Saturday, March 25, 2017

Spring Break 2017 - Day 5 Part 1- Videos - Magic Kingdom

I have so much to say and that I want to remember about the Magic Kingdom. I decided to make one post just of my favorite videos from the day, with more stories to come in Part II.

Kathleen Short of Dreaming About the Mouse made all our reservations (Park tickets, hotel, food, fast passes) for the vacation. She also provided tons of resources, recommendations, and insights about all of the things--- rides, restaurants, a plan for the day, what to bring, what to wear, etc....  This is all free as she gets a commission from the sales, but we would pay the same if we bought the things directly so there was no cost to us. She definitely helped me feel like this was all doable and that we had a plan as there are SO many cool things to do that it can be overwhelming.  (Side note, I also used to make an exact sequence of things to do.  This site isn't free, but is pretty cheap and has some awesome softward and app for making custom tour plans.  It takes into account things like wait time for my specific day, crowd levels, walking speed, etc and you can re-run the optimization while you're in the park if plans change... but more on that later). 

Her #1 recommendation, that was reiterated right up to the day before departure email was to arrive at the parks, particularly Magic Kingdom 20-30 minutes before the stated opening time.  This allowed us to get through security and to the entrance early.  Also, they always open the parks before the stated times at least through the main street areas.  So, we were able to walk all the way up to the castle and be there for the opening show above, which was amazing.  Also that first 2 hours was absolutely key to our getting to ride SO many rides.  We rode probably 1/2 to 2/3 of the rides we rode that day in the first two hours.  I am so glad she pushed this point and that we listened as our default is to sleep longer.... :) 

Brent and M rode the tea cups together while I rode with the boys.  This is one of the classic rides I think of when contemplating DisneyWorld so I'm glad we got to ride it.  I think Brent was a little nervous as he gets kind of motion sick and his legs barely fit in the tea cup, but they had a good time and no one actually got sick. 

I love, loved the fireworks at Magic Kingdom.  The current show is called Wishes, but there will be a new version debuting in May.  There were logs of fireworks, lots of lights and things projected onto the castle, and great music telling the story. I suspect there might have been related characters on the stage in front of the castle, but we were to the side of that so we couldn't see. M took a lot of videos and some of them are shaky.  Here are two.  if you want more, let me know and I can add them to part II.

Want to hear more about it? To be continued...

Monday, March 20, 2017

Spring Break 2017 - Day 4 - Universal Studios!

Day 4: We wished Jennie Happy Birthday, put our bags in the car, and drove just over an hour to Universal Studios Orlando.  We had access to both parks, but began in the Islands of Adventure portion in the Dr. Seuss world.  This was a great area to ease the kids into theme parks.  I should probably mention that they've never been to an amusement park and we're about to spend 4 days straight in them! (Crazy much?) In any case, a great place to begin is with the Caro-Seuss because we already know we love carosels and Dr. Seuss animals.  It was lovely. 
E and Brent rode in this car instead of an animal.  I love the bright colors and fantastic animals that were all familiar from the books. 
Next up - one-fish, two-fish - still a prety low key ride where the fish go up and down and everyone gets just a touch wet. 
We had a little control over the fish, and M got the least wet, but still good fun.  Then we went in to the cat and the hat ride, which was a little spinny on a track through the cat and the hat book.  Then, our first small roller coaster with the Sneetches (also the beginning of our waiting in lines fun). B loved the coaster, M loved the one-fish two fish, and E remains team carousel as we head out to the Lost Continent portion that is between Seuss and Harry Potter. 
 I added Poseidon's Fury to our itinerary mostly because it was about Poseiden, who is one of B's favorite Gods from mythology. This was a show, not a ride.  It was one of those, we're trapped in an ancient temple, we have to find Poseidon's trident and help free him to escape.  There were some cool special effects, fire, water, and some creepy rooms.  It was a little spooky for E, but generally good fun.
 Then on to the main event - Hogsmeade -- We headed straight for Ollivander's and the kids each got an interactive wand.  E chose Harry Potter's. B chose Dumbledore's, and M chose an Ollivander original.  We stopped to scope out where we could use them to do some magic.
 Here is E trying to make it work.  It is a little finicky, that magic, so there is a helper at each station.
 Here is M's attempt.  They are doing ascendio and descendio with the measuring tape in the window of that store.

 Here is the Hogwarts castle
 A big of Hogsmeade street view

 B & Brent went on the Dragon's challenge coaster. This is a segment of it and a great image, but they did the Chinese fireball side (the red line), there is also a blue version.  This is one of those roller coasters where you hang from your shoulders. B thought it was phenomenal and his favorite ride of the entire trip.
 Meanwhile, M wrote post cards with her new quill, E had a snack, and we did a little more exploring before we met up with the boys again.
By this time, we were ready for lunch at the three-broom sticks, which may have been the most insane line of the trip, but one has to have their butterbeer, right? It was delicious, but very similar to what we've made at home, so good to know we have the recipe right.  After this, we all went and rode on the Hypogryph ride. It was probably a solid 30-45 minute wait and the patience was wearing a little thin.  The ride itself was the most real roller coaster E rode this trip and he and I were in the front car.  My head ache began just after this ride and I think, not a coincidence....
We briefly wandered over to the Jurassic Park section and learned about dinosaurs and watched one "hatch."
 We headed back to Hogsmeade for candy at Honey Dukes, especially M's sought after Chocolate Frog.  She got a Salizar Slytherin trading card with it. Everyone got some kind of Harry Potter themed treat.
 Then we decided to switch parks and stood in the Hogwarts "Express" line for ages. It was a sneaky line hidden underground and we definitely could have walked to the other park in less time.  The ride itself as maybe 3-5 minutes with scenes from the movie out the "window" (Tv screen) and shadows of students wandering the halls of the train and whispering at the doors.
 We arrived right near Diagon Alley, which I had a silly difficult time finding as it is literally in an alleyway near the train station. It was fantastically detailed and mostly full of shops.  There were a couple rides that I'm sure were awesome, but with way longer waits than we were able to tolerate.
 Here we are just outside of Gringotts.  We had finally found the "pet" shop and the kids found stuffie friends to accompany us on the rest of the journey.  M chose Hermione's cat, B chose Dumbledore's Phoenix, and E chose a little brown owl.
 Here is Lady M with Crookshanks and her wand as we wandered in the drizzle through the other side of the park, looked at some rides and shops, and had a snack.  We pretty much decided to call it a day and headed back to our car and on to our Disney hotel - Port Orleans, Riverside.
Yes, it was kind of cool and drizzly, but the kids immediately headed to the pool as all proper kids do on vacation. I watch them from under an umbrella while Brent napped.  The swim was fairly short as everyone was tired and hungry with a big day ahead.  We ate dinner at the quick service restaurant in our resort, got our refillable mugs, and headed back to sleep.  This was the night I remembered that M grinds her teeth and sleeping in the same room is a struggle... We procured ear plugs by the next day.

So there we are, solidly in Florida, almost 1/2 way through our trip, and heading in to 3 days of Disney magic!

To be continued....

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Spring Break 2017 - Days 1, 2, and 3

This year, we took a really BIG family vacation over spring break.  It has literally been a couple years in the making (or at least the saving). In the end, we decided to drive to Florida, rather than fly, which added greatly to the adventure aspects, but went better than I'd anticipated.  I'm hoping to blog about each day of the trip before I forget so here goes the first few days.

Day 1 - 3/10/2017- We packed the car and left our house around 3:15pm.  We arrived in Memphis maybe a little before 11.  We only stopped once, I think. The kids did remarkably well, thanks largely to electronics and snacks. We stayed the night in a suite type room so M had her own fold out bed.  So far so good!
Day 2 - 3/11/2017 The plan was to leave by 8am as we had roughly 12-13 hours of driving ahead of us.  We had breakfast in the lobby, grabbed our belongings, and then the car wouldn't start..... We called AAA and they came more quickly than we had anticipated. In the meantime, we went back to the room and rested/watch cartoons.  The car had a loose wire/connection, which was quickly fixed and we managed to leave by 9:15 or so. 
The rest of the day looked a lot like this. E had a blast with his lions. He definitely spent much less time with electronics than the other kids. 
Who looked a lot like this.  M listened to many, many hours of Hamilton.  B played on his DS or one of the Kindles.  They each slept a little. Yes, our car had tons of stuff in it.  Some of it wasn't used, but a lot of it was. 
We drove through Mississippi, and then had lunch in Alabama.  After that, E's hamster rode around on this dragon from his kids meal for quite a long time.  M made the astonishing discovery that Burger King exists in Oklahoma too.... we just don't go there on a normal day.  Then on through the rest of Alabama, Georgia, and Florida, all the way to the Palfreymans' house in the wee hours of the morning. I think it was maybe 12:30am  (eastern) when we arrived. Believe it or not Brent did all the driving both days.  I helped the kids with stuff, read 2 books, and watched a movie.  We also listened to Serial and some other podcasts.

When we arrived,   Gavin was awake to greet us and show us sleepily to our beds. The time change was that night as well so we lost a bit more sleep, but did manage to all sleep past 8am.

 Day 3: 3/12/2017 - Beach Day!  As kids of the Great Plains, our crew has never seen the ocean (at least that they remember).  They had a blast.  Jennie and Corwyn came along and we spent maybe 4-5 hours playing in the water, digging in the sand, collecting shells, having lunch, getting sand everywhere, and getting just a bit sunburned.

 This was one of the first moments at the ocean and I love their expressions. I grabbed my camera before we were even unpacked as I knew those first looks would be cool.
 Jennie has a great beach kit that we were lucky enough to borrow.  Corwyn showed our kids the ropes as he is a beach pro now.  He and E had a great time playing in the waves and digging in the sand.
 This one just loves the water. I was worried the salt water might bother his skin, but we had no problems, happily.
 M collected some sea shells with Brent's help.  They are fairly small, but lovely treasures.

We had a tough time prying M from the water. She kept wanting, just one more wave to ride.

Eventually, we and all our sand made it out and wound up the beach time with ice cream by the water before going back to the Palfreymans to watch Cinderella, play, and enjoy Chinese food and cake to celebrate Jennie's birthday!

We spent a second night with friends and M learned to love dogs (a minor miracle), before getting up early to make it to Universal Studios!

To be continued....

Friday, March 10, 2017

A bunch of birthdays

Our family has SO many birthdays from January -March.  We're going to go through them quickly, in reverse order, just for fun. 
Most recently, my nephew Matthew turned 6!  He had a pool party, in March, in Oklahoma... it was too cold for the grown-ups, but the kids loved it, somehow.  At this same party, we celebrated Brent's mom's birthday.  Double birthday parties are a good idea in a season full of birthdays.
My birthday fell just before.  We don't really have good pictures from that. This photo is from Bill's party (see below).  We did celebrate my birthday with pizza after B's state swim meet and have pie on my actual birthday with the kids, Able, and Kari.  Brent also brought dinner, which was delicious and fun in a very busy Wednesday. I got really fun presents. I'm especially loving the bar necklace from Kari and Able that says "she persisted" and all Brent's gifts, but especially the tray. Also Brent AND Audra both got me new water bottles/cups so I'm well hydrated for the year to come. 

The week before, was John's (Matthew's brother) birthday - he turned 9. John randomly asked our kids for lots of potatoes for his birthday. (I think this is related to a video game).  Who are we to deprive him? So, in addition to the gift we planned, he also got a bag of potatoes.  We had a week day evening party complete with lots of pizza and everyone was happy. 
Just before that was Rowan's 4th birthday party.  Ro is super fancy and in to pearl snap shirts.  He had a western themed party and Grandma made sure all our kids were on theme. It was tons of fun!

The day before that party was Bill's 65th birthday party! Jamie through a big party with all the extended family on both sides and it was great fun. 

A week or so before that was Brent's birthday.  We slightly celebrated with cake and pie at Audra's house on the weekend and then had birthday fudge and presents the day of here at home.  M made him that lovely scarf he is wearing in this photo. 
Back when I last blooged, we were celebrating B's birthday.  Here are the photos from his big mash up birthday party with family and a few friends who stayed for a sleep over. I love the doughnut cakes!  Uncle Carl's birthday was the day after, but sadly I have no photos. 
The biggest news and actual "birth day" was the arrival of our first niece Alice Pearl on Jan. 17. I was so blessed to get to take pictures of her and her parents on her first day. I feel so lucky that I got to meet her just hours after her arrival and that we get to hang out with her fairly often.  She is growing quickly and has the most lovely expressions already.  We are SO happy for Able and Kari and excited for the great adventures to come.

Happy Birthday to all the many birthday people from the last three months!

Thursday, March 9, 2017

B's new Bike

At long last, B has a bicycle that fits him!  I think it is possibly only one size smaller than my bicycle (aka Grandma's, which she is loaning me). It has gears and everything.  I'm told almost all the bike's this size were green, so green it is! The hills at the end of the street are still a challenge for, well, all of us, but he has freedom to ride the neighborhood again.  He has been low key about it, but I think is pretty happy to have his own bike again.
 This was supposedly one of his 10th birthday presents, but we wanted him to have the opportunity to pick it out himself and with weekends full of swim meets almost continually since then it has been delayed.  We also originally assumed winter would last long. But here we are with already weeks of intermittent spring weather and a sad boy with only too small bikes and a plethora of scooters...and a ripstik (which he is mastering, but is hard)
This does mean all five of us finally have bikes that are our size.  We also seem to have five extra bikes in random sizes, some of which we keep for nephews that might stop by.  We also have a tiny bike for a niece that may someday want it.  I digress.  The good news is B has his bike and we're all off to enjoy the beauties of spring. 


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