on the way out, and then stopped by Cinderella’s castle to see the Dream Along with Mickey show. It was cute, but nothing to write home about. Speaking of home, it was time to hit the road back to the resort.

We made dinner in the room, and then explored our resort including the savannah campfire and searching for animals in the dark. One of these days we really need to look for animals during the day. Sean has mastered saying, “see animals” but has yet to really see one in day light!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Disney Day 7: Hollywood Studios: Take Two

It's been a few days since my last post -- sorry!! As you'll read we've been super busy soaking up all the magic. Our days aren't quite as hectic this next week so I'm hoping to post more often. Enjoy all the pics!! And leave comments if you want to share some love =)

Back to Disney Hollywood Studios today where we focused on Toy Story Mania and meeting characters. We arrived shortly after the park opened, and bee lined straight to the back of the park to ride Toy Story Mania and to also grab fast passes so we could ride it later in the day. The wait to ride it was fairly long (30 minutes) so we missed Playhouse Disney. We weren’t too disappointed since we had already seen it earlier in the week with Grammy & Grampy. Instead we waited for the Animation Courtyard to open where we could meet Sorcerer Mickey. Honestly, we were pretty disappointed with our interaction with Sorcerer Mickey – he was noticeably irritated with Sean’s toddler ways such as walking away and grabbing his nose, mouth, etc. I’ve never experienced this before with any characters, let alone Mickey. Most will try to divert his attention and/or “giggle” and rub their nose, etc. I’m considering writing to Disney to express my dissatisfaction. We’ll see if it continues to bother me after we get home.

Next we strolled back down to Al’s Toy Barn to meet Woody & Buzz. Sean was a little star struck and wasn’t sure how to react. A little disappointing for me, his mom, who has watched innumerable viewings of both Toy Story 1 and 2. But it was fun nonetheless.

Next we stopped to see Jojo. I’m not sure why Disney continues to include her in character meet ‘n’ greets since this show is no longer on TV. We wouldn’t even have seen her except we thought Handy Manny was going to be there, and we were first in line. Oh well. On the other side was Leo from Little Einsteins. Too cute!

Next was Voyage of the Little Mermaid which is a fantastic show including lasers, puppets, live action, etc. Sean really liked it and even laughed out loud a few times. From here we went back to the Animation Courtyard to get in line to see the characters from Up, but we didn’t time it very well and ended up having to wait in line for 30 minutes. We got to the front of the line, and lo and behold the characters needed to “take a break”. When they returned Russell wasn’t with them. UGH!!! I guess he only appears for the first 30 minutes. Just the luck! But we did get to see Carl and Doug. Fun!

And then over to see Mr. & Mrs. Incredible – they were super nice and interactive. A nice contrast to our experience with Mickey earlier in the day.

Whew!! By this time we were tired and hungry. We had reservations today to eat lunch at the Sci Fi Drive In Restaurant, and had yummy cheeseburgers that hit the spot! This gave us enough energy to search out a few more characters, and found Lightning McQueen, Mater from the movie Cars and then Sully and Mike Wasowski from the movie Monsters Inc. We thought about going to see Muppets 3D again, but the line was out the door. No thank you. I’m not one to stand in a long line with a two-year old. And by this time Sean had fallen asleep in his stroller. So he and I found a spot to chill out while Jeff rode Star Wars. I had a great view of the Star Wars Jedi Training Academy which was super cute – they teach young children how to be jedi warriors, and then they battle Darth Vader.

Wait, we have fast passes for Toy Story Mania! We can’t let those go to waste. And totally worth waking up a two-year old from his nap. We all loved it the second time around. And now since we had Sean awake, we strolled back over to the Playhouse Disney courtyard to see if Handy Manny was there and he was – with no wait!! And wouldn’t you know it, June & Quincy were now there from Little Einsteins. Jackpot!!

The last thing we wanted to do was see the Block Party Bash parade at 3pm. So we scoped out a spot across from the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences on a bench, and grabbed a drink and a snack to munch on while we waited. While sitting there we found out from someone else that it’s not a traditional parade that keeps moving, but that there are several large floats with the characters and they stop along the route at specific spots and then put on a block party dance to interact with the audience. The three main floats are Toy Story, Monsters and Flick. I was a little nervous that the Toy Story float wouldn’t stop near us, but it did!! God was answering our prayers. We got to meet Mr. Potato Head and Bo Peep. And the very last part where the kids get to dance with the performers, Woody made his way toward us and danced with Sean. Can you believe it?

And then he caught Bo Peep’s attention. Oh how she loved him. They blew kisses back and forth, and Bo caught his kiss and promised to hold it in her heart. A perfect way to end our day!

We headed back to the resort and in our room by 4pm. We made a frozen pizza for dinner, and then explored the resort to see animals at night. We even used night vision goggles. Disney does it right!

Here’s a list of the characters we saw today. Sean’s autograph book is getting pretty full!
Sorcerer Mickey
Carl & Doug from the movie Up
Mr & Mrs Incredible from the movie The Incredibles
Woody & Buzz from Toy Story
Jojo from Jojo’s Circus
Leo, June & Quincy from Little Einsteins
Handy Manny
Lightning McQueen & Mater from the movie Cars
Sully & Mike Wasowski from the movie Monsters Inc.

Disney Day 6 - Relax. Refresh. Rejuvenate.

Ahhhh! A down day. Do nothing day. OK, not exactly nothing but a day to go slow and relax. My in-laws hit the road today to travel on their own through Florida. So today was a day to do laundry. Go to the pool. And take a trip to downtown Disney for shopping!!

Disney Day 5 - Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious

A supercalifragilisticexpialidocious day! It was amazing, even though the sound of it is something quite atrocious! We started our day at the Grand Floridian for the Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious Breakfast with Mary Poppins, Alice, the Mad Hatter, Winnie the Pooh and Tigger. Who could ask for more?

Sean wasn’t quite sure what to do when Alice, the Mad Hatter and Mary Poppins talked to him! He’s been so used to characters just interacting with him and not speaking.

The bonus of starting our day here was we were able to take the monorail over to the Magic Kingdom killing two birds with one stone – one, we wanted to ride the monorail at least once on our trip. And two, the Magic Kingdom’s parking is not very handicapped accessible. But my father-in-law could ride his scooter right on to the monorail. Easy peasy!!

We arrived at the Magic Kingdom around 9:30am. Jeff and his mom went to pick up a wheelchair for her, so Grampy & I ventured on to Main Street where we saw Pinocchio with no wait!! Then we headed over to Fantasyland to ride Winnie the Pooh (twice upon Sean’s insistence!), Peter Pan, It’s a Small World, and Mickey’s Philharmagic. And then jumped on the train over to Frontierland. Another handicapped accessible hurdle is you cannot take scooters on the train, so Jeff rode it across the park and met us at the train right as we pulled in to the station. Next up was Pirates of the Caribbean, Tiki Room, and Country Bear Jamboree. And that’s where Sean pooped out on us. One minute he was laughing at the bears, the next he was sound asleep on my shoulder. We decided to head over to see the Hall of Presidents so we could sit for a while and let him continue to sleep. This attraction has been redone so it was interesting to sit and watch it, although admittedly I almost fell asleep myself. We transferred Sean to his stroller and he continued to sleep, so we staked out a spot to watch the parade and grabbed a snack. The little party pooper slept soundly through the entire parade, and then some.

We strolled down Main Street and scoped out the merchandise, picking up a few things. Sean woke up by the time we reached the flag pole, so we decided to check out the barber shop. There was no wait, and Sean was propped up on the chair for his second Main Street barbershop haircut.

And what else should you do after a haircut but go buy Mickey ears? Sean wasn't too thrilled about wearing them however. Should we expect more from a two-year old?

While we waited for the personalization of his ears, Jeff and his dad played a game of checkers which was a nice diversion. Meanwhile we saw the flag retreat ceremony. Something very cool we never would have seen otherwise.

We had dinner at Pecos Bill, and then found the perfect bench in Frontierland across from the shooting gallery to watch Spectromagic. We haven’t seen this parade in a long time, and remember how wonderful it is! It’s pure magic. Sean caught Snow White’s attention, and she came over to personally say hello to him. Unfortunately Jeff didn’t capture it on film. He was too busy looking at the next float instead of what was right in front of him. Aren’t we all guilty of that most of the time?

Spectromagic was delayed by about 20 minutes, so by the time it was over it was close to 8pm which is when Wishes, the fireworks show, begins. We knew we didn’t want to get caught in the mass exodus so we literally crawled our way down Main Street to the flag pole where we watched ¾ of the show. I decided we had better leave early in order to beat the crowd since we needed to catch the monorail back to the Grand Floridian. And with a stroller and a scooter just the thought of the mass exodus almost gave me a panic attack. Our timing was perfect, and we made it on the first monorail available to us. As we drove away, the ramp up to the monorail station was jam packed.

We were pooped by the time the day was done, but it was a leisurely day full of great memories.


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