Monday, September 30, 2013

31 days writing experiment

Day 2: The Morning After: Keeping the Magic Alive
Day 3: Celebrating the Change in the Wind
Day 4: Celebrating Getting our Fix
Day 5: Holidays are more fun with FESTIVE shirts
Day 6: Soccer Saturdays
Day 7: Birthday Sunday
Day 8: Spontaneous Discovery Mondays
Day 9: The Very Merry Unbirthday Party
Day 10: Celebrating 5
Day 11: Partying like a PRINCESS
Day 12: Friday Fun
Day 13: Friends who are Family
Day 14: Retro-Post Back to School Celebrations
Day 15: Life Lessons from Taylor Swift
Day 16: Brown Paper Packages Tied up with Strings
Day 17: Celebrating Generations
Day 18: Celebrating Milestones
Day 19: Follow through
Day 20: 8 years
Day 21: Celebrating 3
Day 22: Halloween in Neverland
Day 23: The one where I met one of my heroes
Day 24: Our escape
Day 25: The Mom who said "No" to EVERYTHING

Since we have returned from such a wonderful first family trip to Disney World, we have experienced a sort of euphoric letdown.  We had so much fun celebrating the magic of Disney that we aren't quite willing to let that go. I chose the title "Celebrations" to write about because my new goal is to make celebrations out of the every-day-ordinary as well as the extraordinary.  I have needed an excuse and an inspiration to write more consistently so I am using The Nester's writing challenge to "put my pen to paper."

Here's to celebrating the magic of the every day!

The inspiration of this thread came from documenting our family's vacation in these previous posts beginning here and ending here.  

The end of our adventure... Day 4 at Hollywood Studios (Part 6)

Before we ventured into the parks for our last day, we had to check out of the resort and figure out the logistics of how we--and our bags--would get to the airport.  Throughout out trip, we would marvel about the "magic moments"--those moments where Disney cast members would go out of their way to show kindness or be helpful or calm storms. The Magical Express was just that--magical and fast. Patrick could not believe the ease with which he held our bags, checked in with our airline, and checked out of our resort. When we had first begun dreaming about our trip, we strongly considered staying off-site at a Marriot where we had travel vouchers. When we found out about the free dining option, we traded deals and decided to stay on Disney property. Best.decision.ever.hands.down. The Magical Express alone would have confirmed that decision, but there were so many other perks to just being inside the property.

While he was taking care of this business, I was getting two little girls ready to meet their penultimate heroine--Sofia. They were over the moon at the mere possibility. We also tried to capture some of the essence of our Royal Room. I love the care and attention that Disney Mousekeeping gives. The girls were always so excited to see what they had done to our room at a day's end. Dumbo was their favorite for sure!
 These two photos show the silhouettes of the princes that hung over the table and chairs in the room. These silhouettes were carefully studied by two curious and love-stricken girls.

 Since Tiana was our hostess, there was a large portrait of her hanging on the wall leading into the vanity room.
 Adjacent to the girls' bed was this gallery wall of princesses. I referenced this in an earlier post where Addison fell asleep mid-gaze each night.
 This is one of the two headboards with the special effects. When walking into the room each night, the girls would turn this on and giggle.
 Since we were flying out Monday night, we had to get creative with our meal credits. We sure weren't about to let any of them go unused, so this morning, we got to our resort's restaurant and ordered breakfast--Mickey Mouse pancakes, eggs, bacon, sausage, strawberries, french toast, the works. It was delicious and it offered us a chance to enjoy this beautiful view from our window.
We had heard that Hollywood Studios will sometimes open their gates a little bit early, so just like the other days, we caught our bus:
to arrive at the park about 30 minutes before it opened.  (It was definitely worth it to do this at this particular park because of the early admittance well as The Magic Kingdom because of the awesome welcome show and the ability to check in with your Magic Bands before the park opens. I would not have rushed as fast to get to Epcot as they do not even begin scanning tickets and bands until precisely when the park opens. So there was a lot of standing and waiting there. Just my 2 cents.)

Before we entered the park, we stopped for some unique photo opportunities: Monster's University with our "roar" faces...
 And a random Meet and Greet with Donald and Daisy which we were lucky enough to come upon.
 After meeting Carni-Daisy, I was pleased for the girls to see a more classic Daisy, and it's always a pleasure to see Donald Duck!
 When we walked through the gates of Hollywood Studios at 8:45 (what we had heard was right), we were entranced with the Hollywood feel of the streets and buildings. The girls gasped at Mickey's sorcerer hat.
 With our girls the ages that they are, and knowing we only had a limited time (We needed to leave by 2:30 to catch the Magical Express to the airport.), we had to forgo some of the fun adult rides and attractions and shape our day around what we could maximize with our girls. (This, obviously, just feeds our motivation and desire to come back one day. ;) ) Of course Toy Story Mania was on our "must-do" list. We had reserved a Fast Pass for 11 a.m., but when we entered, we headed straight to Pixar Place anyway. Since there was only a 10 minute wait at the time, and the first thing we wanted to do wasn't until 9:40 anyway, we went ahead and rode it knowing we would have the opportunity to do it again. I was sort of thankful for the slight wait because it allowed us the opportunity to soak in and appreciate all of the elaborate decorations. The girls were loving it!

 I don't think Ansley was quite old enough to appreciate how cool the ride was, but she did love wearing the glasses and shooting at things. She hit a few too. After her experience on the Buzz ride at the Magic Kingdom, Addison was all about this one and gave Patrick and me a run for our money with the score. Patrick snapped this picture on our way back to Animation Courtyard. I think Walt Disney has become one of his heroes.
 One of our main reasons for choosing Hollywood Studios was for the Disney Junior appeal for our girls.  We are all huge fans of Doc McStuffins, and although she does not make character appearances yet, she is a part of the Disney Junior Live Show.  We attended the first show of the day in this floor theater, and the girls loved the interactive aspects of it. The Mickey Mouse Clubhouse characters are the main event as they are trying to solve a problem, and they consult several storybook characters--Sofia and her gang, Doc and friends, and Jake and his pirates. It was cute and familiar, and the girls loved catching bubbles, singing and dancing, and seeing all of their morning tv buds.

 Just outside of the theater, Sofia was making character appearances. She was the one remaining princess that the girls had been waiting the whole trip to meet. We had to stand in quite a long line to finally make our way to her. Addison told her that she loved her beautiful amulet. Ansley told her to tell Amber and James hello. It was just precious.

 Addison knew that this was our last day, and all morning she had been saying how disappointed she was that we'd never made it back to Ariel's grotto, and that she just needed to give Belle ONE more hug... so we were thankful to get to catch these two amazing shows. First we went right across the street to the Voyage of the Little Mermaid, and I have never heard such shrieks and giggles when Ariel made her way to the stage:

The special effects of this show were really impressive, and in 17 minutes, you felt like you had truly experienced the story of the Little Mermaid. We had two happy little girls.

From there we walked over to the Streets of America intending to play on the Honey I Shrunk the Kids playground. Unfortunately, it was closed for the day, so we wandered around the Cars area. The girls were hot, restless, and tired by that point, so we easily made our decision to catch the earliest Beauty and the Beast show. We were glad we did because our lunch reservation took much longer than we anticipated, and we would not have had time to see it if we had missed this one. I mentioned earlier that Belle is MY favorite princess and she is both of my girls "2nd favorite" princess, but this show was the best one I saw all week. I would see it again and again, and so would my family. It was perfect timing for us as well.

After the show, we went back to Hollywood Blvd for our lunch reservation at Hollywood and Vine. This lunch was hosted by some Disney Junior characters, and my girls couldn't wait to meet some of their favorite friends:

Jake from Jake and the Neverland Pirates
June from The Little Einsteins
Special Agent Oso
And Handy Manny
This was a fun, interactive lunch where the kids could get up and dance and "help" the characters. My girls loved it, and I am glad we picked this one for our first trip because by the time we come back, they might have outgrown the Disney Jr phase... Oh, time, please slow down!!!

After our lunch, we were antsy to make sure we had enough time to get to the airport and get home, so we took a couple of final photos:

and headed to the bus stop.

Boy, was it hard to leave.

On our way to the airport a Disney Cruise Line Cast Member sat behind us and gave the girls Minnie pins as a hope that they would one day return--just one final "Magic Moment" to keep our Disney Dream alive! 

The dream that we wished DID COME TRUE! Until next time, we'll be dreaming of you!

Read about our magical first Disney experience here:
Part 1 (for resources, planning, budgets, gifts, autograph books)
Part 2 (for how we gave our girls the surprise of their lives)
Part 3 (for our first day in The Magic Kingdom)
Part 4 (for our second day at Epcot and our resort pool)
Part 5 (our return to The Magic Kingdom)

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Day 3: Our Return to The Magic Kingdom (Part 5)

We could hardly wait to return to The Magic Kingdom on Day 3 of our trip. We knew we wanted to pack as much into this day as possible, so we caught an early bus to get there before the park opening and the train's entrance. Knowing what to expect this time, the girls were even more excited!

We chose a different location to position ourselves to enter the park more quickly, but it was also brighter, so Addison borrowed my sunglasses to watch the opening show.

 It was as spectacular as the first day!
 When we got into the park, we had a prime spot to watch the characters enter, and I posted this picture because Addison had an odd fascination with Cinderella's stepsisters. They stayed in character just like everybody else, and I couldn't help but wonder if their faces had frozen that way. ;)
 On this day, we were interested in riding all of the rides that we could, so we started in the back of Fantasyland in the circus area. We had NO wait, so we rode Dumbo a couple of times.
 Ansley loved it.
 Then we rode the Jr. Rollercoaster, The Barnstormer, and it was a HIT. You only have to be 35 inches to ride this one, so it is very accessible, but it's no joke either--it's pretty rickety and fast. We had no wait for this one either, so we rode it 4 times at Ansley's insistence. I mean, look at her face:
She loved it. Both of these girls were ready to go--ready for whatever on this day. I love this photo of them--captures exactly who they are in this phase of life.

One of our remaining characters to meet was Daisy Duck. We asked a cast member where we could find her, and they told us that she is always in the back of the park in Pete's Silly Sideshow. There were two lines: one for Daisy and Minnie, and one for Donald and Goofy.  

 I was a little bit disappointed that we met Carnival-Daisy instead of Classic Daisy, but we got her autograph AND a picture, so I didn't dwell on it. ;) Of course the girls were thrilled to see Minnie again-- and this time she was in her Minnie's Bowtique ensemble. They complimented her make-up again and talked to her like they were old friends.

After we exhausted the circus area, we went back to Peter Pan's Flight, and as we rounded the corner we lucked out to find Peter Pan AND Wendy.

There was a girl--who was probably in her late teens--who had written Peter a love letter and essentially kicked Wendy out of the Meet and Greet, so she came over to the cast member who was right by us and we got some extra Wendy-time.

After this special meeting, we headed to Liberty Square and rode the Liberty Square Riverboat. We enjoyed a shaded leisurely tour around the beautiful park. It was a good slow-down escape for us.

We had an early dinner scheduled at the Crystal Palace, so after our boat ride, we ate an early lunch at Columbia Harbour House. We used quick service credits to get a fish basket, chicken basket, and allergy-free chicken and fry kid's basket that we shared among the four of us. We were strolling out of a gift shop, walking back to Main Street for the Move It, Shake It mini-parade when we randomly, AWESOMELY, ran into some of our friends, the Malone family.  We had seen each other beforehand in Nashville, knew we were going to be in Disney World at the same time, commented back and forth on Instagram pictures, but we NEVER expected to see each other. We screamed, laughed, gushed, and shared "magic moments" and happy tears. So, so fun! 
After our chance encounter and the short parade, 
we headed over to Frontierland to meet Woody and Jessie from the Pixar Toy Story films. It was one of the longest character lines that we stood in, but we were closing in on completing our books, and we were tired, so it was a nice break. 

We also were able to introduce Addison to what Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad looked like. We weren't sure if she would be interested, but she seemed to at least like the idea of them. Waits for both rides were for an hour and a half, so we reserved Fast Passes for after dinner and headed over to catch another Castle Show (Dream Along with Mickey) at 2:15.

 From there we ventured over to Tomorrowland, the only area of the park that we had yet to visit. We rode Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin, and Patrick was pretty proud of his score. ;) The girls loved it, but it took both of them about half way through to catch on. If we'd had time to do it again, I think they would have liked it even more!

 We crossed over to the Monster's, Inc. Laugh Floor, and even the girls enjoyed the humor. We all enjoyed being inside in air conditioning, and we escaped a brief afternoon pop-up storm. We reserved Fast Passes to come back to Space Mountain and then stopped for this--probably my favorite family photo with the castle:
before heading over to our Crystal Palace dinner reservation. This restaurant was beautiful and probably had the best food that we enjoyed all week. The girls were so excited to meet their favorite 100-acre friends.

 Ansley was soooooo excited--jumping off the walls excited--that after the last character had come to our table and we'd filled our plates, she took a bite, looked at me, said, "Mom, I am tired," and nodded off. Right there. In her seat. At the table. She had taken in all the excitement that she could handle and crashed mid-bite. Thankfully, I scooped her up before she fell to the floor, but I ate the rest of my delicious dinner like this.
After our dinner, we went back to Frontierland and used our first Fast Pass for Splash Mountain. Ansley was still snoozing, and she wasn't tall enough to ride anyway (she's 39+ inches with shoes, but we couldn't stretch her any more), so we took advantage of our Rider Swap option for the first time. It really was too good to be true. Addison and I walked right up, used our Fast Passes, and picked up a ticket for Patrick to present when he returned to use his Fast Pass.  I honestly was nervous about how Addison would do on this ride. She seemed excited, but she also got quiet right before the ride began. This is a cute--and rather lengthy--ride that takes you through the story of Brer Rabbit in a boat with fun songs. There are a few dips along the way, but it is relatively tame... until you get to the final drop. 
Addison and I clung to each other, and she LOVED it. She could not WAIT to tell her daddy about it and ride it AGAIN, and AGAIN. When we returned to Patrick and Ansley, that little girl was wide awake and raring to go, cheering us on! This is Addison and Patrick after they conquered it. 

 Next, on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, I got so tickled as we rode it because I realized that Addison and I both screamed at the same parts and giggled at the same parts. It was a bonding moment. ;) She rode it again with Patrick too, and here is a glimpse of them.

 After those fun adventures, it was time to go secure some spots for the Electrical Parade.  We loved capturing Cinderella's Castle in this light. It never fails to take my breath away.
 The girls were restless, and it got super crowded, so we bribed them with some gum. Ansley's first try with gum EVER was on the plane, and she swallowed it. Go figure. This time, however, she proudly chomped it and would randomly show me this face when yelping, "Gum check! Still got it!"
 The Electric Parade was definitely the most spectacular. The girls were mesmerized.
 So was I.

 After the Parade, we stuck around for the Wishes Nighttime Spectacular--which was this magical animated show projected onto the castle itself. Addison and I both shed "happy tears." It was like nothing I had ever seen. Beautiful fireworks followed it. We decided around this time to forego our Space Mountain FastPasses (It'll make us come back, right!?!) and head to the bus stop after the fireworks show. We knew that if we pushed it too much further, we could be waiting in a bus line forEVER.  Patrick headed to City Hall to pick up our souvenir purchase from earlier in the day, and I stayed for The Wishes show. I knew that I wanted to be closer to the entrance by the time the fireworks show, but by the time "Wishes" ended, the crown around me was so thick that I simply could not move. I glanced from side to side, trying to come up with a plan, but I hadn't even uttered the words, "excuse me," when a Cast Member appeared at my side. He said, "Stick with me, and I'll part the sea." It was amazing, and just another special "Magic Moment."
 We had had such a magical day, we just didn't want to leave. This was my pitiful big girl.
 She cried, "The dream that I wished did come true, and now it is almost over. I don't ever want to leave Disney World!" Bless. I felt the same way.  This one below had been reenergized by her earlier nap and was as happy-go-lucky as could be.
When we got off of our bus, we went to the resort gift shop to look around, went to the restaurant to cash in on some snacks, and somewhere during those few interval minutes, our girls hit their breaking points. Addison bumped her head, and her ricochet had a domino effect and she bumped Ansley. Tears were spilling from both of them, and a cast member appeared out of nowhere. She hugged the girls, told them that Mickey didn't want them to be sad, and handed them two twisty Mickey straws. Their tears immediately evaporated. Another "Magic Moment."

 We headed back to our room, cleaned up, and gathered our bedtime friends. We had earned a $200 Disney gift card from using the Disney Visa in our first month as cardholders, so I had purchased most of their "trip gifts" beforehand (which were also Birthday gifts) at the Disney Store and a few other places. They opened up something each morning, and each particular gift revealed a clue for how we were going to spend that particular day.

I mentioned what I gave them on the big reveal day--Stride Rite Princess Light Up Shoes, Sofia gowns, and autograph books.  On our first MK day, we gave them their personalized Minnie shirts and Minnie water cups since we were dining with Mickey and Minnie. On our Epcot Day, we gave them Ariel socks and Princess Fall coloring books since we were dining with the princesses that night. On MK Day 2, we gave them their Pooh and Piglet shirts and their stuffed Poohs. On Hollywood Studios Day, we gave them their stuffed Doc McStuffins.

We had also earned an additional $60 after paying the balance of our trip, so their actual Disney World park souvenirs were the Minnie ears, and one other thing of their choice: Addison chose a stuffed Minnie, while Ansley (who is already Minnie Mouse overloaded thanks to her last Birthday party) chose a stuffed Daisy. Needless to say, their beds were full on this last night in our Royal Room.

***For the record, I strongly recommend purchasing gifts beforehand. Not only did it save us money, but it saved us a TON of time--time that we were able to spending riding, eating, meeting and greeting. Patrick and I have a tradition of buying a Christmas ornament, a coffee mug, and a deck of playing cards from each destination we travel, and we seriously just ran out of time to purchase these things. Don't worry, we ordered them as soon as we got back.
Our last day was spent in Hollywood Studios, and I hope to be back to write about that soon, but until then...

Here are my other Disney posts in case you have missed them:
Part 1 (Planning, budgeting, researching)
Part 2 (Revealing the surprise of their lives)
Part 3 (Our first day in the parks, Magic Kingdom)
Part 4 (Our second day in Epcot)