Tuesday, March 31, 2009

March 2009 Round Up

Created using Big Huge Labs Mosaic Maker.
Click mosaic to biggify, or see my March 2009 Project 365 Posts.

What books and/or magazines did I read this month?
Maybe I should just take this question off the list....

What movies and/or tv shows did I watch this month?
Mostly the usual. Still watching Dollhouse, and it is getting better. More Joss-like, which is good. Dancing With the Stars started back this month, and we started watching the new show that comes on after it: Castle. Stars Nathan Fillion, and we really like it! So do my parents, which means it is very likely to get cancelled. ::sigh:: Let's see how it goes. We also got Bolt on Blu-ray, and Luke is enjoying it immensely.

What special days did I celebrate and how?
I really don't remember any.

What gifts did I give and/or receive?
My friend Shalini made a fob for me at my request, so she gave me the gift of her time and skills. A couple of small things from Disney for a few people. Nothing big.

What illnesses or health concerns did I have?
March was actually a good month, mostly. Luke's fingers healed nicely, though he did run a pretty high fever early in the month. He hasn't been sick again since, but the ENT says he might need another set of tubes due to chronic fluid on the ears.

What fun things did I do with my friends and/or family?
We went to Disney World! LOL

What new foods, recipes or restaurants did I try this month?
A few new restaurants, actually, but all at Disney. We tried the Liberty Tree Tavern at MK, the San Angel Inn Cantina in Mexico at Epcot, and T-Rex and Planet Hollywood at Downtown.

What special or unusual purchases did I make?
Just the usual, even at Disney. Oh, wait, we did get drums for Guitar Hero.

What were this month's disappointments?
Our last day at Disney was a disaster, which I found hugely disappointing.

What were my accomplishments this month?
Knocked off 3 more items from the 101 List.
* 37. Ride a new roller coaster. (Expedition Everest)
* 41. Take a long trip to Disney World (6 or more consecutive days in FL).
* 56. Take Luke to play miniature golf.

Number 37 was a carryover from my previous list, but I will admit that once I added 41, I figured Everest would be the one to fulfill that requirement. I had not intended to do 56 at Disney. There is a safari themed course not too far from here that I thought would be the one, but when the opportunity presented itself during our trip, it seemed silly not to go on and do it.

Project 365 continues to go well. I actually managed not to miss a day in March, which was nice.

We also had several big projects complete at work. One had been a problem child since day 1 and was quite a slog to drag through, so we're all thrilled that one is over. Another was an expedite that we pulled through in 75 days instead of the usual 120 or so. A good month at work, really, in terms of completions. We're still waiting for that flood of new work we have been promised since December.

What were Luke's accomplishments this month?

Luke was as good as gold for our entire Disney trip. I was *so* proud of him and his behavior. He did get a little whiny at the end, but that was to be expected given how tired we all were. Other than that, he was extremely well behaved! And he *loved* Expedition Everest, so we officially have a roller coaster junkie on our hands. And then we got home. And the lying started. He is lying about little things for no reason, like he didn't get any orange juice when I just watched him drink half a glass of it. Why?! If he was lying to get out of being in trouble, I might could understand (not like it, but understand). But this? For no reason at all? It is driving me crazy.

Anything else noteworthy to record?
Can't think of anything at the moment.

Monthly Round Up courtesy of Katie the Scrapbook Lady.

Currently feeling: mouse-ified in March

Monday, March 30, 2009

Disney 2009, Day 8: The Studios, Round 2

Sorry this took so long to finish up! And not many photos at all (I know that makes some of you happy and some of you disappointed). Let me put it this way: other than at the stunt show, I took 3 pictures all day, and one of them was of our parking lot row designation. It was a rough day, as you will see.

Saturday, our last day in Orlando for this year. We were set to spend a half-day at the Studios and then head back to my parents' house. But first, we had to load the car, which was an experience. We didn't want to leave anything that looked valuable in the interior of the car, but cramming everything in the trunk (even minus the food that we had eaten) was tough. DH finally managed to get it all in, bless him, with only the coolers left inside the car. Then we headed out to the park, arriving after 10 AM.

I would have been really upset at the timing of it all, but we had discovered a kink in the plan the day before. We had done the car stunt show already, and DH *really* wanted to take Luke to see the Indiana Jones stunt show, so we intended to catch the earliest Indy stunt show on Saturday, usually a 10:30 showtime. However, when I was looking at the time schedules Thursday night, I realized that the Studios time sheet I had picked up on Sunday only covered Sunday-Tuesday. So Friday, I picked up a new one, which showed the Indiana Jones venue hosting a cheerleading competition, so no stunt show at all. I was so upset! We had been so careful with the plan, trying to make sure we got it all in, and now this. Time for Plan B. Mom and I would hit the Rockin' Roller Coaster while DH took Luke to grab Toy Story Mania fast passes and then do Star Tours. Depending on fast pass return times, we would then either do lunch and then Toy Story Mania (TSM) or vice versa. I expected a 30-ish minute stand-by time for Rockin' Roller Coaster (RRC), so that should work great.

Except that there were people *everywhere.* I don't remember the last time we saw the parks so busy. DH had managed to convince me the previous night that all the cheer people would be at the event, so the park should not really be any busier. NOT! I should have known better, but I guess I wanted to believe that, so I blocked out my higher reasoning. Now, if I had bothered to think things through, I would have realized at this point that our original plan was absolutely NOT going to work under these circumstances. TSM is a brand new ride, the newest one at WDW, I think. *Everyone* would want to ride it. Plus, more people are eligible to ride TSM than RRC because there is no height restriction. Hello, the line for TSM is going to be *much* longer than RRC and they would be giving out more fast passes, so we should have gotten RRC fast passes and done TSM first! All I can do is blame it on exhaustion. I hadn't slept well, I was tired to the bone, we had been at this for a week, and my brain just was not functioning properly.

Consequently, we decided to go with the RRC-first plan, so Mom and I handed over our tickets (so DH could get the TSM fast passes), and we split up, only to find that the stand-by line for RRC had an hour wait. I call DH, but he insists that we go on and ride. The line is long and noisy and out in the sun, and just crawling. Ten minutes in, we are just to the point of the queue that has walls around it, so it would be difficult to turn back, when DH calls. TSM is giving out fast passes for 4:15 PM. (Remember, it is about 10:20 AM.) No good, we'll be gone by then. Okay, we'll get out of line, grab RRC fast passes (being given out for like 12:30 or something), and come get in the TSM stand-by line. "No, don't. It has a 90 minute wait. Just stay there." Plus, there was the little problem of DH having our tickets, so we couldn't get any fast passes anyway, and TSM and RRC are about as far from each other as you can get, so DH couldn't just run them over to us. He somehow convinced me to stay in line and do RRC, then meet them to ride TSM (hoping they would be down to a 60 minute or less wait by then), followed by lunch. I agree, but I am just miserably upset to the point of tears. I'm hot, I'm tired, there are about a zillion too many people, nothing is going according to plan, and I am not having *any* fun.

Another 20-25 minutes go by. We are not even inside the building yet. I remember all of the internal queueing they have room for, and I wonder if they have it open or not, but I suspect so. I hope Luke and DH are having some fun on Star Tours. We are way too far into the queue (up a concrete ramp, a good 20 feet in the air, no way to get down) to turn back when they come on the intercom. "Due to technical difficulties, the wait time for this ride may be longer than was indicated when you entered the stand-by line." I nearly burst into tears (I think a few actually leaked out; I know I had to get the tissue out of Mom's backpack), but there was really nothing to do but wait at that point. I texted DH to let him know that we really had no idea how long this would take and that we could try and fight our way out of the queue, but he kept insisting they were fine and for us to stay. He also was not directly answering my questions (like "what are you going to do while you wait" and "is Luke having fun"), so I should have known something was up. Again, I can only blame tiredness.

Then we got into the building and realized that most of the internal queueing was gone! They were using that for fast pass and single rider line entry, so pretty much, once you are inside, you have to wait for 1-2 batches of people (you watch a little movie before you get to the actual ride), and that's it. We walked *off* the ride 50 minutes after we entered the queue. I absolutely could not believe it. (RRC still totally rocks and is still my favorite Disney coaster. And all I could think for most of the ride was "I cannot WAIT until I can take Luke on this!") I texted DH that we were off, but it was after 11 AM, so we revised the plan. Eat lunch, then go get in line for Toy Story Mania and wait in it, no matter how long the stand-by wait time is. We go for the old stand-by, the Backlot. DH was even kind enough to remind me to take a picture of something I had forgotten to go back and photograph during our first day at the Studios. I imagine there are more of these around at the other various parks, but this is the only one I have ever noticed. And I couldn't help but smile at the latitude/longitude marked Mickey icon that *I* remember from my own childhood.

It wasn't until we sat down to eat that DH told me what had happened while we were doing RRC. I asked how many times they rode Star Tours, and DH was forced to confess. "None. Luke said he didn't want to." So let me get this straight, you two just sat around for nearly an hour and waited for us to get off RRC? I was so mad, I could hardly see straight. That was so NOT the point! We should have been doing *something* fun, either separate or together. If you weren't going to do a ride or a show while you waited, you should have said so, and we would have gotten out of line. It would not have been the end of the world. DH is looking pretty sheepish at this point, and I knew there was more. Spill it! Turns out that when I texted him to say that we thought the wait was going to be longer than they originally said, DH took Luke to get in line at TSM. He knew I would be upset if they didn't ride anything while I was over at RRC (smart husband!), and he knew I would not begrudge the two of them doing TSM, even if I ended up missing it. So they had a snack and got in line for TSM, thinking they would probably be close to getting on the ride by the time we got off (posted wait time was 75 minutes by this point). They hadn't been in line 5 minutes when I called to say we were done on RRC, so he convinced Luke to get out of line, *promising* we would come back after lunch. I had so many different emotions going through me at that point, I didn't know what to do. He wanted me to ride RRC, because he knew how much I loved it. He knew I would be upset if they didn't ride something while they waited, so he tried to make that happen, knowing it might cost me a chance to ride TSM. He was trying to do something nice for his son, and ended up ripping him out of line (though Luke was taking it remarkably well, hanging onto the promise that DH had made to do it later). I felt like the worst mom/wife in the world by this point. (Little did I know....) We ate, and then we all but ran across the park to Toy Story Mania. We had made a promise, and we were going to keep it!

But there were cast members standing out front. "We're sorry folks. Toy Story Mania is closed right now due to technical difficulties. Please come back later this afternoon." The doors were closed and everything. There were no fast passes left (not that it would have mattered, since they would have been for late evening even if there had been some). I simply could not believe it. All this time, all the waiting, all the planning, and now, at the last minute, we were going to have to break our promise to our son. I was absolutely heartbroken. What a crappy day this was turning out to be! I was probably even more upset about it than Luke, who was not happy, but he was doing okay all things considered. Now what? Do we just leave? No, I refused to leave without Luke getting to do *something* he enjoyed. We were already on the back side of the park, and there was a 1:30 Lights Motor Action stunt show. It was about 1 PM by now, so we headed that way. Got some more good pictures thanks to the DSLR and the mega-zoom lens. Some action shots of the cars:

I am especially proud of these motorcycle shots:

Some jet ski action (he swings on that thing to get from the asphalt to the jet ski):

And everyone loves fire, whether people or explosions (I was just a fraction of a second too late on the shutter, darn it!):

After that, we headed out. Luke was tired and whiny, and he wanted to be picked up. We refused, since DH had done a good bit of carrying him on his shoulders, particularly for the last couple of days. "You're a big boy, you can walk." A few minutes later, I think he tripped or something. I don't remember; there was some kind of meltdown as we were trying to leave the stunt show. DH finally relented and put him on his shoulders. We took 3-4 steps up the sidewalk, and Luke started *screaming* like he had been stung or something. DH puts him down, and it takes a few minutes to figure out what had happened amid the hysterics. It may have been March, but spring had not quite come to the Studios Streets of America. Consequently, there was a tree on the sidewalk with no leaves on the branches. We were so tired and focused on trying to leave and avoiding any further meltdowns, DH had walked too close to the tree and one of the branches had scratched Luke's face. (I am convinced that if the tree had had leaves, that probably would not have happened, but it was a slender tree, and without leaves, the branches sort of blended into the background.) It was barely pink, but it was close to Luke's eye. I'm sure it hurt, but I also think it scared him as much as anything. Great. Just great. I think it is past time to leave for this trip, don't you?

But I really didn't want to leave on that kind of note. I wanted to try and get in one more thing, so we went up the Streets of America and to the right. Since he had enjoyed the Philharmagic movie so much, I thought we might just have a chance to slip into Muppet-3D before we left. We rounded the corner, and saw a line of 40+ people sticking out the door! I have never, in all my life, seen a line out the door for the Muppet 3D movie. EVER! I could not possibly have been more shocked. Nor could I possibly have felt more like a failure. Pretty much just a rotten day all the way around, and not at all the way I wanted to end the trip, but there wasn't much else to be done about it by this point. We trudged out to the car, climbed in, and almost gratefully left Disney for 2009.

For the third straight year, Luke slept all the way to Jacksonville, but woke up right at dinnertime (there is a particular curve on the interstate that wakes him up every time), so we had to stop and eat without making it that last hour to Brunswick. Oh well. We got in, put a nearly exhausted Luke to bed, and turned in ourselves. We snuck in a little Guitar Hero Sunday morning, then left after lunch (at Spanky's, a local favorite) and arrived home to three very excited kitties.

So, overall, a truly excellent trip, except for the last day. And I have to say, Luke was as good as gold the entire time. That's not to say that he didn't require some discipline from time to time (usually for being too wild or too loud (yes, even at Disney!)), but other than when we were leaving on Saturday, there were no meltdowns of any kind, and we only got close when we broke our own rules (no nap or late snack). 99% of the time, he was an angel. We really could not have asked for better. We did lots of new things, we rode new rides, and we had a ball.

In hindsight, I will say that, for us, the trip was about one day too long. We either needed to stop at 6 park days with only one off day, or we needed an extra off day. 7 days with only one "day of rest" was too much for us. I know there are people and families who can manage to go "Disney Commando" for 7 days straight from park open to park close with no naps, even with little kids (hi Laura! LOL), but we are just not those people. We managed well with naps and a day off, and we had a great time. And there are still new things to be done on our next visit. We know next year may be the last time we have the luxury of going during early March (Luke will be in Kindergarten in 2011), and we intend to make the most of it. Probably not a whole week, but we will try to hit every park, and we *will* do Toy Story Mania and Indiana Jones if at all humanly possible. That's two primary targets for our 2010 Studios day already. What should be our secondary targets? Hmmm....

Please excuse me, I think I need to start planning our 2010 trip!

Currently feeling: all done

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Disney 2009, Day 7: Magic Kingdom, Round 3

Where else would we spend our final full day at the parks but at the Magic Kingdom. Again? Yes, again. What could we possibly have left to do? Plenty! A few old favorites, of course, but still plenty of things that Luke had never done, and even a few that I've never managed! Plus there was still that bit of unfinished business from a few days before: Space Mountain. Space Mountain will be going down soon for a major overhaul. Installation of a gate system in the loading area is at the top of the list, or so I hear. Rumors also indicate a complete overhaul of the track and path of the ride. Basically, it won't be the same anymore, so I wanted to be sure and ride it at some point on this visit. But what would DH and Luke do while Mom and I rode? DH had the perfect solution: The Tomorrowland Speedway!

It didn't occur to me until after we split up that I hadn't sent DH with a camera, so I was going to miss Luke's first time ever behind the wheel of a car! Thank goodness for camera phones. And thank goodness my husband knew I would be very upset not to have any photos of the event. He managed to snap these for me.

Mom and I made it through the 20+ minute wait at Space Mountain. I have to say, while I'm nostalgic for a couple of the fun tunnel effects, the rest of the ride is really ready for an overhaul. It was much rougher than I remember, almost like they had tried to speed it up some but the track just wasn't designed for it. The turns are just too sharp. I'm glad we rode, so I would remember, but I hope the refurbishment improves the experience some. We texted DH when we got off, and he told us to meet him at the Speedway. Apparently, the line wasn't very long (it is usually insane!), and he knew I wanted pictures, so he was willing to take Luke again. Of course Luke was all for that! I took up position just after the start of the course, and Mom took the other camera a little farther around the curve. As I was waiting for them to appear, I remembered that the very last curve of the track is visible from over in Fantasyland, near the teacups. I picked up the backpack and all but ran for the other side of the track, where I managed to get a few more good ones.

After that, it was time for one last turn on Buzz before departing Tomorrowland for this year. We actually got in two turns, one with Luke and DH together, and one with Luke and Mom together.

We did hit the Starlight again for lunch. They have enough variety that we didn't have to repeat a meal if we didn't want. We also ate in the room with Cosmic Ray performing this time, which Luke really didn't like. I don't know what that was about. Anyway, we were all pretty tired, so we decided to go on and leave for nap. We had plans for several new things that afternoon, and we wanted to be well rested.

First up was the teacups, something Mom really wanted to do with Luke (who had never done it before). I will say that this is the only ride I can think of at Disney that I am uncomfortable riding due to my size, so I let the three of them ride while I took photos from the side. Mom took some pictures from "inside." Obviously, Luke loved it, and you almost never see DH laugh like that.

And I even got some video:

Photo Sharing - Video Sharing - Photo Printing

Luke wanted to ride again, so we let Luke and Mom have a turn alone.

Then we hit Mickey's Philharmagic, which is one of the best 4D movies (3D glasses plus other effects). DH and I did it 5 years ago when it was pretty much brand new, and really enjoyed it. (I remember it was 5 years ago because we were looking for things that I could do even though I was pregnant!) We had taken Luke to the Muppet 3D show at MGM last year, but I don't think he really "got it," especially because he didn't want to wear the glasses. It wasn't worth the fight, so we just let him be. I really thought he was ready for this one, though, being another year older, plus he is much more familiar with the classic Disney characters now that we have spent much of the last year watching Mickey Mouse Club House (he really has no idea who the Muppets are; how sad). He had a great time! Once I saw him reaching out towards the screen, I knew it was a hit with him.

Then it was time to fulfill a wish. Every time we walked through Fantasyland, Luke begged to ride "the elephants." I don't know that he's ever seen Dumbo (it's not one of my favorites), but he really wanted to do it. The line wasn't too bad, and it is right across from Philharmagic, and Luke had never done it before. May as well. Mom and I stood by to take pictures (hers actually turned out way better than mine) while DH and Luke rode.

For dinner, we did Pinocchio's Village Haus, also right there in Fantasyland. They serve pizza, so we were good to go. Just one little problem. Since Mom got her braces, she can't really do pizza. She can eat the cheese and toppings, but Disney pizzas aren't exactly known for their wealth of topping, something I had not considered when selecting that location for dinner. She mentioned turkey wrap from the Starlight (that I had gotten for lunch during an earlier visit). She could chop up the "innards" and make a salad out of it, but we had just eaten there for lunch, and she didn't want us all to have to eat there. She tried to convince us that she would be fine, but I wasn't having it. DH went to get the wrap while we ordered pizza. I got Luke a kid's pizza, which was a mistake. He ate all of his and over half of mine! (DH's was veggie, which Luke wanted no part of.) We pop into the Village Haus on almost every visit to Disney, even if only for drinks and a snack. The environment is always pleasantly cool, and the interior is well themed:

But the best part is the windows that look out onto it's a small world, right where the boats launch.

We were sitting at the table to the right in the above photo (behind the lady in green). I took pictures to prove that he did eat the apples again! LOL And he had a blast waving to the boats as they launched. Most of the time, at least one person would wave back. Sometimes no one did, but he never got discouraged, and you should have seen the look on his face when he got a whole boat full to wave. It was great fun to watch.

With that, Luke was dying to ride the "train roller coaster," aka Big Thunder Mountain. We had to go through Liberty Square to get there, and I was hoping to ride the paddle wheeler. Every year, I say I am going to ride it, and every year, something comes up. This year, it closed about 30 minutes before we arrived. Mom and I were also hoping to do Tom Sawyer's Island, something I don't think any of us have done in all our visits to Disney over the years, but it was set to close very soon, and I didn't want to have to rush, so we skipped that, too. Mom *really* wanted to try Splash Mountain and take Luke, which was fine with me, except that he only had one pair of shoes that would not dry by the next day, and I did *not* want him walking around in wet shoes, not even for half a day. We put all of that on our "next year" list, and headed for the mountain.

When we arrived, the wait time showed a 50 minute stand-by line. Yikes! The fast passes were being handed out for 40 minutes from then, which seemed really silly, but okay. We picked up FPs, but we needed something to kill time. Not really much that is quick to do in the area, except maybe the Country Bear Jamboree. It was less than 10 minutes to showtime. That was just enough time to catch it and then come back for our fast passes. No pictures, sorry, and I'm not sure Luke quite knew what to make of it. Still, it passed the time without us having to entertain the child, and it was back to the mountain, where we rode 5 straight times! Well, Mom and Luke did. I got jerked pretty hard on the second ride and it made my hip hurt (most of me slid in the seat, but my foot didn't slide with it, so my hip torqued strangely), so I sat out rides 3 and 4.

It was nearing closing, and we had already seen the fireworks, so I wanted us to try and leave as they started, hopefully using our favorite "sneak through Adventureland" trick. I did need to stop at the restroom before we left, though, and it ended up costing us dearly.

The fireworks started before I got out (Mom took those while they waited for me), which wasn't a big deal. Most everyone was at a standstill, and we just kept walking around, intending to land hop from Frontierland straight to Adventureland. Except that there was a cast member standing at the entrance to Adventureland. "I'm sorry, ma'am, but Adventureland is closed. If you wish to exit the park, you will need to go through Liberty Square." I nearly fainted. You want me to do what?! Anyone very familiar with the layout of the Magic Kingdom knows why I was upset by this. For those not so familiar, allow me to explain.

The park is set up in a "hub and spoke" design. There is a center hub, with the various lands set up as satellites around the outside. To get to your destination, you can walk the outer circle that connects land to land (Fantasyland to Liberty Square to Frontierland, what I call "land hopping") or you can go from one land, down a spoke, through the hub, and up a different spoke to a new land. Not every land has a spoke, though. Frontierland does not. The only way out of Frontierland is either through Adventureland which dumps you out practically on Main Street (that's why I like going that way), or through Liberty Square which connects either to Fantasyland or has a spoke to the hub that dumps you out right in front of the castle! You know, as far away from Main Street (aka the exit) as possible, and right in the middle of the fireworks chaos, the absolute LAST place you want to be when the show is over. I was furious. I suppose we could have walked all the way around from Frontierland to Tomorrowland (*all* the way around the perimeter of the park) and cut through the Terrace to try and hit Main Street that way, but I wasn't sure we would make it in time, and even if we did, who was to say that there wouldn't be another cast member somewhere telling us that some other land was also closed.

By the time we got to Liberty Square, I knew we would never make it all the way around, even if we wanted to attempt it. There were people *everywhere,* and the hub was so packed, there was no point in trying to thread our way through. So we just stood on the Liberty Square spoke bridge, watching and waiting. Luke was happy to see the fireworks by the castle, but I was still very much annoyed. The show ended, and the crush started. I had forgotten that Mom doesn't like situations like that very much, otherwise we would have just stood on the bridge for a while and waited for the bulk of the crowd to pass, but I didn't think of it, and by the time I did, we were too much in the thick of things to get out. People stopping their double-decker strollers in the middle of the crowd and just *standing* there certainly didn't help any. It was just insane, and I learned my lesson. If we are ever again caught during the mass exodus, we will stop and wait. It took nearly 70 minutes for us to exit the park, and I don't know how much longer to get on the ferry. I think we waited for 2 boats and made the 3rd one. I was hot (no breeze with that may people), I was tired, and I was very grumpy, all while trying not to get crushed. And oh yeah, we still had to pack! (Note to self: on our next week-long trip, be sure "packing time" is a specific item on the schedule.) Not the best ending for our last night at the park, but overall, still a very good day. Half a day Saturday at the Studios, and then we would head home.

Next up, our last park visit; Disney 2009, Day 8: Studios, Round 2.
Currently feeling: almost there!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Disney 2009, Day 6: Sports Day

Ah, Thursday, our "day off," so to speak. We had 7 nights at the hotel and 7 days of the park. That meant that we would spend at least part of 8 days in Florida (6 whole days, plus arrival and departure days). We only had two choices for games for the week we planned to go, Sunday or Thursday. Now, there were three good reasons to choose Thursday. 1) Weekend games are always much busier. 2) We didn't have to upset Luke by going to one park for half a day, then not going to a park at all the next day. And 3) It gave us a built-in break. As previously mentioned, we usually only spend 2-3 days in the parks. By Thursday, we would have done 4 whole days and a partial in the parks, quite a bit more than normal, and I knew we would be very tired. It seemed only logical to build in a break, and what better day than game day.

But we do have a 4-year-old, and they don't seem to appreciate the whole "sleeping in" concept. We did get to sleep until about 8 AM, and then Luke was ready to be up and at 'em. Another perk that came with our package was a free round of miniature golf, again one per package, so that got 2 people in, and we paid for the other two. When we first booked our trip, I had no idea when we would get to play, but later I realized that it made complete sense to do it in the morning before the game.

Plus, it had the added benefit of being something I had never done at Disney! It was also something that Luke had never done at all. He's just now old enough that I thought he could do it without killing someone or breaking some windows. I just hated that my father wasn't with us to see it (my father has been an avid golfer since childhood, until some recent health issues). It wasn't until after we arrived that it dawned on me that playing mini golf is something that DH and I had never ever done together. How is that possible?! We've known each other for 15 years as of this fall (I nearly fainted when I did that calculation; we met in college in September 1994, but didn't start dating until April 1995).

On the advice of several folks, we chose the Fantasia Gardens course. Kelli's comment reminded me to tell you how hard it was to find!It is located near the Swan and Dolphin. Signage is poor, and even when we got to the parking lot, we were not sure we were in the right place. Then I spotted the golfing sorcerer Mickey topiary. They actually have two courses, one that is more like a serious putting green and one that is Fantasia themed with all the wacky hills and ramps and tunnels. Of course, we chose the actual Fantasia themed one. We were handed some clubs (they chose perfectly for us; not their first time, I expect), we chose our balls, and we were off!

Here is DH at the start of the first hole. We kept score for the adults, but not for Luke. No sense in ruining the fun of the experience by making him adhere strictly to the rules. Here he is, trying to get the ball into the cup on his first ever mini golf hole.

I didn't have any such difficulty. ::insert smug grin here::

Yes, folks, that is my hole-in-one on the first hole of the course. Awesome! No skill, really, just luck in this case. But some skill was involved on later holes. And Dad, I was really amazed at how quickly the early putting lessons you gave me came back. It served me very well, as you will see. I tried make sure we got pictures of everyone playing, including me.

Not the most flattering picture, I know (can anyone look good with their rear end stuck out like that?), but I love it. We were having so much fun! Well, except for this one. As anyone familiar with mini golf courses can probably guess, the snowflakes were spinning as you tried to get your ball through the tunnel. Luke was not amused.

He had a lot more fun playing in the cave with Mom.

And he did eventually get a reasonable stance down for putting into the hole.

This hole caused a little consternation. Both Luke and DH had a little trouble with the water hazard.

Mom encountered a water hazard of a different sort.

See the water shooting out of the buckets? Mom triggered it accidentally. I just happened to have my camera in my hand and snapped the first shot about the time it stopped. Now, Heather did tell me to be sure someone walked on the sidewalk instead of on the green, but she didn't tell me why, and I *totally* forgot! Otherwise, I would have sent Luke on the sidewalk, not Mom (at least not without warning her). For the second shot, I let Luke run down the sidewalk to trigger it mostly without getting wet. The next hole has sorcerer Mickey conducting the brooms, and I realized that if I was careful, I could line it up properly for this shot:

I think everyone scored a hole in one on the last hole except me. Well, and Luke. Here is his first stroke. Note the arrow indicating the ball's final resting place:

Not quite. Let's try again.

Hrm. How about up the ramp!

There we go. The water effect didn't fire every time, so I missed that picture. As is customary on mini gold courses, the last hole "eats" your ball, so I don't have any photos of the other holes-in-one either. We did remember to tell Luke that so he wasn't upset, but he really wanted that ball back! As we were leaving, they handed us each a limited edition golf ball. I had no idea we would get one. Nice perk! (I would post a picture if I could find ours; I'm sure they are around.) Ah, Dad came through with a picture of Mom's:

And here's how we did:

I double checked DH's math, and Mom's score (under N for Nana) should actually be 56, not 55. (M for Mommy and D for Daddy, for anyone trying to figure out the others.) And hole 10 has an asterisk and large numbers because it was closed, so DH used it as a sub-total line. I still can't believe how well I did! I think DH was a little shocked, too. He's not used to me beating him at anything, particularly a "sport." LOL After that, we had just enough time to get to the game over at Disney's Wide World of Sports.

I liked our seats. We were in the front row of the upper deck, just to the left of home plate. Not a lick of shade up there, but if there is any breeze, you can at least catch a piece of it (unlike in the lower deck). Still, it was pretty hot up there in the direct sun.

I baked lasted about an hour before I had to retreat to the second floor concession area. We stayed until the end of the 5th inning and called it a day. We did snap this group shot on the way out (complete with my doofy big sun hat). I did manage not to get sunburned at all on this trip, though, so it was worth it.

We went back to the room and napped, I think. I can't remember now if everyone napped or just me. (There was one day that I was the only one who slept; it was either game day or Animal Kingdom day.) Couldn't sleep too long, though. We had 5:00 dinner reservations at a brand new Downtown Disney restaurant.

The T-Rex Cafe! Come on, once I learned about this restaurant, how could we *not* take Luke? It is run by the same people who own Rainforest Cafe, so we knew more or less what to expect. Here is Luke entertaining himself outside while we waited in line.

Oh yes, there was a line. A long one. Probably a good 30-40 people ahead of us, with more gathering quickly behind us. And there was no one at the Purple Elephant, sorry, wrong restaurant... the Dino Host Stand to check in with, just a flimsy hostess stand about 30 feet inside the entrance. The line was way outside and curling around the landscaping. Someone kept coming by and insisting that there were plenty of tables, but they were doing shift change, so they didn't have very many servers, so we had to wait. "Excuse me, we have 5:00 reservations, and I know most of these people don't. Is there another line we should be in?" No, ma'am, just wait here. Okay, so what was the point of making reservations if it made no difference as to when we got inside?! And who the heck schedules a shift change for a family restaurant at 5 PM?!!! They know how bad Rainforest Cafe (also at Downtown Disney) is by 5 PM. Good grief, people! It's not that hard. Did you not think the dining trends would be similar at this other restaurant you own? More likely you didn't share seating trend data across the different divisions, despite being owned by the same company and the restaurants not being 500 yards from each other, which is just stupid. It is poor planning and shoddy management. I was not a happy camper.

Then someone came down the line asking how many in our party. They explained that they were trying to figure out where in the line they would run out of tables, but kept insisting that there were still plenty available and that those of us so close to the front should not worry. The family behind us also had reservations, and they were about as ticked pleased as we were. "Excuse me, but we have 5 PM reservations, and it is already 5:15. Several families have already been seated." She said she would come back to get our names to take back to the hostess, and she did keep her word. Only by that time, we were just two families away from the hostess ourselves! I took these photos at the entrance while we waited (I *love* the solar system on the ceiling; the planets are about 3 feet (1 meter) in diameter):

We were seated around 5:25, and though I was still fuming, my anger was tempered by the delight on my son's face. It really is very amazing visually. From our side of the table, Mom and I could see this *huge* octopus hovering over the bar on the far side of the restaurant. The tentacles even moved, and the eyes rolled and blinked. We were both very impressed with the jellyfish lamps.

Closer to our seats were these mammoths, which were very impressive and lifelike (well, what I imagine they would have looked like when living).

From Luke and DH's side of the table was a good view of Luke's favorite dinosaur overhead. The wingspan on this thing was probably 10 feet or more. It was huge!

And right next to us, just over the half wall next to our table, was the Ice Room. Yes, it really was that blue! It did occasionally change color from blue to pink, and it turned red during the "meteor shower" (the T-Rex "cousin" of the storm at Rainforest).

I thought at first that it would be super cool to eat in that room. Then I had to actually walk through the room (to get to the restrooms on the far side). *Everything* was that blue. The tables, the chairs, the people, the food. It was weird, bordering on creepy, especially when it changed to pink or red. The back room had some of my favorite dinos in it like triceratops and stegosaurus, but it was mostly booths (instead of tables like the room we were in) and it was hard to really look around and see very much. I was really quite pleased with where we sat.

The food was quite good as well. Not the best, but very enjoyable. (Sorry the pictures aren't better this time.) They even brew their own sweet tea on site, something that no other Disney restaurant does, or so our server said. Having tasted the tea at many other Disney restaurants and having deemed it undrinkable, I'm not surprised. DH was brave and ordered a glass (I had a sip), and we were both impressed. Still not as good as mine, or Golden Corral's, but leaps and bounds above what you usually find down there. For meals, Luke was thrilled to have popcorn shrimp again (did you know there is no Disney park restaurant that has fried shrimp on their regular menu?). DH got the adult fried shrimp (and actually got to eat it all; Luke had plenty of his own this time), Mom got the parmesan crusted shrimp with linguini, and I got the lasagna. (Hey, I'm the only one who didn't get shrimp. I didn't realize that until I was typing it out just now!) All generous portions and quite tasty.

The only serious complaint I have (besides what happened with the seating procedure, or lack there of) is the noise level. It is flat out LOUD in there. I had heard that before we went, but I still wasn't quite prepared. Most people consider Rainforest Cafe loud; I find it noisy, but conversations with your own table and your server are easy enough. But at T-Rex Cafe? You have to speak quite loudly for your tablemates to hear you, and you and your server must nearly shout to communicate. And that's *not* during the meteor shower, which is almost deafening. Despite being the only real complaint, it really did mar the whole experience for me. I simply cannot recommend the restaurant for casual or only "mildly interested" diners. If you or your children are *huge* dinosaur junkies, then one visit is probably worthwhile (and I would still make reservations, just not for 5 PM apparently). But unless you are just absolutely dying to eat there, I'd recommend skipping it. Eat at Rainforest Cafe instead; it's just around the lake, and you can actually converse with your companions. Just my two cents.

After that, we did a little shopping, since this was to be our only visit to Downtown Disney. We hit the LEGO store, World of Disney, Once Upon a Toy, and the Pin Shop. I also managed to lose my camera. I know, right? I was at the pin store, I set it down when I put out all of my pin selections to see if I really did want to buy them all, an older gentleman struck up a conversation with me about pins, I gathered up my pins, and I walked off. Without the camera, apparently. I realized it within only a couple of minutes, but it was no longer where I had left it. I checked with each of the cashiers, and one of them had it. I was so relieved. Again, losing items, particularly very important items, is something I never do, especially when on vacation. I try to be so very careful, and here I had lost a wallet and a camera within 36 hours of each other. We then returned to the hotel. After all, we needed our sleep. We still had a whole day and a partial day left at the parks!

Next time: Disney 2009, Day 7: Magic Kingdom, Round 3.

Currently feeling: counting down, almost done