Saturday, March 31, 2007

Disney 2007 Trip Report, Chapter 4

First, a quick response to Denise from the comments. I do know about package pick-up, but I've never felt like waiting in line at the end of a long day to get them from guest relations, particularly with a child in tow. When we've stayed on property, though, I have had our stuff sent back to the room, which was way nice! And I do mention both services in my Disney Tips packet that I give out to family and friends. :-) Thanks for reminding me, though.

Links to previous chapters:
Chapter 1: Departure and Arrival
Chapter 2: Downtown Disney
Chapter 3: The Magic Kingdom, Part 1

March 15: The Magic Kingdom, Part 2

We had done three of our four "must rides" that morning. Only one remained: Buzz Lightyear! And we used one of our patented tricks. If the Fast Passes are being handed out for an hour or so away from the present time, go on and get one. Then, get in the stand-by line. By the time you've waited and done the ride, it will be almost time for your Fast Pass return, so you get to ride it twice in a row! So the first time, DH, Luke, and I rode together. The next time, I let DH have some alone time with his son on his favorite ride, while I took pictures. It was a huge hit with Luke, just as we knew it would be. He loves Buzz! And just to convince us further that he really liked the ride, he absolutely pitched a fit when he had to get off. I mean, screaming and crying and plopped right down on the moving sidewalk. He had to be physically picked up and carried off the ride, both times.

Seems like we probably rode TTA again, and then it was time to start thinking about dinner if we wanted to try some place nice. I had tried making dinner reservations before we even came to Disney, but they were booked, so we thought we'd just get there early (4-ish) at put our names in for a hopefully short wait. We decided to take a chance at the Crystal Palace, which is an excellent buffet restaurant (so we could probably find something Luke would eat) that also offers "character dining," where Pooh and the gang come and visit the tables while you dine. We had discovered earlier in the day that he was not afraid of the characters (he wanted to go meet some, but the lines were already closed), and he loves Eeyore, so it was worth a shot. Except that we got there, and I waited in line a good 10 minutes to even get to the window to ask, only to find out that there is a wait of 60-90 minutes! No thanks! Now what? Well, one of our favorite counter service restaurants is right around the corner, so we'll just do that.

Casey's! They have *the* best hot dogs. I don't know what they do to them, but they taste better at Casey's than they do anywhere else in the parks, and they taste just like the ones you get at baseball games (gee, go figure). Nothing Luke would eat in the way of protein, so we went with french fries and a Goldfish cracker appetizer. Three foot-long hot dogs, three fries, and one box of Cracker Jack, please. One day without protein won't kill him, and we'll just do better tomorrow on that. But the best part, as far as Luke was concerned, is that you got to sit in the "bleachers" and watch Disney sports cartoons on a big screen. We sat on the visitor's side (since the home side was occupied at the time), and we even had an unusual visitor of our own! Luke found this both amusing and distressing. We had to assure him that it was okay for the duck to be there, since he kept pointing and almost screeching "duck! duck!" LOL And I will admit, having a duck (besides Donald) join us for dinner was a Disney first, even for me.

Finished eating, we all took turns letting Luke watch more ducks outside while the others in the party found the restrooms. While DH and he were waiting, they saw a father momentarily "lose" his son. At age one, the child was small enough to crawl through the bars when his dad glanced away. He didn't get far, of course, just to the other side. My son was rather distressed, though, when the man started scolding, saying "Luke, we don't do that! You have to stay on this side." ::giggle:: It took some time to calm *our* Luke so that he knew he had not done anything wrong.

Sometime in here, we received some bad news. The plan was that we would arrive Wednesday, do the Magic Kingdom on Thursday, then my brother would come up Thursday night to be with us at the parks on Friday and go to the game Saturday. But early that week, some auditors showed up for one of their infamous unannounced grant audits, so everyone had to stay (without some kind of serious reason to leave, and pre-planned vacation didn't count, apparently). They had hoped to be done by close of business Thursday, but it was not to be. Jacob still had to stay Friday. He did say that he would come up Friday as soon as he could get off work, but we were leaving Saturday afternoon, so I told him he didn't have to make that 4 hour drive just to see us for half a day. He insisted, though, so we agreed to just meet at the hotel Friday after we were done with the parks. I hated that he was going to miss the Rockin' Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror, though.

So, where to now? Regardless of where, Luke had made an executive decision: he would be pushing the stroller himself (he had hardly ridden in it while we were there; we almost never use one at home, so I guess that shouldn't be a surprise). It took some negotiating to let Daddy "help", but we managed.

Anyway, now that we were all fed and happy, we decided to take a chance. We had done everything we "had" to do, now it was time to experiment. See, there was a ride I wanted to take Luke on, but I didn't want him to freak out on me. (And it's probably not the ride you think!) Back in Mickey's Toontown, they have a ride called the Barnstormer, which is a roller coaster designed *specifically* for children. As in, the height requirement is only 35", at least six inches shorter than any other ride. Based on what little evidence we've had to date (his love of swings and slides, enjoying being tossed up in the air, etc), we (that would be my mother, my brother, and I) had hopes that Luke would be a fellow roller coaster junkie. DH and my father most certainly are NOT. But I didn't want to take him on one too early and scar him for life. So what do I use as my test ride?

Pirates of the Caribbean! Hold on, hear me out. We already knew he could handle dark rides, and there wasn't anything particularly scary about the ride, since Luke is really too young to know he is supposed to be scared of the skeletons at the beginning. And yes, I admit, DH and I really wanted to see the ride now that they had added Captain Jack. But the real key was the hill at the beginning (that is about as much of a "thrill ride" as my husband can stand). If Luke enjoyed that, then I would take him on the Barnstormer. If not, then we'd forget the whole thing. The wait time on the ride was 40 minutes, but the Fast Passes were being handed out for after 8 PM, by which time Luke would have long been in bed, so we decided to chance it. I knew that the queue was pretty well themed, so maybe that would keep him entertained.

Under the circumstances, Luke did very very well in line. It was a long time to wait, and we were idiots and went down the right side of the queue (which I haven't used in ages) instead of the left. Turns out that the left queue has more to see, theme-wise, and I swear it is shorter as well (not in terms of less people, necessarily, but in terms of sheer length). I'll remember that next time. He got to play with his "light saber" (a small wand blinky I had stashed in the bag for just such an occasion), and the teenagers both ahead of and behind us found him as entertaining as he did them. BUT, forty minutes is just too long for a two-year-old to wait. He was just on the brink of a meltdown when we got to where we could see the boats, plus I swapped his current blinky wand (which was insanely bright and I knew would annoy the other guests) for a less obtrusive one, which he had never seen before so it kept his attention. But I wanted him to have *something* he could see in case he got scared.

We ended up in the front seat, which I was actually very happy about. That meant that Luke would be able to see without having to try to look around the adults (little kids have to sit on the inside), or over people's heads. But I didn't know about another change they had made to the ride. SPOILER ALERT: If you don't want to know about changes to the ride, skip to the next paragraph. Before you even get to the first scene, they have added a wicked cool effect. They have a smoke screen covering the cave entrance, and intermittently, they project an image of Davey Jones (head and shoulders) onto it, giving some kind of warning (I wasn't really listening, I was too focused on making sure Luke was doing okay). But there are different jets at different depths around the cave entrance, so it almost makes the projection look 3-D. It is a good 6+ feet tall, and it is so awesome! But here's the kicker. The boat goes through the mist, and the projection is not timed with the boats (since the boats themselves are launched by ride operators, not a timing mechanism), so it may be on or off as you go through. It came on and finished not long before we got to it, so we thought we were safe. Then, when we were less than 5 feet from going through the mist (remember, we're in the front seat), it comes back on. And Luke *freaks.*

If you have never heard a child scream out of sheer terror, consider yourself lucky. It is one of the most blood-curdling, nerve-jangling, heartbreaking noises I have ever heard, probably made all the worse when you know it came from YOUR kid. He did calm down almost as soon as we were through the effect, though he was still whimpering. I think he was just afraid it was about to eat him, or we were going to be stuck in there, or something. When we came out the other side, DH and I were both reassuring him, and we changed modes on his light wand to something a bit more vibrant to keep his attention on that (it had been just slowly changing colors, so we flipped it to one that blinked different colors instead), and we prayed that there was not another effect like that in the ride (there wasn't). So as we entered the first scene, everyone is looking around at the scene full of skeletons, and here we are in our bright shiny happy encouraging voices going "wasn't that silly? hey, we're on the beach! oh, look at the birdy!" (There is a seagull perched on the head of one of the skeletons.) Sheesh! And then came the moment of truth: the hill. You can hear it coming, the water falling, but even in the front seat, you *cannot* see it. We tried to tell him there was a slide coming (the only reference we could think of he might understand), but I have no idea if he understood. Then we plunged down, made a big splash (though we only got a few drops on us), and rounded the corner into the light of the fort bombardment scene. And Luke was grinning from ear to ear! YES!! Barnstormer is a go!

The rest of the ride passed uneventfully, and I was pleased that the inclusion of Captain Jack was not more intrusive than it was, though they did take away one of the in-jokes from the movie. Remember the parrot intoning "dead men tell no tales" in these long exaggerated syllables from the first movie? Yeah, well, they took that part out of the ride, so now that won't make sense. Just to warn those of you who remember the old version. Anyway, we got off the ride, and it was about 6:20. As we were walking out of the building, we were debating whether to try the Barnstormer right then, or to just go on and leave. The decision was made for us when we finally reached the outside: it was raining. Normally, we would just do the park and get wet while everyone else vacated. But the Barnstormer is an outdoor coaster, so it stops running when it rains.

It had been a long and exciting day, and we were not that far from the park entrance. So we went on and left. But Luke got one final treat: thanks to the rain, the parking lot was *full* of puddles! What better end to the day than to get to splash around to his heart's content in the puddles that Mickey so thoughtfully provided for the boy who loves water. Disney truly is magical! Thus ended our first day at The Happiest Place on Earth. And what a great day it was!

Next time, our Friday morning at Disney/MGM Studios. Link to Chapter 5.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Disney 2007 Trip Report, Chapter 3

Previous chapter links: Chapter 1 and Chapter 2

March 15: The Magic Kingdom, Part 1

We were up and at 'em around 7 AM for our first day in the parks. Early enough to beat everyone at the hotel to breakfast (since the parks didn't open until 9), but not at dark-thirty either. Since we usually eat breakfast at home before getting dressed, we even let Luke go down to the dining area in his pajamas, which he thought was great fun. We weren't sure if he would eat what they had at the free breakfast; he is particular not only about what he eats, but where he eats it. For example, he devours scrambled eggs at IHOP, but will not eat them anywhere else, including at home (and my eggs are good, even if not quite as good as IHOP, thank you). Anyway, I knew they had waffle makers, but I wasn't sure if he would eat them since they were not Eggo waffles, and since we were not at home. I had also never tried the waffle maker at the hotel before because there was usually a huge line waiting to use it; I'd rather just eat cereal and/or a bagel and go! But no lines due to the early hour meant I was game to try it. To my great surprise, he said "waffle!" as soon as I sat it down, and once I cut it into quarters, he *devoured* it. I even went back to make myself one, and let me tell you, it is a good thing those waffle makers are too bulky for home use and that I don't have the recipe for their waffle batter. They were excellent! Luke and I both had waffles every morning after that, they were that good.

Back to the room to get changed and lathered up in sunscreen. I had no idea how Luke was going to do with that. He is as pale as I am, but his skin coloring is different. But regardless of how easily or not he might burn, he still needs protection, and he was going to get it, even if it killed us both. I knew he wouldn't like having the lotion rubbed on him, so I took a chance and went with the new spray kind. But I didn't know how he would handle being sprayed with the stuff either, so I demonstrated by spraying myself first. I held my leg out and sprayed it all around, then did the other leg. I then turned to him and said, "your turn!" He grinned really big, came over to the wall we were using as a backdrop, and immediately held his leg up. So we sprayed his legs, and he thought it was great fun! I then did my arms, and then his arms. Again, no trouble. You could not, however, spray that stuff in your face. It said to spray it in your hand and then rub on your face (don't forget your ears!). No thanks, we'll use regular lotion for that. And as I suspected, he did not like that at all. Took both Nana and me to get him well covered, but we finally managed. Did a quick ticket check, grabbed the backpacks, and off we went.

We took the tram from the parking lot to the Transportation and Ticketing Center (you can't get to the Magic Kingdom directly from the parking lot; it is specifically designed that way). Luke thought that was a great ride in and of itself. Then came the great debate: monorail or ferry? We decided to take the ferry to the Magic Kingdom instead of the monorail for our first arrival. It is actually my preferred method, but we debated because we knew Luke would love the train. But he loves the water so much (and the line was so much shorter), we went with the boat, figuring we would hit the monorail later, probably when we left for our afternoon nap. And just as we suspected, he *loved* the boat, even though he couldn't see out. So far, so good.

We arrived at the park entrance about 9:15, which actually worked out great. All of the folks who were there before they opened were in, and all of the people waiting for "the crowds" to be out of the way were not there yet. Security took a little while (that's what happens when three adults and a child have four backpacks total!), but we made it in. I had no idea what to expect from him as we went through the short tunnel and entered Main Street. He certainly seemed fascinated with the surroundings. But we didn't really stop on Main Street, for two reasons. #1: It is mostly shopping, and trying to go in shops with all sorts of small items with a two year old is a nightmare. #2: We were on a mission! There were four rides on our "must do" list: it's a small world, Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin, the Tomorrowland Transit Authority, and Peter Pan. Anything beyond that was gravy. Peter Pan is one of *the* most popular rides at the Magic Kingdom, and it is definitely one of my favorites (probably second to Buzz Lightyear). But the wait line is routinely 60-75 minutes, and the Fast Passes are usually gone by late morning. So we wanted to go on and do it as early as possible! It would also give us an idea early on of how he would handle the dark rides. But Peter Pan is at the back of the park, about as far from Main Street as you can get (okay, maybe that is the Haunted Mansion, but still, it was a long haul). We did stop long enough for the obligatory "here we are in front of the castle" pictures, but that was about it.

We got there about 9:30, and the wait was already 20 minutes. We thought about just grabbing a Fast Pass and coming back later, but the Fast Pass times were already for 1-2 PM, which was no good. (No, I'm not kidding. They were completely out of them by 11 AM.) Knowing the wait would only get longer, we decided to go ahead. All things considered, Luke did very well. He didn't understand why he couldn't just crawl under the chains, so that was a struggle. He did get the hang of it by the end of the trip. It was pretty hot in the queue, which is covered (nice for keeping us out of the sun) but also prevents much air flow with the walls. You also have to pass a point where you can see the ride vehicles (they look like small ships with sails), but you still have a good 5-10 more minutes in the queue, which really frustrated him. And since we hadn't been on a ride yet, he didn't understand that the wait would be worth it (something else he did eventually learn while we were there). There were two other things that I should have caught on to earlier but didn't (bad mommy). One, we think he might be teething. He was doing a lot of chewing on his finger, stuck way back in his mouth, and he was unusually cranky, even accounting for the change in routine and such. I thought he had all his teeth, but who knows. And two, as we got to the end of the wait, it was nearing 10 AM, which is past his usual snack time! In our minds, it couldn't possibly be time for snack since we had just arrived. But he'd been up for 3 hours by this point and he gets a 9:30 snack at daycare, so I'm sure he was hungry, but we just didn't think of it at the time.

Finally, it is our turn. DH, Luke, and I pile into our boat, "and off we goooooo!" He really seemed to like it, just as he did when he was a baby. I'm not sure he knew quite what to make of everything, and he hasn't seen the movie very often, but still, the sensation of flying on that ride is worth it. He did pretty well when we got off, only fussing a bit. Since it was right across the way and had very little wait (and we were still clueless about him needing a snack), we went on and did it's a small world. I really thought he would like that one, with the music and all the different things to see, but he seemed more baffled than anything. I'm sure it is all quite overwhelming when you are two and not used to that kind of thing. (Heck, it is rather overwhelming to more than a few adults!) But he liked the boats, and he was smiling by the end. Again, he fussed a bit when we got off, and he wouldn't smile for the pictures. He was just generally disagreeable (again, unusual for him), which is when we *finally* got a clue that he was hungry, since it was now about 10:20. We popped into the back of Pinocchio's Village Haus, which is one of our favorite hideaway places to stop for a rest in the air conditioning. They also have a window where you can watch as the boats launch for it's a small world. Luke really didn't want to go in, but once I said the magic word (marshmallows), he was good.

One pack of marshmallows, a glass of water, and some air conditioning later, and we were all set for our next adventure. We knew we couldn't take too long, since we had 11:30 reservations at Tony's Town Square (and yes, all of you long-time Disney visitors, they are now reservations instead of "priority seating"). And Tony's, as is stated in the name, is *way* back at the front of the park on the square at the beginnig of Main Street, right by the entrance. So we couldn't do too much lolligagging. There was practically no wait for the carousel, so we decided to try that. And he loved it! We put him up on a huge horse on the outside, and he was a little unsure at first, but once we started spinning and the horse started moving, he broke out into a *huge* grin. And in true child-of-two-engineers fashion, he was more fascinated by the mechanism at the top of the pole that moved the horse than anything. LOL We still had a little time left to kill, and we knew that the TTA (Tomorrowland Transit Authority, though it will always be the WEDway Peoplemover to me) rarely had a wait, so we booked it through Fantasyland and over to Tomorrowland (one land over) and hopped on. As we predicted, Luke really enjoyed it. We hopped off and prompty hoofed it over to Tony's.

We arrived the recommended 10 minutes early for our 11:35 reservations, but we didn't mind. Air conditioning, soft seats, and a video of (what else) Lady and the Tramp playing in the waiting area, one of his favorite Disney films. We were, however, concerned about what Luke would eat. It was possible that he would try the spaghetti, but no guarantees. We were still debating what to do when we were seated. Nothing on the kids menu was Luke-suitable, but we did spot breadsticks (which you actually have to pay for at Tony's; one of the few things I dislike about the restaurant). Luke had a granola bar to tide him over. Once the breadsticks came, though, there was little reason to worry. One order of breadsticks comes with 3. Luke ate 4! (Obviously, that required another order.) DH got the spaghetti with meatballs (how can you not? and it is always excellent), I branched out and tried the baked ziti, and Mom had the grilled salmon salad, IIRC.

Lunch at Tony's was a pre-planned event, not only because we love to eat there, but because we knew it was right by the exit to the park, so we wouldn't have to pass a bunch of fun things that we would not be doing in order to go take a nap. (And trust me, a nap for Luke was *definitely* required if anyone wanted to have any fun for the rest of the trip.) So, after a brief stop on the porch, it was on to the monorail, and then the hotel for naptime. Everyone took a nap, in fact, not just Luke, for about two hours. Luke awoke, we had a snack, and it was back to the park!

In our next installment (sorry, this got a lot longer than I thought it would), our afternoon in the Magic Kingdom, including Buzz Lightyear, bleachers, and more boats. Here is a link to The Magic Kingdom, Part 2.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Disney 2007 Trip Report, Chapter 2

Previous chapter links, in case you would like to catch up: Disney 2007 Trip Report, Chapter 1.

March 14 (cont): Downtown Disney

I love Downtown Disney! It is one of my favorite places in the world to just go and hang out. I could sit and people watch for hours. The shopping is quite nice as well. But first things first: we have to find out how many days we have left on our multitude of old tickets (we had 5 between the three of us), so it's off to Guest Relations. Not much to do in this mostly-empty room, so Luke amused himself by playing in one of the photo booths. Every time he pushed a button, it reacted (by telling him to put in money! LOL), so he thought this was great fun.

He cried when we were finished; he didn't want to leave the booth. But we could smell his diaper from outside (you couldn't have done that 30 minutes ago while we were still at the hotel?), so we needed to find the closest bathroom. To my great shock, there was no baby changing station in the women's room. This is Disney, overrun with children! How can there *not* be a baby changing station? Turns out it was in the "companion" bathroom, which was hot as blue blazes! (It was clear and a good 80+ degrees outside, and significantly warmer inside.) We get Luke up on the platform, open up the diaper backpack, and discover NO diapers! (Bet you were wondering why I was detailing his diaper changes, weren't you? No more after this, I promise.) We had changed him twice from the backpack, and we had not refilled it at the hotel. We were now faced with a *huge* poopy diaper, plenty of wipes, and no diaper to put him in. Great. Thankfully, we discovered the lack of clean diaper before we took the full one off, but that didn't solve the problem. But wait, this is Disney! Surely there is a better solution than having to get back in the car and go back to the hotel. There have to be diapers *somewhere*.

So I leave them in the bathroom and go on the great diaper quest. As I leave the bathroom, there is a surf-type shop (bathing suits and such) on the left and the toy shop (Once Upon a Toy Story) on the right. I figure the toy shop is my best bet. Even if they don't have them, they probably know who does. The first cast member I ask does not know, but she takes me to a manager, who points me to (you guessed it) the surf shop across the way. All you have to do is ask at the counter. Turns out they have an entire little kit made up in various sizes: two diapers, two diaper disposal bags, a small pack of 8 wipes, and a small tube of diaper rash cream. And only $4. All things considered, not bad at all. Back to the bathroom, we get Luke all changed, only to have DH start to feel sick and light-headed from the heat. He did fine once we got out into the breeze, but it scared us for a bit. To kill some time (and to wander around in some air conditioning), we hit the toy store.

Now, we realize how dangerous it is to take a 2 year old into a humongous toy store, but how could we not? It is one of DH's favorite places to shop, as they have one of the best selections of Star Wars toys we have ever seen. The shop has four major sections: the classic toy section, the stuffed toy section, the "boy" section, and the "girl" section. We make it through the first two sections fine, with Luke only picking up one of the Buzz Lightyear light-up spinning whirly-gig things. If that is the only thing we have to buy to leave, we're doing good. But the whole reason we were in this store is for the next section. But perhaps it will be okay. We walk in and immediately look off to the far right corner where the Star Wars toys used to live. Instead, we are greeted with the new Pirates of the Caribbean section.

Not to worry, though. The Star Wars section is now to our left, and it has a new feature, much to my chagrin. There is a huge set of bins, 15 feet long and about 8 feet high, featuring four 27" flat screen televisions, and topped with a huge, swinging.... light saber! It is a Build Your Own Light Saber Station. Luke and DH are still distracted with the Buzz section and dinosaur section on the right side of the store. As soon as DH takes a step towards the left, I frantically start motioning them off. If we can just get through here without Luke seeing.... But DH is looking for something specific, so he asks me to go over there and check for it while he entertains Luke. Nope, not there, and I turn to tell him that, only to find him standing right behind me, and Luke starts pitching a fit. "What exactly did you think I meant when I said 'keep him away'?" His defense? "I didn't see it." HUH?!?! You have got to be kidding me. How could you miss it?!! Obviously, Luke now wants one, but he is frustrated with finding them in pieces (too young to get the whole "build your own" concept). This is actually good for us. It means we can entice him with one of the pre-made ones they have that are conveniently half the price of the build your own (but still twice the price of the identical model we have at home already). So placated with the pre-built model, we run into the "pink section" to check out. Luke was quite upset and distraught (tired and a little hungry by this point), and really didn't want to hand it to the woman to be rung up. And to avoid more hissy fits, we decide to go out the back door instead of wading through the "danger zone" again.

But now we have a new problem. He wants to walk around with the blade of his new light saber extended. Um, no. Too many people, too little judgement, too tired, just too much potential for disaster. So again, much fussing (and a small snack), but he handled it better than we could have hoped. We settled on clipping the light saber to his waistband (with the convenient built-in belt clip). If we can just keep him from breaking down again before dinner, we'll be doing well. So, we take the now more-or-less calmed child around the corner of the building, only to discover one of those flat fountains. You've seen them, the ones where the little jets of water pop right up out of the concrete. I'd forgotten they had one (we don't go that way often), and Luke LOVES water. So with all of the kids running around playing in the water, we have to tell him that no, he can't. (I know, that makes me a terrible mother since I know he would have had an absolute blast, but if I'd remembered it was there, I would have come prepared with extra clothes and shoes and such.) And to make matters worse, there is a kid across the fountain from us having an imaginary light saber battle, swinging his newly built sword and jumping and spinning and everything. You have got to be kidding me! Yes, Luke, I know that kid is playing with his, but he's 8 and has better control and whatnot (though had I been his mother, he would not have been being as wild with it as he was), and you still can't play with yours. Took us about 20 minutes and serious negotiations to get around the fountain both with a collapsed light saber and a completely dry child, but we eventually prevailed (with the help of a lollipop (a rare treat for him) I had stashed in the diaper backpack for just such emergencies).

It's now close to 4, but no adult is really hungry yet. We know we want to eat at the Rainforest Cafe, though, and they usually have a wait, so we head on over there. I check with the "purple elephant," and they say there is no wait, so we kill some time by looking at the exotic birds on display, chatting with the handler, and Luke is fascinated by the animatronic crocodile in the water. We hang out until about 4:30, at which point we discover that there is now a 30 minute wait! How did *that* happen? Sheesh! We actually only waited about 20 minutes, and we kept Luke mostly entertained with the fish and everything. He also got to experience one of their "thunderstorms" from outside to decide if it would scare him (it didn't, but the talking tree sure did!). Mom got the macadamia-encrusted tilapia, DH and I split the turkey Caesar wrap, and Luke had french fries (what else). If you look carefully, you can see the infamous light saber in the third and fourth photos.

We were back at the hotel around 6, got all checked in to our suite and all of the luggage sorted out, and got the room set up. You enter the suite in the living room portion, with the sleeper sofa, the television, and the door to the bathroom. Through another door is the bedroom (which does not connect to the bathroom) with a king size bed. We let Luke run around the room in his jammies while we figured out where to put everything (note to self: take outlet safety covers for next hotel stay!). After much debate and deliberation (and putting together the port-a-crib, which took a while), we finally realize the best arrangement is for Luke to sleep in the crib in the bedroom, and for us to sleep on the pull-out couch. No one slept for even a few minutes on the king bed the whole time we were there! But it kept Luke behind a closed door and away from all of the hallway noise (which was quite considerable). It also meant that DH and I could take a shower or leave the room if we wished. Still felt pretty silly, though.

After getting Luke in bed just after 7, DH and I sat down and did the math on what kind of tickets we wanted to buy. We only had one day each on our old tickets, which was not going to be enough. Once we got the whole new ticketing system sorted out and crunched the numbers (it should not take 2 engineers an hour to figure this out!), we decided that we didn't want to wait in line Thursday morning, so DH stayed behind with the sleeping child to do his baseball draft while Mom and I headed back to Downtown Disney (and guest relations) to get tickets. We also decided to scout out The World of Disney (the largest Disney store in the world) to see what they had. After all, if you can buy it at Downtown, there is no sense in purchasing the same item in the parks and having to lug it around all day. I picked up a shirt for Luke to wear Thursday and a set of blinky ears for myself (many of you know I collect things that blink; how could I NOT have a set of mouse ears that blink?!). A few other this and that's, but we did really well, and we were back at the hotel by 10. (BTW, we got a 10% discount at the World of Disney store with our AAA card. If they don't offer it to you, ask!) Mom went to bed, DH and I prepped the backpacks for a full day at the parks (including *4* diapers), and turned in.

Tune in tomorrow for the rundown on our first day at the parks: The Magic Kingdom! Link: Disney 2007 Trip Report, Chapter 3

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Good news? I'm all ears.

Or, more precisely, Luke is. We interrupt your regularly scheduled Disney trip report for the following news bulletin:

Luke's hearing test this morning was completely NORMAL!!! Dead on normal, in every single category. Which might explain why his language skills have been increasing by leaps and bounds in the last few weeks. He finally started using two word phrases right around the beginning of the month, and he seems to be picking up several new words each week. She said that is probably due simply to him finally being able to hear properly. She wants us to continue with speech therapy (or, more precisely, start it in a month as scheduled), then see us back in three months. If he shows language improvement and has a repeat normal hearing exam, we won't have to go back for six months to a year (depending on his progress). Yay!!

Currently feeling: absolutely thrilled!

Monday, March 26, 2007

Disney 2007 Trip Report, Chapter 1

To pick up where I intended to be around this time last week, I give you the first installment (of about 5) of our Disney 2007 trip report.

March 13-14: Departure and Arrival

Tuesday turned out to be a more interesting day than I expected. See, my boss lives in Orlando, so he and I had never met. But since I go to Disney every year, I figured that would be the perfect time for us to actually see each other face to face. Way back in the first week of January when I bought the Braves tickets and booked the hotel reservations, he and I decided to meet for dinner in Orlando on Wednesday. Great plan, right? And we confirmed that plan the week prior to us leaving for Florida. Except that he was informed by his wife the weekend before that he would be visiting his sons in Atlanta that week! So Rick arrived in Atlanta late Monday, which only gave us time to have lunch on Tuesday before we departed for Disney. What a whirlwind! But he is just as lovely a man in person as he is on the phone. We hit it off great and chatted all through lunch at Red Lobster, barely even discussing work (we talked theme parks instead!). I am grateful that we were finally able to meet up, since we found the following Monday that he will no longer be my boss as of April 1 (he is being transferred to a different department).

Anyway, 4 PM came on Tuesday, and we departed for Florida more or less on schedule. We also discovered that traffic is significantly better when leaving for Disney on a Tuesday afternoon than a Friday afternoon. What a difference! We decided to stop at the Golden Corral on 75 just south of the 675 merge, since we knew Luke would eat there. He didn't eat as much "real food" as we would have liked, but he did keep us entertained with dessert. DH got himself a cupcake (chocolate with chocolate icing and sprinkles), and Luke insisted on trying it. We laughed until we cried! He was only interested in the icing and sprinkles; I don't think he even got a crumb of cake. And he certainly didn't want to touch it. Take a look:

We did have to make a diaper change stop on the way to my parents' house (our intermediate stop to pick up my mother (a.k.a. Nana; I will probably use Mom and Nana interchangeably)). We decided that instead of carrying the diaper bag, we would move all diaper bag items to an easier-to-carry-for-hours-on-end backpack. As we were leaving the rest stop, Luke *insisted* on carrying the backpack (which was too heavy for him, so DH had to hold it by the top handle so he didn't tip over; and no, I didn't have my camera!). I could see this being a recurring theme throughout our trip, so I called my mother with a strange "emergency" request: please run to Wal-Mart and pick up a Luke-sized backpack! I had no idea what we would put in it, but I knew it would prevent some meltdowns. She did so good! Check this out (is this not the cutest!):

We had a pretty good night once we finally got to my parents' house just before 11 PM. Luke slept until 7, and we were on the road just before 9 on Wednesday. And so began the day of errors, issues, and mishaps (but truth be told, of all the days to have such things go wrong, better Wednesday than Thurs, Fri, or Sat). Luke was understandably tired of being in the car, and at age 2, there is nothing you can say to convince him that it will be way fun when you get there! All he knows is that he spent 5-6 hours in the car Tuesday, and less than 10 hours later, he is back in his car seat, albeit with Nana in the back seat to keep him company. We didn't make it as far as we'd hoped before having to stop for lunch at Cracker Barrel between St. Augustine and Daytona; Luke was just too cranky.

He ate pretty well (shrimp), and he really enjoyed the rocking chairs outside. For those unfamiliar with the set-up of Cracker Barrel restaurants, it has a wide sidewalk next to the parking lot, then a row of bushes, then a wide front porch set with rocking chairs near the wall of the building. We said bye to the chairs (a method to keep him from fussing when it is time to leave some place), and turned to leave. And Luke took off like a shot, running full steam for the parking lot, with an SUV driving up to the front of the restaurant. Nana was the closest to the parking lot and took off after him, hoping to grab him by the arm before he reached the asphalt. She didn't quite reach him in time, grabbing his shoulder instead just as he stepped off the sidewalk. Thank God the SUV stopped, but now we had a different problem. (It is amazing how many things have time to run through your head in a literal split-second.) He was falling in mid-air, and her grabbing his shoulder had tilted him backwards, causing the back of his skull to be heading right for the edge of the sidewalk. Had his head struck, we would probably have been heading to the hospital instead of Disney. Thankfully, his butt hit the asphalt first, absorbing most of the impact, and his head barely tapped the concrete sidewalk (didn't even leave a red mark) since she still had hold of his shoulder. Don't get me wrong, I have no doubt that it hurt. He fell a good 2-3 feet before he hit the ground, but he did strike the most well-padded part of his body, and even though Mom's fingers left bruises on his shoulder (better than a skull fracture or squashed child!), I'm sure the whole thing just scared him more than anything. It sure scared the @#$% out of rest of us!

We all pile back in the car (after a combination of lots of stern lecturing and hugs), and it's off to Disney! According to DH, the car was very very quiet during those 2 hours, since 3 of the 4 occupants were asleep. I woke up just as we were coming into Orlando (Disney is on the far side of the city as you head West from Daytona on I-4). We arrived at the hotel between 1 and 2 PM (I don't remember precisely). I knew we were a bit early for check-in, but we may as well try it. The worst thing that can happen is that the rooms aren't ready and we'll go hang out for a while at Downtown Disney. Or so I thought.

This is the same hotel we almost always stay at when we visit (Country Inn and Suites on Apopka-Vineland Road, for anyone curious). I can tell you for sure that we have stayed there at least 5 of our previous 8 visits, including last year. Since I knew Luke and Mom would be going with us, I intentionally booked early so I could get two one-bedroom suites. EARLY! As in January 6. So imagine my shock when I walk up to the counter and say "Checking in, last name Gaston," only to be greeted with the response of "could the reservation be under some other name?"

I beg your pardon? Um, no, really can't be under some other name. I did give my maiden name for them to try (since my credit card lists my current full legal name: first, maiden, last; maybe they got confused?), but no go. I explained that I made the reservation online back in January. "Do you have your confirmation?" It just so happened that I had printed it Tuesday afternoon, right before we walked out the door, "just in case." In case of what? This exact occurrence! Bless my father for teaching me to do such things. I had jumped out of the car as soon as we pulled up, so Mom, DH, and Luke were just walking up to the hotel as I walked back to the car. They gave me quizzical looks, to which I responded only "don't make me have to kill someone!" LOL (It's a little funny now; it SO was not funny at the time.) I came back with the confirmation, explaining to the guy (who was looking rather fearful for his life, and rightfully so) that we stay here every year, and that I had made a point to book early this year so that we would have two of the right kind of room. When DH walked in, the guy even recognized us! (Either of us separately are not overly memorable, but for some reason, the two of us together people tend to recall.) I thought he looked familiar when I came in. His name is Carlos. Very pleasant guy. But still, our reservation was no where to be found. Apparently, it never came through the internet system to their hotel. Great, here we are, confirmation in hand, and no record of it anywhere else. Inside, I am seething, but I have still managed to stay externally calm (if a more-stern version of my usually-pleasant self). So, Carlos, what can you do for me?

Turns out that they do, by some miracle, have a one-bedroom suite available for all three nights (Wed, Thurs, Fri). But only one. They try to offer me a kids' suite, which has part of the room partitioned off with bunk beds and its own television and X-box (with free games). That would have been great, if Luke was 8 years old, but not 2. We need a room with a *door* that we can close, so that the adults can do things like shower or go out and are not confined to their room with the child that goes to bed at 7 PM. They do have a regular 2-bed room available, but we didn't want that because Jacob (who was coming up Thursday night) has trouble sleeping with my mother's snoring. But given the available options, or lack there of, we took the regular room and the one suite, knowing Jacob would be able to handle it for a couple of nights, even if the situation wasn't ideal. Small price to pay to spend some time with his favorite (did I mention only) nephew. And of course, only my mom's room is ready. The suite is still being cleaned. So we dump everything in her room, change Luke's diaper, and head to Downtown Disney.

In our next installment, the continued misadventures of our arrival in Orlando. Here is a link: Disney 2007 Trip Report, Chapter 2

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Shadow: 1998-2007

Currently feeling: empty

Shadow update; not good

She was looking pretty bad, so we went on and took her to the emergency vet. It's like deja vu from what we had 9 years ago with her sister when they were kittens (who died from multiple organ failure due to severe dehydration from a parasitic infection; Shadow managed to survive). She is severely dehydrated (down to 5.5 pounds from about 9), probably due to her kidneys, and they suspect her pancreas as well. Her temp was at 97 (instead of normal of about 101) when they arrived, and even with fluids, it has continued to fall. They do not know the cause.

We decided to keep her overnight. They said it has probably been going on for longer than a week (i.e. didn't happen while we were gone, it just became more pronounced), but since we see her every day, it was hard to tell she was losing weight and slowing down little by little. The treatments will help with any pain she might be in, and it gives her the only chance of recovery (which is slim right now). Mainly, they will buy us time to get Luke to daycare and her to her regular vet in the morning, to see what possibilities there are, but most likely all that can be done will be for us to say goodbye. My heart is just breaking right now. I feel like we failed her.

Currently feeling: shattered

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Need some good furbaby thoughts, if you have some to spare

This is not at all what I thought I'd be posting tonight. I thought it would be the first installment of our Disney recap. Instead, one of our four cats, Shadow, seems to be sick. Now she is the most sensitive to our being gone for long periods (almost a week, in this case), but our cat sitter (who checked on them every other day, with our permission) just told us that they found her on Saturday with her paws caught in her collar. She couldn't move or anything, and there was no telling how long she had been like that. (Obviously, she was fine when we left Tuesday.) They said she ate and drank some right after they unhooked her, and walked out of the room fine. She was there to greet us when we came home yesterday, but we didn't see much of her last night. We thought she was just sulking because we had been gone. She has lost a good bit of weight, she isn't walking well, and she is not voluntarily moving very much. She has an appointment for 9:30 tomorrow morning at the vet, and we will monitor her throughout the night.

She is our oldest kitty. We got her less than 2 months after we got married, and we think she was born right around the day we got married. She survived intestinal parasites (that her sister did not) as a kitten. And she is *definitely* DH's cat. She is his "baby girl." She is queen bee of the house, and she keeps the others in line, even when they want to pick on the "new kitty." Please, if you have any good thoughts to spare for her, we'd all really appreciate it.

Currently feeling: worried about my kitty

Monday, March 19, 2007

A Disney Success!

We're back, and we had a *fabulous* time! Full details to come over the next several days, but here are a few pictures for you until then:

Currently feeling: totally Disney!