Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Disney Day 3: Epcot and the Great Katie Meltdown

Yes, as Erin predicted, we did have at least one meltdown – in fact there were several, more than I can count, actually. Up to this point, Katie had been a bit cranky here and there, but it was mostly just little kid whining and pouting with a little bit of naughtiness thrown in for good measure. Nothing we couldn’t handle and roll with. We kept doing what we wanted to do and pretty much just didn’t give into the unreasonable demands, while giving her the things she really did need. For example, whining for more water – wish granted. Whining for a new toy – denied. Even when she was whining for water or a bathroom break, we’d stop and ask her to say please and ask nicely. Mostly she cooperated, but she was very grouchy. I knew being out of her normal schedule and environment was going to cause some general crankiness, so we just tried to deal as best we could without letting her get away with total murder.

So it was with this attitude that we went into Day 3 – our first Epcot day. We actually had several hours of good fun before the first and absolute worst meltdown of the trip – or the “Great Meltdown” (as it will be forever known to our family and a few thousand people at Epcot who were unlucky enough to witness it).

We started the day the same as the day before, up at 7am, breakfast in the room, on our way by 8:15am to try to make the park opening at 9am. As I mentioned, today we were going to Epcot. I gave Sean the resort map of the Polynesian and showed him where the walkway to the Transportation and Ticket Center was and where our building was (we were in Tokelau) and let him navigate. This worked quite well and we were at the TTC in about 10 min. I think a monorail had just left for Epcot, because the line for the Epcot monorail was completely empty. We were the only ones there for the first few minutes. Gradually more people walked up and then the monorail showed up too. We got in the first section of the monorail and were just chatting about getting fastpasses for Soarin’ when the driver poked his head in and asked if we would like to ride up front! Alex was so excited – this was just the best thing for him. So we got to ride to Epcot in the very front of the monorail right in front of the driver. The driver took this pic of us sitting in the nose of the monorail. He actually took about 3 or 4 pics, but we couldn’t get Katie to look at the camera – she was looking out the front in all the pics!

We also got “monorail co-pilot licenses” from the driver before we got off. We didn’t get an official Magical Moment certificate, but this definitely qualified for Alex – it was one of the highlights of his trip. We also loved how the Epcot monorail swoops through the park before letting you off at the entrance. Kind of nice to get a little preview of the day's attractions.

Once we were in the park, we knew we wanted to head straight for Soarin’. By the time we got there, the wait for standby-by was already 40min. We grabbed some fastpasses for Alex and I (Sean too chicken – Katie too short), and then we all did Living with the Land together. I took a ton of pictures of all the cool veggies and stuff they were growing, but I’m not sure they’d say much to someone who wasn’t there to hear the voice portion of the ride or get a sense for how neat the whole greenhouse area really was. Sean and I both thought it was neat that they were molding some pumpkins into the shape of mickey ears!

After Living with the Land, we went to the nearby Living Seas with Nemo pavilion and rode the new Nemo ride. Basically you ride in a clam shell type cart that takes you through an aquarium of fish. In the aquarium, you’ll also see animated versions of Dory and Marlin and Nemo and other characters from the Nemo movie that appear to be swimming right along with the real fish. Pretty cool effects. I think this was mostly lost on Katie though, she just kept shouting “Nemo, Mama!” and “Dory, Mama!” – but she really enjoyed it. I breathed a little sigh of relief thinking her mood was improving because that crankiness I had described at the beginning of this post was seeming to get worse and worse. This ride was a nice break from that.

Next up was Turtle Talk with Crush. Very funny interactive show, and we really enjoyed it. The line really contributed to to Katie’s crankiness though. When we got in line we thought the next show was starting in the next 5-10 min, and indeed the doors did open and the crowd started into the theater right about 10 min. after we arrived. However, the cast member had not intended to let everyone into the theater – he was going to get a wheelchair for a handicapped guest and somehow the people at the front of the line misunderstood and followed him in and everyone else followed them. Sooo... we had to all back up back into the lobby portion which was hard to do in a huge mass of people. It was also very hard to explain to a 2.5 yr old that yes we are still going to see Crush, we just have to be patient a few minutes more. There were some stingrays in a tank right before the entrance and I barely managed to keep her entertained watching these while we waited a few more minutes. We then had another close call at a meltdown when she saw that many children were being allowed to sit up front. I wasn’t comfortable letting her sit up there by herself (who knows what shenanigans she might pull!) and Alex really didn’t want to sit up there with her. (No grownups allowed up front). So she had to sit with us in the middle of the theater. She was cranky and grumpy and fussed a bit, but she quieted down when the show started and we all enjoyed the show.

About this time I remembered that Katie had not really eaten very well at breakfast time, so I pulled out a cereal bar from her Dora backpack and gave it to Sean. Alex and I were heading back to use our Fastpasses to Soarin’ and he fed it too her while they waited outside for us. The cereal bar kept her busy and from being cranky while we rode. Alex and I really loved Soarin’ – you really do get the sensation that you are flying on a handglider above all the scenes displayed. We were lucky enough to ride in the top row too, so we didn’t have any feet dangling from other riders in our view. We met up with Sean and Katie outside and headed across Future World toward Mission Space and Test Track. Test Track had about a 30min. standby line, but we noticed the single rider lane wait was only 10min. After confirming with Alex that he didn’t mind riding without me, we decided to go that route so that Daddy and Katie wouldn’t have to wait as long for us. It was not meant to be however, we were standing in line for about 5 min. with no movement at all when we heard an announcement the ride was down and would be back up “as soon as possible”. We waited a bit more, but when we heard the announcement again a few moments later, we decided to bail. Instead we did Mission Space which had only a 10 min. standby wait for the “less intense – no spinning” version. I was the navigator and Alex got to be the pilot. It was a lot of fun and somehow we managed to save the mission to Mars and prevent the crash of our spaceship.

When we made it back to Sean and Katie, we agreed that everyone was getting a bit tired (Alex and I had been up the night before until about 12:30a remember!) and it was definitely time for a lunch break. We first went to Sunshine Seasons in the land pavilion to try to order there, but I quickly realized I was too frazzled and tired to decipher how to order items from all the different sections they had. I needed to just be able to walk up to one person and complete our whole order. So we lost about 15 min. deciding this and heading over to Electric Umbrella instead. We were worried that the lunch places would start to fill up since it was now pushing 12noon, but we really didn’t have any trouble ordering and getting our food relatively quickly. Sean and I both had grilled chicken sandwiches, Alex had a hamburger, and Katie had chicken nuggets. It was pretty good, but nothing extraordinary. Katie was again showing signs of the upcoming meltdown by being unusually fussy and actually screaming a bit while I tried to get her to sit nicely at the table and wait for Sean and Alex to bring the food. I chalked it up to her being hungry and did my best to keep her quiet while we waited for the food. She once again refused to eat most of her food except for the fries and Sean and I decided we were going to stop ordering fries for her and/or just let her eat off our plates for the rest of the vacation. A steady diet of only cereal bars and french fries cannot be good for anyone.

We wanted to do Spaceship Earth, but when we got over to the ride, it was closed til Friday! We were so disappointed. It was pushing 1pm and the time we’d normally leave the parks. I don’t know what possessed us with Alex and I being so tired, and Katie already being so cranky to decide to keep going, but we did. Since Ellen’s Universe of Energy was getting ready to start for a 45 min. ride, we decided to do that. She was a little fussy on the ride, but nothing too major, enough that I was slightly embarrassed, but I managed to keep her from really having a fit or meltdown. After the ride, I decided that Katie should have a potty break since she hadn’t gone in about 2-3 hrs. I should mention that this is general battle territory between us anyway, Katie never wants to go to the bathroom unless it is her own idea, and then she wants to do it all herself. That would be all well and good except that when she is in a stimulating environment like Disney, she likely would never decide that now is a good time for a potty break and then we have an accident. She also still needs a little help with the paperwork after she goes, which she is often reluctant to allow. So she pitches an outright fit when I inform her that she must go potty before we can do anymore “fun things”. I finally convince her and we head into the bathroom where she continues to fuss and cry and crank her way through the whole process.

I’m finally starting to wake up to the fact that we should get going, but I’ve convinced Katie to cooperate as much as she has by promising that she can do more “fun things”. Also I really wanted to find the Disney Visa character photo spot in Innoventions West so that we could get our free 5 x 7 photo with one of the characters (free benefit to Disney Visa holders only). So I tell Sean, “Lets just look around Innoventions a bit, get the picture taken, and get going.” He agrees and we head over to Innoventions to find the photo taking spot. We cannot find it, but Sean thinks he knows where it is and leads us over to Innoventions East and we have a bit of a snippy argument cause I know it is in the West building. (Hmmm… who do we sound like? Not that couple from the night before surely!) So we finally get into the West building but I still cannot find it and Katie is whining to get out of her stroller. I decide to ditch the picture taking, let her look at a few things and then we’re getting the heck out of dodge. Sean is annoyed with me for being snippy with him and goes to sit on a bench leaving me to deal with Katie on my own. Silly me is thinking I can control her though one short activity or so and I try to lead Katie and Alex to one of the exhibits. Katie has had enough though, and she just cannot control herself anymore.

She wanted to just run wild from place to place and when I wouldn’t let her she just totally lost her mind. It started as a regular tantrum, and just kept building. First I tried to quiet her right there by saying if she couldn’t calm down we’d have to leave. She only screamed louder and began trying to hit and kick me while I prevented her from running away. Attempting to follow through and take her back to the hotel, I told Sean we were leaving. I struggled and struggled to snap her back into her stroller but she was full on kicking and screaming, hitting and kicking and she clocked me a few times real good in the face in the process. We were making our way to the exit, me trying to carry her, Alex pushing the stroller and Sean, who was still annoyed, trying to follow along and ignore the situation at the same time. I finally had to stop and put her in the stroller because the assault was just too much. It was tough, but Sean finally came to my rescue and held her down while I did the straps. By this time I was so exhausted and stressed that I couldn’t control myself anymore. The tears were just flowing down my cheeks and I didn’t have anyway to stop them. I tried to just get through it, but I was so exhausted. I was trying not to make eye-contact with anyone to avoid them seeing me cry, but I doubt I was very successful, it was pretty obvious to anyone within earshot that a total meltdown was occurring.

Somehow we made it to the monorail and back on it, all the while she was kicking and screaming. I felt so bad for all those around us, who were just trying to go about their good time and had to be subject to her tantrum, but there was just no where to go to where we wouldn’t be bothering someone, so we decided to just get back to the hotel with her ASAP. Once the monorail started moving she was still howling to be let out of the stroller and kicking and screaming. I thought maybe if I let her sit on my lap she’d calm down a bit and give everyone’s ear drums a break. I let her out of the stroller and pulled her onto my lap, and it did calm her for a minute or two, but when she wanted to stand up on the moving monorail I had to restrain her again and the kicking and screaming started all over again. It was so awful! I felt like such a failure – at giving my family a good vacation, at getting along with my husband, at being a considerate member of society, and most of all at being a good mom. Sean tried to help by taking her for a bit but she just kept hitting and screaming and hollering for Mama, and eventually he had to strap her back into the stroller so that at least she wasn’t hurting anyone. Mercifully the monorail stopped at the TTC and I apologized tearfully to the middle-aged couple sharing the monorail car with us. They seemed quite disgusted and didn’t even acknowledge me or my attempt at an apology, which only made the tears flow down my cheeks even harder.

We trekked back to our room through the walkway from the TTC to the Polynesian, all the while her crying and screaming. We passed two cast members who tried to help by calling her “Princess” and talking calmly to her, but we had to politely move on because it was clear that wasn’t going to work. When we got back to our room Sean and I attempted to deal with the tantrum the way we deal with them at home. We put her in a chair and told her she was in time out and as soon as she could calm down we’d talk to her. She just kept on keeping on…After about 15 more minutes of this – her tantruming, us reminding her she could have our attention when she calmed down – she started saying “I don’t wanna go potty!” Neither Sean nor I had mentioned anything about going potty since I had taken her at the park, so that was a big red flag to me that she probably had to go on her own, knew it, but didn’t want to because she was too upset. I tried to take her to the bathroom, but of course that only made her tantrum more. She alternated between saying she did have to go and saying she didn’t. I managed to get her into the bathroom and was putting down the seat (Alex or Sean had left it up) when I turned around and saw her squatting on the bathroom floor just letting it flow right through her clothes. I’m just glad it was in the bathroom on the tile and not on the carpet in the room, but I have to admit to being pretty angry with her because she knew she had to go, and she was right there.

About this time Sean decides he’s had enough of all this and he’s going to take over – clearly, there was a dynamic between Katie and I that was only being fuelled and not being solved. After I cleaned up and dressed a kicking, screaming Katie, he took her in the other room and I stayed in the bathroom while he forced her to stay on the bed. Basically he just kept putting her there everytime she’d get down. Slowly she calmed down, and within 15 min. of my removing myself and Sean taking over she was snoring loudly from the bed. I was so exhausted both from being up late and from all the drama, that after I managed to stop crying I crawled into bed next to her and went to sleep. Sean also went to sleep (it was about 3pm by now!) Alex had left for the hotel pool as soon as we got back to the Polynesian to escape Katie’s tantrum.

We slept until about 4:30 when Alex returned from the pool, and we were all still feeling pretty drained from all the drama. Luckily we had a quiet night planned that evening. Just dinner at Kona (located at the Poly) and maybe catch the water pageant that goes by on Seven Seas lagoon at about 9pm. Dinner at Kona was really yummy, DH ordered the prime rib and I had the crabcakes and the lobster soup off the appetizer menu. All yummy. The kids just had hot dogs of the kid’s menus, but they ate good and realy liked the build-your-own sundaes that came with their meals. Katie was moderately cranky during the meal, but was generally entertained by the crayons and coloring on the kid’s menu. We went to the pool for a bit after dinner, but ended up skipping the water pageant as it was Monday night and Sean and Alex really wanted to watch heros. Ironically, this last picture is one of my favorites of the whole trip and was taken that day after dinner when we decided to walk around the resort and explore a bit.

If you made it through all that – WOW, sorry, didn’t think it would be so long!

Next up more Magic Kingdom, World Showcase, and Beaches and Cream


Rani said...

Aw, Jenn. I felt like crying right along with you. You are not the only mom to cry at Disney. And you won't be the last. Shame on that older couple on the monorail to not say something encouraging. What A-class jerks! =(

It's hard being the planner of the vacation and wanting everything to be perfect. No vacation ever is. As long as you walk away from it with more positive memories than bad, it should be called a success!

I loved riding in the front of the monorail. It was the end of a perfect night at the Magic Kingdom on one of our last nights at WDW. How fun that you got to do that with your family. =)

Jamie said...

*hugs* You made it through and you did everything you could. That couple should have realized that you were dealing with and handling the situation by heading home. It's just that you can't very easily hop in a car and avoid the public while at Disney. I hope everything else is running much more smoothly today!