Monday, September 29, 2008

First Week on the Market

Our first week on the market is coming to a close (we listed last Tue.) We had one private showing and one open house so far. Our realtors tells us that the private showing people decided to bid on a cheaper house. I looked at that house online, and it definitely wasn't on par with ours - busier street, less sq ft., older neighborhood, less curb-appeal, so clear reason why it was priced below our house. The realtors said they really liked our place just decided they couldn't really afford it, so bid on the cheaper house.

The open house was pretty slow, only one family came and they had three kids, so I cannot see where they would want to buy this house. Alex's room could maybe hold 2 smaller kids, but I don't think you'd buy this house if you had three growing kids already. Realtor said they had all positive things to say though. She also said the slow turnout was probably because it was during the Packer game. Melissa can probably verify that people here in WI hardly do anything else when the Packer game is on...

I guess hoping for a sale in the first week was pretty unrealistic in this market anyway - its early so we'll keep on keeping on - though I think keeping my house clean might kill me. ;)

Disney Diary - Day 6

Katie Rides Again
August, 28, 2008

On Thursdays, the Magic Kingdom opens an hour early for resort guests – also known as Extra Magic Hours. So we headed out extra early to arrive for rope drop at 8am. This day we planned to do Fantasyland, or as Alex refers to it – Katie rides. It was a bit muggy and humid and although it wasn’t overwhelmingly hot, I felt like I was sweating all day because of all the moisture in the air. It had rained earlier in the morning and everything was a bit damp in general, just sort of one of those sticky days, I guess.

Once in the park, we headed straight for Dumbo. We got in line right away and rode probably 3rd or 4th circuit of riders. Katie loves this ride, but in line for it she kept saying she wanted to ride “the horseys” first instead. The horseys = carousel. We made her do Dumbo first because for some unknown/unexplainable reason, Dumbo is always, always busier, and if you don’t do it first you can end up waiting for hours. This year we actually got Sean to ride too. Last year he chickened out because of the height. Alex talked him into riding with him saying he could control how high the ride goes with the joystick on the console of the ride vehicle. They rode near the bottom the whole time. I was so cracking up! I took this photo of them from the elephant in front of them. Alex just didn't want his pic taken at all. Toward the end of the ride some mechanism in the ride syncs up all the elephants though and they all went up to the highest height and then back down despite what anyone was doing with their joystick. Sean was a little annoyed at this, but seemed to survive the experience okay.

After Dumbo, we did in fact do “the horseys” next. The best thing about this ride (if you ask Katie) is that you can see yourself in the mirrors on the inside of the ride. She kept pointing to herself and telling me to “look at me riding”. Sean didn’t want to repeat any rides we had done previously in the trip, so we did Snow White’s Scary Adventures next. It was okay, but I’ll never understand why they made a ride of only the scary parts of a movie beloved by little children. Katie did okay though, it helped that mostly the scenes were stationary and not moving, so I think it was easier for her to know they weren’t “real”. By this time in the trip she was getting much better with the “in the dark” rides too, so that also helped. After Snow White, I convinced Sean we should do a few rides that we had done before just because we could and we liked them, so we did Peter Pan again and It’s a Small World again. Katie announced that “It’s a Small World” is her new favorite ride and we heard the song again and again from her many more times throughout the day and the trip.

I think we also did Mad Tea Party and maybe Indy Cars, but I cannot remember for sure whether I’m remembering this day or a different one, and I know we did Pirates of the Caribbean in there somewhere too. Katie loved Pirates, even though it was in the dark and there was a small drop and a sort of scary light projection. She loves Jack Sparrow – crazy girl, she is only 4, and already knows a man she wants when she sees him. *sigh* She wanted to do it again as soon as we finished it, but our stomachs were a growlin’ so instead we headed over to Columbia Harbor House for lunch. Sean had the Anchor’s Aweigh tuna salad sandwich. I had read online that this sandwich was really, really good. Sean said it was pretty good, but didn’t live up to the hype. I’m not much for Tuna salad myself, so I had chicken fingers, which were pretty standard chicken fingers. I think the kids had chicken fingers too, and we once again did the 3 credit counter service meal to serve 4 here.
If you ever eat at Columbia Harbor House – go upstairs to eat your food. The downstairs area is much more crowded and upstairs is much calmer. We found a spot to sit overlooking the Haunted Mansion ride and it was a nice break from the crowds and the heat. Added bonus was that we could see as we were finishing that the wait time for Haunted Mansion was only 10 min. Since Alex and I had done the ride a few nights ago when we had our EMH night, I knew the ride would probably be too dark/scary for Katie, but there were no drops/heights/roller coaster features that would freak out Sean. I offered to Sean to watch Katie while he and Alex did Haunted Mansion, which was nice for him because most of the time it worked out that Alex and I would do something and he and Katie would wait for us. Off they went, and both enjoyed Haunted Mansion.

After Haunted Mansion we decided we were a bit tired from the early rising and decided to head back to the hotel for our usual nap/rest/pool time. We had to come back to Magic Kingdom by 4:50 for our reservation at Liberty Tree Tavern too, so leaving early was a good idea.

When we came back later in the day for the LTT dinner, boy was it sweltering. So hot – just the walk from the front of the park to the restaurant about killed me (or so I thought). Luckily, we got right in to eat, so we didn’t have to stay out in the heat for long. The food was really good too. It was comfort food really, mashed potato and several kind of meats and good salad. The apple cobbler a la mode was exceptional too. I’ve heard that they are discontinuing the character part of this meal come January 2009 – and it is really a shame – this was our favorite character meal. Probably because Minnie Mouse took a few minutes to warm up Katie from across the table and then pose for some pics with her. Katie then decided she wasn’t too scared of the characters anymore and posed with Goofy and the Chipmunks too. Too bad my darn camera took awful pictures because the lighting was so dark and my autoflash sucks. Did manage to get this one good picture of “the guys” post dinner outside.

After dinner we caught the Woody’s roundup parade and Katie yelled, “Look, its Jessie” about a million times in my ear until I thought I would go insane. She had a great time though. Right about this time we began to notice that the clouds were really threatening and downpour was imminent. We looked for an indoor attraction and came up with the Country Bears. After the Country Bears, still no rain, but a really nice cool breeze was coming in – it felt great. We decided to do the Tiki Room next as it was also indoors and we were beginning to feel a sprinkle or two. After the Tiki room birds told us to “get out!” it was really comfortable outside, though it didn’t look like the rain had ever come. It was probably 75 though with much less humidity than before – almost heaven. We did the Hall of Presidents, where I swear I had to fight not to sleep, even though there were some interesting moments.

After all that we decided to burn some snack credits at the Sleepy Hollow snack stand. All week we had trouble using up our snack credits, we so did not need them, but we figured we had them, might as well use them. Sean had one of those big ice cream cookie sandwiches that Alex and I had the other night at the EMH. Katie, Alex and I all had a single scoop of ice cream. Yummy, but my waistline really should have passed, especially after all the apple cobbler a la mode I had eaten at LTT. After our ice cream we headed out of the park again and back to the hotel where we swam for an hour or so before bed.

Friday, September 26, 2008

First Open House

First open house this weekend, so cross your fingers for us! Thanks for all the nice comments on the house. Trust me, until recently it didn’t usually look that nice, this is the result of more than a week of intense cleaning during all my free time. It’s always been a good house, don’t get me wrong, but we are just outgrowing it, which means it is even harder to keep it clutter-free.

The backyard is pretty awesome. The yard and the larger kitchen (for a house this size) is what sold us on it and I’m hoping will sell someone else on it too. Of course now we are spoiled and are going to have trouble finding a bigger/newer home with as big and as private a backyard. Newer homes generally equal smaller lots and fewer mature trees – at least around here. We might buy another older home that is just larger and update it ourselves as budget allows, but first we have to get this one sold – no use putting the cart before the horse!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Disney Diary - Day 5

Sundae and Cirque
August 27, 2008

This was our rope drop day for Disney Studios. Since we missed out on Toy Story Mania when we were here earlier in the week, we headed right for the FastPass machines for Toy Story Mania. Even with getting in line as soon as we could, our Fastpass return time was still 12:40p! And I waited in line for something like 25 minutes just to get the Fastpass! Ugh! Considering that was the longest wait we had for anything for the whole vacation though, I can hardly complain. While waiting in line though, I had to snicker smugly a bit at the two women in front of me. They were complaining to each other about how they were unable to get reservations for any good meals this week. “And they tried getting reservations a whole two weeks out – how could they be booked up?” Since I researched our trip ad nasauem, I knew that your best bet is to make reservations up to 6 months out. I even scored a most sought after ressie for Cinderella’s Royal Table for breakfast on our last day, but I’ll leave that description for when I come to it.

After securing our fastpasses for Toy Story Mania, Alex and I had decided we had enough courage to try out Rock n’ Roller coaster. Unfortunately though, the wait was already 60 min. and since we had just gotten fastpasses for Toy Story Mania, we couldn’t get another one for 2 hours. *sigh* No RnR coaster for us this trip. Nice to leave something for next time though, right? So instead we did some of the lesser known attractions, having done all the other major headliners the last time we were there. I wanted to see the Beauty and the Beast show, but it didn’t start showing until after 11am and we had reservations for 11:30am at Sci Fi for lunch, so we couldn’t see it. We did ride Star Tours again and we did the Narnia attraction and “One Man’s Dream”. I think we must have done a few other things too – but they are slipping my mind right now.

As I mentioned we had lunch at Sci-Fi. We had eaten here last time, and Sean really liked the atmosphere. You sit in “cars” and watch old-time drive in movies while you eat. The food was only so-so last time, so we weren’t expecting much, but boy were we pleasantly surprised! Last time we ate at dinner time, so when we ordered the hamburgers (which are normally only on the lunch menu) we got basically the kids burgers. What a difference to have the adult burgers at lunch time! They were big and juicy and came with all the fixin’s. Great burgers. Also I had a hot-fudge sundae for dessert. Just your simple hot fudge sundae – nothing different, but with real ice cream, very rich hot fudge and real whip cream and a cherry. Very tasty. Also, instead of fries, Sean and I ordered a cucumber-melon salad that was surprisingly good too. I had just ordered it because I was sick of fries and figured if I didn’t like it the burger was big enough to fill me up anyway. Don’t know how I did it, but I’m embarrassed to admit I ate the whole burger, all the salad, and the large sundae too. I was very full, but it was so worth it.

After lunch we headed back to Toy Story Mania to use our fastpasses. What a fun ride! Sort of arcade like, if you’ve done the Pirates of the Caribbean simulation at DisneyQuest where you use your cannon to shoot at ships, this is very similar, only instead of shooting at ships you shoot at lots of different targets to try to rack up a high score. If the wait was not so long, we’d have done it multiple times – it was a lot of fun. Both Sean and Alex got higher scores than I did, but then I had to keep trying to help Katie figure out how to shoot. I probably shouldn’t have bothered, she was having fun just watching all the Toy Story characters go buy. I have to mention though, there was this family about two families in front of us with a newborn. That baby was literally DAYS old, and they took him/her on the ride. I was really surprised. Now the ride is far from being a roller coaster, but you do get jerked around a lot and I can just not imagine taking a baby that young. Even an older infant (say 6 months) would have been fine, but a newborn?? Even one of the cast members was shaking his head saying the baby was too young, but since the ride does not have any rules about height, he had to let them take the baby. One would think common sense would prevail with the mother, but not so. She looked to be in her mid-40s too, so it isn’t as though you could say she was young and foolish or anything, she ought to have known better. Anyway, after Toy Story Mania, we just went back to our hotel for our usual afternoon rest/pool time.

After our rest we went to Downtown Disney, this dragon is outside the Lego store and is made out of Legos! Our plan was to eat at Earl of Sandwich, which I’d heard lots of good things about. Katie was acting up a bit and cranky and didn’t want to eat anything – at all. I remember being pretty annoyed with her, she was just generally misbehaving/not listening to directions, but no real meltdown. I have to say that this was the one unpleasant meal we had at Disney World. The sandwiches were good, but the service wasn’t the best. The staff seemed to be annoyed with me when I tried to ask questions about what they had, and what I could get using my dining plan. I asked politely, and got snappiness back. Then I was told to “go stand over there” with a general gesture to wait for my order. I wasn’t sure what “over there” meant, so I asked “right here?” and got an eyeroll and a “YES!” It wasn’t as if they did anything really awful, but I think we got sort of spoiled from all the good service everywhere else at Disney, so it stuck out more. Katie ate exactly two potato chips from Sean’s bag and nothing else. Alex and I were full from lunch at Sci-Fi still, so we split a ham and cheese sandwich, which was very good. I didn’t enjoy it much though because of Katie’s general crankiness and unwillingness to just sit while the rest of us ate. She wanted to run around the restaurant, which I was absolutely not going to allow, so she was whining and just generally unpleasant to be around.

After dinner was Cirque de Soleil! I had heard lots of good things about this show and I was really excited for it. I was also nervous that Katie would not behave during the performance based on how fussy she was at dinner. Turned out I needn’t have worried at all. She loved it and except for the time while we were waiting for the show to start, she behaved perfectly. I kept her busy during that time by walking her around a bit and taking her to get popcorn, so that she didn’t have to sit still for very long. Also, even though popcorn is not the best of dinners, I did want her to have something in her stomach because I didn’t want to interrupt the show with cries about “I’m hungry.” At home I would have just made her go without since she had the opportunity to eat a perfectly good dinner, but I didn’t want her to ruin the experience for everyone else.

We had the perfect seats too – section 207 AA seats 1-4 if you ever want “the best cheap seats”. This section is category 3 I think, but abuts Category 2 and is pretty close to the front, but it is on the side, rather than the center of the stage. What was best about it though is that at the beginning of the show all the performers come out from the sides of the theater and pass right in front of these seats. Katie was thrilled and thought they were smiling and performing just for her since they were after all – right in front of her. I had been worried that Sean and Alex would not care for a cirque type acrobatic show, but they really enjoyed it. We all really enjoyed it.
After the show, we discovered a “short-cut” back to the bus stop and were back to our hotel within about 30 min. We just took it easy the rest of the night and Katie and I even managed to catch the Water pageant out on the lake at about 9:30pm

Wanna buy a house?

Whew! After months of talking about it and doing various updates, we finally decided we are ready and put the house up for sale. I know the market is pretty soft right now, so although I'm trying to be optomistic, I know it might not sell quickly.

Here is the link to our listing.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Disney Diary - Day 4

Dream a Little Dream :)
August 26, 2008

This was our first Magic Kingdom day. Our routine was to eat breakfast in the room (cereal brought from home plus milk and granola bars) and get to the boat/bus stop by 8:15am. We did that on this day, and it worked perfectly. I love rope drop at the Magic Kingdom because they do a little show with Mickey and Minnie and some other characters. They arrive at the front of the park on the train and dance and sing and sprinkle confetti on the crowd waiting to enter. Not a huge deal really, but sort of fun to be a part of and makes you really feel that the excitement is about to start.

Since we were returning to Magic Kingdom on Thursday morning for the early extra magic hours (park opens at 8am instead of 9am for resort guests), we decided we would do the Fantasyland stuff during morning EMH on Thursday and do Tomorrowland now. Although Alex and I had already ridden Space Mountain on Sunday night during the EMH, it is our favorite ride and we had to head there first. Since the ride had only a 10 min. wait when we got there we didn’t use Fastpass but just hopped in line. Fun ride as always – I joked to Alex that I had broke my “screambone” on that ride. Yes, yes, I’m a screamer, and now I was feeling a little bit horse.

We decided to do Buzz Lightyear next before the lines got very long and also because we wanted to do something all of us could ride together (Sean and Katie did not do Space Mountain). Standby for Buzz was listed at 15 min. which isn’t much, but Sean almost did not want to ride – we don’t do long lines – we passed on anything more than 20 min. I reminded him though that Buzz is one of the more popular rides and it is likely we won’t have a shorter wait the rest of the day. So we get in line. About 10 min. later we are approaching the front of the line when we see guys in white jackets with blue wording – “The Year of a Million Dreams” written in a nice script. Silly me in my glazed over “Waitin’ in the line” zone out didn’t even register what this could mean. Then I notice they are counting each person in line. They stop at Katie, whose hand I was holding. The man looks up at me and asks, “How many in your party ma’am?” Stupid me is still not really registering and thinking he means how many are going to ride together I say “just two” because Alex and Sean planned to ride in one cart and Katie and I were going to ride in another. He says, “Really, just two?” and I say, “Well, those two are with us too (pointing at Sean and Alex), but just she and I are going to ride together.” He says okay, and then starts talking to the person behind us for a minute or two – I’m starting to wake up to the fact of who this cast member is and why he’s asking questions and start to wonder if we missed out based on my cluelessness. A minute or two goes by and then he just starts passing out DREAM FASTPASSES! I guess he was asking how many in each party to be sure that he had enough passes and didn’t have to give some to only part of one party. Here is Alex holding up his:

Alex was completely thrilled. I think if he had won a sticker he would have been pretty excited. Just to win something at all was a big thrill for him. Once we explained what it actually was, he was that much more happy! In case you aren’t familiar, a dream fastpass is a fastpass to all rides that take fastpasses in the entire park! So in Magic Kingdom that was all 3 mountains, jungle cruise, Peter Pan, Winnie Pooh, Mickey’s Philharmagic, Stitch, and Buzz.

We ditched our touring plan for the day and did rides as we came to them – which was so nice! It wasn’t a very busy day to begin with that day, so anything that didn’t have fastpass was a pretty short line anyway. We got so much done that day. We did the Indy Cars next since we it was one of the few rides that sometimes has a longer line but does not have a fastpass. Then we just meandered around Tomorrowland and did everything as we came to it. Laugh Floor comedy, Tomorrowland Transit Authority, Carousel of Progress, and Space Mountain one more time since we had the Fastpasses. We skipped Stitch even though we had the fastpasses because Alex and I had done it when we were there for the EMH and didn’t care for it and I know it would have scared Katie to death anyway (too much dark). We did not do Astro Orbitor either because Sean is scared of the height.

It was still pretty early, so we did Mad Tea Party, Winnie Pooh, Peter Pan, Mickey’s Philharmagic and It’s a Small World (using our Fastpasses where necessary) before heading to lunch at Cosmic Ray’s. All day, people kept noticing our Dream fastpasses around our necks and asking how we got them. Alex loved to tell the story – you could tell he felt like a real celebrity. I don’t remember exactly what we ordered at Cosmic Ray’s but I know that by this time we had fallen in the habit of ordering 3 meals for the 4 of us. Since we were on the dining plan, a dessert came with each meal, and all that food was just so much – and trust me I like to eat, but just couldn’t justify eating all that. It also helped that Katie is pretty picky, and wouldn’t eat much if we got her a separate meal anyway. Sean, Alex, and I would each just order a meal each, and I made sure that somewhere in there was something Katie could share. Worked out perfectly and nobody went hungry and we still had to throw some food out a few times (mostly too many fries, or an extra dessert). We saved her counter service credit each time this way and it worked out so that we had an extra counter service meal on the day we didn’t have a table service because we had used up 2 table service credits for a special dinner.

After lunch we decided to just try to make the most of our dream fastpasses and then go back to the hotel before we got burned out. We did Jungle Cruise – which we all really liked. We didn’t get the chance to do it last time, so it was fun being on it for the first time. Then Alex and I did Big Thunder Mountain before we headed out of the park. We had done Splash Mountain last time we went to Disney, and although neither of us hated it, we didn’t really like it either, so we skipped it. We rode the boat back to Wilderness Lodge all happy and content and feeling so lucky to have won the dream fastpasses. It really made our day. Sean suggested we pass on the fastpasses we hadn’t been able to use to someone else, so that is what we did. We saved Alex’s for a souvenir and gave the other three to some people at Wilderness Lodge waiting to get on the boat to go to Magic Kingdom. I looked for a party with no small children as we had used up all the Fantasyland stuff, and there were still fastpasses for the mountains on 2 of the 3 badges. It was fun to pass on the magic – we gave the passes to a mom and dad and their teenage son – looked like we made their day too.

The rest of the day was not nearly as exciting, but we were happy and enjoyed it anyway. We did our usual rest/pool time and then went to Coral Reef for dinner. Here is a pic of the inside of the restaurant:

I had a new york strip steak that was really good, so were the accompanying potatos. Sean had some sort of fish dish – the mahi mahi I think, which he also enjoyed. It was a nice meal, but we’ll probably pick someplace different next time. No complaints, just not so great we’d keep coming back with all the other great choices at Disney World. I think this was the night we rode Spaceship Earth at Epcot. It was closed for refurnishment on our last trip, so this was our first time riding it. Definitely another family favorite for us. We didn’t know about the pictures they take of you and put into the video at the end, so that was pretty fun/funny for us. I did manage to hold Katie up so her head was in the shot on the ride, even though I didn’t know I was doing it at the time. Hilarious apprehensive expression on her face! She was probably feeling a little nervous about some of the ride being a little dark, but she calmed down and enjoyed it well enough with no problem.
Alex and I also tried to ride Test Track sometime that night, but were thwarted once again by long lines. We rode Ellen and the Universe of Energy and then headed back to the hotel for a little more swimming and of course watched Wishes from our balcony again.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Disney Diary - Day 3

Feeling Hot, Hot, Hot!
August 25, 2008
Luckily for me, it was in "the plan" for us to have a sleep in day. After the EMH (which lasted til 1am) I never would have made another rope drop. :) So we slept until 8:30 (late for us) and had reservations at Chef Mickey's! Great breakfast, and I'm sure the character interaction would have been better had our kids been willing to cooperate. Katie did take this one picture with Minnie Mouse before she decided she was afraid of the characters, and while we coaxed Alex into posing for a few pics, he was less than thrilled with having his picture taken with a bunch of cartoon characters. Ah well. It was good breakfast fare and Katie did really enjoy seeing the characters (from afar) and the songs and antics they did. They also do something where they twirl napkins in the air for Mickey and the other characters and she really enjoyed that. Sean and I really liked the Contemporary resort too - and if we go back to Disney again, we're definitely going to consider staying there (its on the monorail, which was the one and only thing we missed being at Wilderness Lodge). One note though - we found it really strange that sitting in Chef Mickey's you could look up and see birds perched on these sort of panels that hung from the ceiling - right inside the restaurant! It was near the end of the meal before we noticed them, and they didn't seem to be causing any trouble, but I couldn't help but wonder what might happen if - ah, one of them needed a bathroom break. Icky thought there! Since we were on the dining plan and we used the Table Service credit for this character breakfast, we ate this late breakfast and filled up good and then we used our Counter service credit for dinner (skipped lunch with no problem cause we were still full from breakfast).

So we left right for Disney Studios from the Contempory. We wandered down to the lobby where we asked a cast member for directions to the bus stop. He replied that we'd probably have to wait for a good half hour, but pointed us in the direction. We got to the bus stop and less than 5 min. later a bus pulled up for Disney Studios. Luck? maybe, but we found our experience with the busess to be far better than the pessimisstic attitude that seems to abound regarding them. I think I mentioned before that we never waited more than 10 - 15 min. for a bus all week.

It was probably close to 11am when we got to Disney Studios, so we knew riding the big headliners without a fastpass wasn't going to happen. We wandered over to the new Toy Story Mania ride first, hoping to be able to get a fastpass for late in the day - we were trying to stay the whole day and watch Fantasmic! Unfortunately, all the fastpasses for the day were already gone, and the wait was 70 min. We just don't do waiting for more than 20 min. - even when it is something we really like, so Toy Story Mania was out for us. I did notice that the wait time for the ride fluctuated between 70 - 120 min. throughout the day.

Since no one in our family had any interest in Tower of Terror, and Alex and I weren't sure we wanted to try Rock n' Roller Coaster or not (we decided not for now), we did not have the need to do any fastpasses for the rest of the day. We did most everything in the park and had a great time, but it was HOT. Like melting in the shade right into your shoes HOT. I have never been so hot for so long in all my life. We coped pretty well though - Disney Studios is a good park to be at on an inclement weather day because most everything is indoors and air-conditioned. We did not do Lights! Motor! Action! though because it was outside in the sun and during the hotest part of the day (I think the shows were at 1:30 and 4pm). We did do Backlot Tour which was somewhat warm and in the sun for portions, but it was also on a moving tram for part of it so that was okay. The Muppet 3-D show was great and although Katie saw it last year she didn't remember it at all and thought it was pretty funny this time. This time though she wore the 3D glasses and it freaked her out a bit having stuff seemingly fly out at her. She did pretty okay though and didn't cry or anything.

We also saw the Indiana Jones show which was also outside but in a covered stage area out of the sun. Hot, but not as unbearably so. Alex and Sean are big Indy Jones fans so they really enjoyed the show. Katie was just as excited about the Mermaid show which she absolutely loved. This show also had some special effects that involved simulating cool sea breezes in the theater - very welcome on a hot day! Sean said if I'd let him, he'd watch Little Mermaid over and over again all day! We missed the Beauty and the Beast show - just never lined up with a time it was playing I guess.

One of the best parts of the day was that we got both Katie and Sean to ride Star Tours. AND they both liked it! In fact we did it twice! Sean is a big chicken on anything more than the most basic of rides and this was the first time Katie was tall enough for Star Tours. The pic above is Alex on the rider outside the Star Tours ride. I have to admit to getting the idea for this pic from Erin! Also Alex just wanted to sit on it and of course it was a natural photo moment.

Somewhere in there we had Pizza Planet for dinner, which was okay, but nothing special. Alex really enjoyed the arcade type games they had there though (think Chuck E. Cheese) Toward the end of the day we went in to see the Little Einstein show much to Alex's chagrin. Katie loved it, and sang along and danced and had a blast. Sometime during the show the skies opened up and POURED. When the show ended, everyone just sort of hung out in the theater waiting for the storm to blow over before venturing back out - it was coming down in buckets. We just let Katie run around with a few other kids her age in the theater (they weren't being roudy or disruptive or anything) while we relaxed and regrouped. I really wanted to stay for the night-time laser show Fantasmic! so I was hoping the break would give everyone the motivation to stay for the few hours til the show.

After we had hung out for about 20 min, Katie decided she needed to go potty. She usually never volunteers this information when we are out doing "fun stuff" and I have to make her go every few hours so that there are no accidents. (Remember last year's meltdown - yeah that was at least in part cause I made her go potty) So, I was not going to discourage her even if it was raining buckets. Our ponchos were very inconveniently located in the stroller, which was in the middle of the pouring down rain outside. Luckily the bathrooms were just across the courtyard from Little Einsteins, so I took Katie by the hand, ran to the stroller and pushed it under an awning with my one free hand. I left the stroller there then took Katie to the bathroom. We were both somewhat wet, but not soaked. The important thing though - she went, no meltdown, no accident. Yay! When we were finished I saw Alex and Sean now outside huddled under the Little Einstein awning - we were under the awning on the other side of the courtyard near the stroller. I motioned for them to come over and they did and we broke out the ponchos for the rest of the evening. They were in thier own plastic cases so even though the stroller (a Disney rental - which I loved by the way) was soaking, the ponchos were still dry.

We saw the Disney Animation film after that and wandered though some exihibits. By this time it was getting close to time for Fantasmic! So we walked up there amid announcements that the show MIGHT be cancelled due to the weather. I had a mild heat headache from earlier in the day and remembered that I had a couple advil in my fanny pack (yes I'm one of those nerds!) and I took them. In the end they had the show while it drizzled just a little bit. We watched it on wet bleachers in our ponchos, but honestly I think we were just all glad to be cool for the first time all day. My headache broke just in time for the start of the show, and it was fantastic, um I mean Fantasmic! The foggy drizzle did make some of the special lighting effects hard to see, but I still throughly enjoyed the show and was so glad we stayed for it. The whole family really liked it too and were glad in the end that I nagged everyone to stay for it. No pictures of it cause of the weather though. It was only 9pm when it finished, but we were bushed and got right on a bus back to Wilderness Lodge (again hardly any wait). We didn't do anything else that night but watch Wishes from the balcony again - our nightly ritual while there.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Disney Diary - Day 2 Continued

Extra magic? What magic?

After the Hoop Dee Doo Sean and I had planned to take the kids back to Magic Kingdom and ride a few of the less popular rides before going back to the hotel. Sean didn't want to be "done" for the day just yet, it was only about 6:30p. I agreed to this seeminly reasonable plan earlier in the day and in fact had even written it into my "obsessive itenirary" before we even left for the vacation. However, I was dead. tired. I had a glass of Rose at the Hoop Dee Doo from which I was no longer tipsy, but I think the post buzz added to my overall feeling of sleepiness/fatique. (Yes, even one drink has an effect on me - likely because I almost never have one.) I hadn't had a lot of sleep the week before we left, and got up earlier than everyone else to re-check in. I was just beat and standing there waiting for the boat I just knew I couldn't do it - couldnt' go to MK now AND take Alex to the Extra magic hours later in the evening. Since I knew the EMH were a big, big deal to Alex, I just couldn't tell him no. Sooo I said to Sean I think we should go back to the hotel for a rest. Sean, to his credit saw how tired I was and reluctantly agreed to go back to Wilderness Lodge.

We rested maybe half an hour before Sean was complaining he wanted to do something, anything not to be trapped in the hotel for the night. Alex went to the pool and I told Sean he should go with, but he didn't want to do something with the kids - had to be something with me. I didn't really get to rest - I ended up going with Sean later after Katie cluncked out. We went down to the jacuzzi tub and sat for awhile while Alex stayed with a sleeping Katie. At least it was semi-relaxing, but I was really just annoyed that he wouldnt' let me sleep a little and was forcing me to choose between keeping everyone happy and about killing myself and dissapointing someone (which by the way was not going to be him without a major fight). I was so exhausted I was just trying not to cry. We didn't stay long though, I think Sean could see how much I just wanted to rest and we headed back to the room. Sean said he just needed "something" to do for a bit. I understood that, but I just wish I didn't have to be responsible for making that happen for him. He would have been fine with me dissapointing Alex (the EMH were the most looked forward thing for Alex), but leave Sean hi and dry for an evening and all hell would have broken loose. *sigh* sorry about the vent there, but this is a common thread in our relationship and although it is always minor stuff like this is really, really gets old.

Anyway, Alex and I did go to the Extra Magic hours, and we had a reasonably good time. One of the reasons it is so important to Alex (and me too really!) is that it is the one of the few times he does not have to worry about what Katie can/can't do, or what Dad does/doesn't want to do. Katie is still too young for lots of the bigger rides, and Sean does not do the bigger rides either. This is our chance to have one on one time without little sister butting in, and he gets to pretty much pick whatever he wants to do (within reason of course). It wasn't as nice as the EMH were on our last trip. Last time we were able to get on Big Thunder Mountain twice in a row, followed by Splash Mountain with no wait at all! The park was nearly empty and we didn't wait in line for anything more than 5 - 10 min. all night! This time was more crowded and we had to use Fastpass in order to ride both Space Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain. We still had a good time though and we got in several other rides we hadn't ever done before like Haunted Mansion (which gave me a chance to preview it for Sean and Katie). We also ate our traditional cookie ice cream sandwich from Sleepy Hollow. Boy those things are big - I think one a year is all I can handle without gaining like 50 lbs. I didn't even finish mine - and I love ice cream and cookies!

Next up: Disney Studios (formerly MGM)

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Disney Diary - Day 2

Nemo is Scary? Who Knew?
August 24, 2008

When I made our reservations for Disney, I had to make two reservations because of the free Dining promotion. Disney has a dining plan that can be purchased with your vacation that entitles each member of your party to 1 table service ( a sit-down restaurant), 1 counter service (like fast food), and one snack (like a pretzel, popcorn, or ice-cream treat) for every night of your stay. I don't remember the exact price per person right now and I'm too lazy to go look it up, but I know it would have added $990 to the cost of our vacation if we had to pay for it ourselves. Anyway, I had to make 2 reservations because the dining promotion didn't begin until Aug 24th and we wanted to arrive on the 23rd. This is also why we did DisneyQuest on our arrival day because our park tickets for the 4 major parks were tied to the reservation with the dining plan and we couldn't use them until the 24th.

So I set my alarm for 5:45a to check back into the hotel - I knew there would be a lot of people doing just what I was doing, and there would be a higher number of people checking in for this date because of the dining promotion. I also wanted to be early to check in because I wanted to stay in the same room we were already in before they assigned it to someone else. I got down to the lobby right at 6am, which is when the cast member told me I could recheck in. The line was 4 people ahead of me, but the line went quickly and I got us rechecked in and our tickets activated with our dining plan etc. There was one small mixup with my credit card that I had tied to our reservation and my Key to the World card, but it turned out to be that my credit card had expired and then renewed between the time I made the reservation and the time we checked in - so she just had to update the info. Somewhere in that mess though she gave charging privledges to Alex and me rather than Sean and me, but I was too tired to care - and since I handle EVERYTHING anyway, it didn't matter that Sean didn't have charging privledges on his card. In fact it actually came in handy that Alex could charge on his - I let him go down in the mornings to get milk and breakfast items from the Roaring Fork (counter service place in our resort).

A word on the dining plan - I would not pay for this out-of-pocket. It was way more food than we needed and way more sit-down eating than we would have otherwise done. We would not have spent $990 on food if we did not have the dining plan. That said, it was very convenient and we used it well to our advantage - since it was "free" I'm glad we had it - just wouldn't be willing to cough up the extra $$$ to buy it. YMMV of course.

So this was Epcot day - the plan was to ride Soarin', Mission Space, and Test Track first and then do Living with the Land, Nemo and Crush and then see if we had time to do anything else before lunch. That went pretty well, but the park was pretty busy and our fastpasses for Soarin were for 11:30am (we went to get them pretty much right when the park opened at 9am). I had thought that Katie would be able to ride Mission Space with us this time, but the height requirement is actually 44 in. - not the 40 in. I was thinking. (Katie is 42 in.) In the end it was good she didn't ride as it was actually a little more intense than I remembered it. We do the green version, which is the less intense version of the ride, with no actual spinning, but it is still a simulator and she might have been afraid. Basically the ride has you as part of a team aboard a space craft to Mars and you get to "help" land the spacecraft on the planet. The ride makes it seem you are going to crash, but just in time you save the day (of course!). I was more disappointed that this meant Sean didn't ride either. We know about the "kid swap" option, and the cast member tried to talk him into doing it, but when he heard Katie couldn't ride he lost his nerve to go. Sean is a big chicken when it comes to rides - in fact he was pretty annoyed with me last year for taking him on the Peter Pan ride because you are sort of up in the sky looking down on the (fake minature) city below. It never occured to me that a kid ride like that would scare him, but I guess it was the heights thing - although to be fair the heights was more perceived than real.

We didn't get to do Test Track because we already had a fastpass for Soarin and the wait was already 40 min. when we finished with Mission Space. We decided to do it later in the week - we were coming back to Epcot more than once and we did Nemo and Crush instead. Crush was a fabulous hit with Katie, just as he was last year - though she doesn't remember him from last year. Crush is an interactive attraction and he holds a real conversation with members of the audience - very cool. Katie kept asking to go back to see Crush again. I thought she'd love Nemo too - and she was very excited to ride Nemo, until we actually got on the ride. First, she was scared because it was dark. This was our first dark ride this year and since she had done fine on it last year I didnt' think we'd have any issues. Now it wasn't really dark - just movie theater dark if you know what I mean. I held her close and tried to tell her it was fine, we are going to see Nemo, etc. and just when she was starting to relax and point to the fish and say - "Look there's Nemo - there's Dory" and get all excited, the big shark came out with teeth barred and roaring and it totally *freaked* her out. She was inconsolable for the rest of the ride and needless to say there was no convincing her to ride "Scary Nemo" again. Of course that didn't stop her putting her head in this fake fish outside Crush to have her picture taken, but I digress.

During our stay we developed a routine of going to a park at rope drop and staying until shortly after lunch, then resting at the hotel before going out again around dinner time. We did this on our last trip too and I highly recommend this stratagy. It gave us built-in pool time and a break from the parks at the hottest and busiest part of the day. It was also intended to give Katie a nap, but that never really happened.

For dinner that night we went to Hoop Dee Doo. Not as much fun as the first time we saw it last year cause the show is pretty much exactly the same. We still had a good time, but we'll probably skip it the next time we go. Funny thing - we ended up in the exact same seats we had last time in the balcony toward the back on the left-hand side. We were happy there and just like the last time it was good fun and good food. This is a pic from my seat of the stage and the floor below.

This was a very long day - and there is still more to come - Alex and I went to Extra Magic Hours. I'll have to continue tomorrow though - cause this is all the time I have to write for tonight.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Disney Diary 2008 - Day 1

Getting There is Half the Battle

August 23, 2008

We woke up at 5am, and I think everyone was actually able to sleep the night before. I was worried that we'd all be too exicted to sleep - and we were excited, but somehow we all dropped off pretty easily - everyone was asleep before me of course though as I was still doing the mental checklist after everyone else was asleep. Even I fell asleep relatively easily though once I finally settled into bed.

We loaded everything into the car and had just started our 30 min. ride to the airport when I started to feel I'd forgotten something. Did I have my folder with all our plans/tickets/reservation info?? I couldn't be sure, so I pulled over and pulled out one of the carryons to check. Whew! It was there, with everything in it, so we were good. We got checked into the airport relatively easily after reciting our parking area over and over to ourselves - 2H Blue - to make sure we would know where we parked when we returned in 9 days. The plan was to write this info down when we had the chance, but we never did get around to it. Luckily we did remember for the return! Everything went smoothly - Katie was relatively good on the plane - I had brought some fruit snacks for her to chew on during take off and landing and books and small puzzles to keep her busy and entertained. It worked really well and she was pretty well-behaved.

We took Magical Express to our hotel, Disney's Wilderness Lodge. For those of you not familiar, if you are staying at a Disney resort on property, they will pull your luggage right off your flight and deliver it for you to your hotel room, and they take you on a bus right to the hotel. The luggage arrives at your hotel after you do - up to 3 hours later - but we packed everything we needed for that day in the carryons. Taking the Magical Express didn't take much extra time either. We did have to wait in line to "check in" for a bus, but once that was done (took about 20 min.) we walked right on a bus that left for our hotel within about another 10 min. The bus did also make stops at other hotels, but I still felt the system was pretty efficient and I was happy with our arrival time. Depending on how long it would take you to claim your own baggage and then rent a car, I'd say the Magical Express doesn't take much longer and it is really nice not to have to worry about doing the other stuff. I know a lot of people would rather rent their own car and be in control, but we have had two good experiences with Magical Express, and will definitely use the service again if we ever go back to Disney (I should say when, not if!)

We were pleasantly surprised with our room. We had reserved a "Woods View" bunk bed room because it was the cheapest room that had the bunk beds - we really needed 3 separate beds as Alex (DS13) sleeping with Katie (DD4) just seems totally unacceptable to both of them (and to us). We were on the 6th floor (room 6012) and this was our view! You might have to click the image to view the larger one to really see what I mean - but we could see the Magic Kingdom castle from our room and at night we could see Wishes and the castle changing colors. It was really cool, since staying in the park until Wishes is still tough with a 4yr old who often refuses to nap on vacation.

Once we got settled in our room, we decided to go to the pool for a swim. I think this kiddy pool was one of Katie's favorite parts of the vacation - I myself prefered the jacuzzi tub. I should mention here that TS Faye had rained out the parks for a day or two prior to our arrival and all the guests seemed to be really weary from the rain. Before we left we were stressed that our vacation would be ruined by the rainy aftermath of the storm. We were surprised and relieved when we landed in Orlando to partly cloudy skies. We got in about 30 min. at the pool before we started to hear rumbling in the sky and the lifeguards cleared everybody out. It was fine with us, good excuse to get the kids to come out without an argument! Everyone around us was really annoyed though - probably because they had seen plenty of rain in the last week.

We needed to get in anyway as we were heading to DisneyQuest for the evening and dropping Katie at the Cub's Den, which is a babysitting service for kids 4 - 12. Our luggage had arrived from Magical Express already when we returned to our room. We got everyone ready and headed out. Katie had a blast at the Cub's Den, coloring and playing house with another little girl there. She called it her "kid's club" and really seemed to enjoy it there. Sean, Alex and I went to DisneyQuest where we did pretty much everything of interest within about 3 hours. Don't get me wrong, Alex really enjoyed it, and he would definitely go again if you gave him the chance. Sean didn't care for it much except that he liked that they had the "old time" video games like Q-bert and Pac-Man that you could play. I really could take it or leave it. To me it wasn't worth the $37 to get in (although I did manage to get discount tickets from Ticket Mania for $29), but I'm glad we did it and gave it a try. This also gave us our first view of Downtown Disney, which we visited for Cirque de Soleil. We stayed at Disney Quest from about 5:30p to about 9:30p and we were dead tired from all the travel by that time. We used the Disney buses to get to and from DisneyQuest and despite all we heard about how bad it was going to be waiting for buses (we were on the monorail last time) we didn't wait long for buses much all week we were there. There was also some light rain as we were walking to Disney Quest from the stop where the bus lets you off, but not too bad.

We picked up Katie from the Cub's Den and got back to our room just in time to see Wishes from our balcony! A perfect end to our first day!