Thursday, March 31, 2011

March 2011 Round Up

Click mosaic to biggify. Created using Big Huge Labs Mosaic Maker.

What books and/or magazines did I read this month?
Finally finished The Imagineering Guide to Disney's Animal Kingdom. I've tried to get interested in at least three other books since I finished it, but nothing is holding my interest.

What movies and/or tv shows did I watch this month?
* TV Time: Dancing With the Stars has returned. Pretty straight up otherwise.
* New Films: The Karate Kid 2010 (not bad, really, though I found Jaden rather distracting with how much he reminded me of both of his parents at times). Also saw The Taking of Pelham 123, both versions (liked the way the original unfolded/ended better, but can't really say it was necessarily a better movie).
* Old Favorites: Hercules, Bolt, Field of Dreams, An Affair to Remember, The Birdcage, Aladdin, Brother Bear (I'm sure there were others, but they aren't coming to mind)

What special days did I celebrate and how?
Made pie for Pi Day and green iced cupcakes with rainbow sprinkles for St. Patrick's Day.

What gifts did I give and/or receive?
Sent (very belated) birthday cards to both of my remaining grandparents. Also did something very special for my best friend that I hope will help her.

What illnesses or health concerns did I have?
I'm being punished for announcing that we had none in February! I should have made something up for that month, I guess. Instead, in March....

My allergy medicine was causing very vivid, intense, and frequently disturbing dreams. Dreams like that make me feel tired in the morning, not rested. After three weeks, I asked the doctor about it. Turns out that it was an interaction with another medication that I take all year round. She switched my allergy meds, and the dreams vanished. So yay for no dreams, but now I'm *back* on a prescription for allergies, just the year the one I've been on for 8 years goes OTC. Of course.

Luke got sick in the night again. It had been a few months, so I've been expecting it for a while. This one was different from usual, though, (I'll spare you the details) and it happened 2 nights (with 1 night of nothing in between), which is definitely strange. A couple of days later, I spent the better part of 2 days fighting not to be sick, so we think this may have been an actual tummy bug this time.

Luke also fell off a chair and hit his forehead hard enough to leave a bump and a mark. It was gone within a few days and never really bruised like I expected, but it sure scared everyone. Let's hope April is substantially less exciting in the health department.

What fun things did I do with my friends and/or family?
Disney with a new roller coaster for Luke! Also Luke's friend G's birthday party, where DH and I actually got to chat with other grown ups (shocking, I know), and dinner with my parents and grandmother.

What new foods, recipes or restaurants did I try this month?
We ate at The Rose and Crown at Epcot for the first time, and I had Yorkshire Pudding for the first time with that meal.

What special or unusual purchases did I make?
Plane tickets for Boston this summer! (Technically, I think that was a very end of February thing, but I forgot to mention it at the time.)

What were this month's disappointments or frustrations?
Layoffs at work is the most upsetting, though the appearance of The Pit of Despair (small sinkhole in the driveway) certainly wasn't pleasant either. Soccer practice also keeps getting rained out on its usual day, and the one week we actually got to practice on the correct night, the game got rained out the following Saturday!

What were my accomplishments this month?
I honestly don't feel like I accomplished much of anything this month, though I'm sure that's not really true.

What were Luke's accomplishments this month?

We're seeing some good improvement in Luke's reading this month. Too bad his behavior hasn't done the same. I take that back, it might be a little better, but not as much as I'd like. Hoping it is just a phase and it will pass. If we're going to have behavior problems at home and at school, I'd rather him get it out of his system *now*. (I'm sure it doesn't really work that way, but a girl can dream.) Soccer also started back. Four of the previous six team members returned, and they are working together really well, including the new boys. I think it is going to be a really fun season (especially if it will ever stop raining).

Anything else noteworthy to record?
Not really.

Monthly Round Up courtesy of Katie the Scrapbook Lady.

Currently feeling: rounded

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Wordless Wednesday - March 30, 2011

Currently feeling: caught in the act (of sleeping)

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Things That Go "Bump" in the Morning

It's been a long weekend. We knew Saturday was shaping up to be busy before we started. Soccer game at 10AM, but team and individual photos at 9:30, and pending rain. We got to watch "real" soccer when it started raining about 8 minutes in. At the 10 minute mark, the bottom fell out, so we called the game. (They're only ages 5 and 6, and this is not a competitive league; not worth someone getting hurt or sick.) The boys got drenched! I didn't take many photos, since I was holding a golf umbrella with 3 boys huddled under it, but this gives you a small idea.

We came home and changed, went for lunch, then came home for a very brief rest (about 45 minutes) before Saturday activity #2: G's birthday party. Luke and G have been good friends for a couple of years now, despite being a year apart in school. They both attend the same daycare center. We actually keep bumping into G and his family around town at restaurants and the grocery store. I think this is the first time we have intentionally been in the same place! They held it at Imagine That!, where the kids built and raced LEGO cars. They played *hard* for over 90 minutes. Luke was exhausted by the time they finished, and he didn't want any of the cookie cake, which isn't really a surprise (it's new, I must not like it, even if it is just a giant chocolate chip cookie!). You can even see him just sitting in DH's lap in one of the only photos I took.

He was flat run down by the time we left, but we still had activity #3 to go: dinner with my grandmother. She lives about 45 minutes away, and my parents were in town visiting her, so we ran out there after the party.

Luke took a little nap on the way and seemed refreshed when we arrived. We were eating at a Chinese buffet, but (of course) Luke doesn't eat there, so we picked up chicken tenders for him. He hardly ate anything, but that is also not uncommon after expending a ton of calories.

The rest of the evening passed quietly, and I was looking forward to just relaxing on Sunday. Yeah, right. Luke ended up getting sick in the night. Not sure if it was just one of his spells or not. He wasn't acting the way he usually does for those, and he was sick just the once, not 2-3 times like usual. We got things cleaned up and put him back to bed just as a *huge* storm came through. Took him about an hour to finally go to sleep after we tucked him in; the thunder and lightning were pretty bad. Normally, if he'd already been asleep, he would have slept right through it, but trying to *go* to sleep with all of that going on just wasn't happening.

Consequently, we are all pretty tired today (Sunday). This might explain how Luke took a tumble this morning. DH was vacuuming. I was at the other end of the house. Above all of the noise, I hear Luke scream in pain. I come racing down the hall, and DH has just abandoned the vacuum cleaner in the dining room, still running. I find him holding a bawling Luke, who is clutching his forehead. This picture was taken around 11 AM, about 45 minutes after it happened.

The chairs were clustered in the living room while DH vacuumed the dining room rug. Luke had decided to play some game, crawling from one chair seat to the other. Apparently he missed one and fell, striking his head on the edge of one of the chair seats as he went down. I could already see a bump forming under the red skin. Of course with any head injury, I checked his pupils, but they were fine. His head didn't hurt when I pressed around the bump, only on the bump itself. I laid him down on the sofa with an ice pack on the bump, trying to control the swelling, and let him watch a cartoon program. When that was over, he said his head hurt (understandable), so I dosed him up with Children's Motrin. We've kept an eye on him all day, but he seems fine. Not much appetite, but that's pretty normal after being sick, and he's tired, but given that we all lost about 90 minutes of sleep last night, that's understandable as well.

This second photo was taken just before 7PM. Most of the swelling has gone down, and most of the redness in the area is also gone, except for where skin made physical contact with the chair. (It's actually a lot redder in person; the flash washes it out.) You can see the flash bouncing off what is left of the bump near the center of the photo. I imagine it will start bruising tomorrow, but hopefully the ice helped with that. Thank goodness we already had his photo taken on Saturday!

Currently feeling: ready for this weekend to end, I think

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Pit of Despair

"Did you see the sinkhole in the driveway?" Um, excuse me? Not the words I was expecting to hear when DH got back from picking up Luke after school. As he was backing out of the carport, he felt the back end of the car take a dip. He thought he had cut the wheel too sharply and run off the edge of the asphalt in the back yard. He moved forward and didn't think anymore about it.

Until he got back home and saw a hole in the asphalt! And I'm not talking about a softball sized hole. It's about 18 inches (45cm) across at it's widest point, and a little over 2 feet (61cm) deep at its deepest point. Why yes, I did measure it. DH calls it "The Pit of Despair," because it depresses him every time he sees it! LOL

No clue what caused it. Other than the top layer, where they smoothed out the ground for paving (the gray immediately below the asphalt, visible in the photo), the "soil" looks like red clay, which doesn't usually wash away like that. Given my affinity for forensics shows, you can imagine what my first thought was! I certainly didn't see any bones, but I didn't go digging around in there either. Based on the position of the other trees in the back yard, I *think* someone may have cut down a tree and ground down the stump years ago. Then they paved over it. It has since rotted away, but it took us driving over it for 15 months now to finally cause the asphalt to give way. There are still pieces of rotten wood inside; nothing else really. Now we just have to figure out how to get it fixed, and pray there are no more.

Currently feeling: holey

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Dislike: A Conversation With Luke

While sitting in the car, running late to get somewhere....

Luke: Daddy, I hate traffic.
DH: Luke, we don't need to hate things. Hate is what bad people do, like The Emperor. You don't want to be on the dark side like him. You should say that you dislike something.
Luke: Daddy, I dislike saying "I dislike."

Currently feeling: unspeakable

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Who's On First: A Conversation With Luke

(Not what you think from the title.) We must now turn in our baseball fan membership cards; we are clearly failures as parents. Luke was playing a baseball game on DH's phone, when....

Luke: Daddy, I made first plate!
DH: Do you mean first place? Did you win?
Luke: No, first plate. I ran!
DH: Oh, first base; you hit the ball and went one base.
Luke [exasperated]: No! I scored the first point at first plate.
DH [dejected]: Home plate. You scored the first *run* at *home* plate.
Luke: Yeah, that's what I said.

Currently feeling: struck out

Monday, March 21, 2011

Disney 2011 - Day 4: The Magic Kingdom

I forgot to mention a very important part of our Friday in my last post. My father arrived at the hotel about the same time we did Friday night! This is the first year he has joined us for any of the trips with Luke, and I was so looking forward to Saturday. I couldn't wait for Luke to show Papa around. Unfortunately, the day didn't exactly go smoothly, starting with our first errand of the morning.

We had slept late again, actually past 8 AM, and we'd already used 2 days on our tickets without having any idea how many days were left. While we finished getting ready, Mom and Dad graciously volunteered to take the tickets to the concierge desk to have them checked. "I'm sorry, we've upgraded our systems and can only check new tickets. Older tickets must be checked at guest relations." Concierge doesn't qualify as guest relations? Nice. Who decided backwards compatibility wasn't important here? We'll have them checked at the Transportation and Ticketing center.

The lines weren't as long as I feared, and I would like to give a particular thank you to cast member Alex who checked our tickets. He greeted us with a huge smile on his face and was exceptionally friendly and helpful. He happily checked the 6 tickets we had (including two from 2000!) and loaned me a pen so I could right it down. The results were that we had plenty of days and didn't need to purchase any more. "You have a magical day!" He was not the only person to say that to us on this trip, but he is the only person who seemed to genuinely mean it. Thank you, Alex!

With that very pleasant experience, we boarded the ferry just before 10 AM. I knew when we booked the trip that The Magic Kingdom was likely to be busier than we are accustomed to on Saturday, since the park hours showed they were open until 10 PM. (The later they are open, the more people they are expecting!) We usually go when MK closes at 8 or 9, but 10 wasn't too bad. Not quite sure what was causing that (ESPN the Weekend combined with the Flower and Garden Festival, maybe?), but I really didn't think it would be *that* bad. Except that they "happily" announced on the ferry on the way over to the park that they had extended operating hours to Midnight. UGH! That means they were already so busy by 10 AM that they knew they needed an extra 2 hours. NOT good, but it was really too late to do anything about it now. We got through security and immediately headed all the way to the back of the park. I had really wanted to do Tom Sawyer Island with Luke this year, but with it being so late, and all the extra people, and after our recent experience at the Hone I Shrunk The Kids play area, that was now out of the question. Time for Plan B, which ironically was our more typical touring plan: Fantasyland, then Tomorrowland, Frontierland, maybe Liberty Square, and finally Adventureland.

Like Toy Story at the Studios, Peter Pan runs out of FastPasses quickly, so that was our first destination. The sign said the distribution times were for 1:20 to 2:20, which actually worked out pretty well, so I grabbed them. But when the tickets printed out, they said 11:40 to 12:40. Thankfully, we didn't have dining reservations, but that also meant that we couldn't even get in line to wait at any sit down places at 11 or we'd miss our FastPass window. I thought we'd been given a bonus, though, when the machine also spit out additional FastPasses for Mickey's PhilharMagic. That, too, was on our desired destinations, so we did that while we waited. Turns out we didn't even need the FastPasses; there was no wait. We zipped across to "it's a small world" after that, then on to lunch at Pinocchio's Village Haus (pizzas, chicken nuggets, chicken parmesan, and a meatball sub), followed by our Peter Pan FastPasses.

By the time we finished Peter Pan, the lunch places were really filling up. Good! Maybe some of the more popular rides will be less busy while everyone eats? Let's head on over to Buzz Lightyear in Tomorrowland. I've ridden Buzz Lightyear enough times that I am a pretty good judge of how long the wait is just by looking at the queue. I think it said it was about 50 minutes, which looked was about right. It had some temporary rope queuing set up outside, which is very rare, but the line seemed to be moving okay. We grabbed some FastPasses which were due a bit more than an hour from that moment, so it should be perfect timing to ride twice in a row.

As we waited, though, things started getting out of hand. The FastPass return line got really long. As in, it filled up the internal *and* external queue and started wrapping around the building. Remember, this was the *FastPass* line! Not the regular one. And the regular line had virtually quit moving. The whole point of the Omnimover ride system is that the ride moves continuously, and so should the line. I realize that FastPass does circumvent this process some, but we've had plenty of experience with FastPass rides in general, and Buzz Lightyear in particular, and we've never had much of an issue. Until this year.

We watched the FastPass line move near constantly while the regular line just stopped for minutes at a time. That is NOT how it is supposed to work. It took over an hour for us to get through the line, but it never should have. I'd say over half the people who rode the ride in that hour had FastPasses, which means either they'd given out too many, or somehow, people were hoarding them. Regardless, something was out of whack, and I was not happy. Still, it was Dad's first time on the ride, and Luke had a great time, which is what mattered. We had just a few minutes before our FastPasses were due, so we took a quick ride on the Tomorrowland Transit Authority Peoplemover. There was actually a queue for it. Only about 5 minutes, but still! In 13 years, I don't think I've ever seen a line for the Peoplemover. And yes, it is officially back to being the Peoplemover!

When we got off, it was *just* time for our FastPasses, but the FastPass line seemed more under control now, and the stand by line was quoting 45 minutes. However, I could tell by looking at the line that there were *not* 45 minutes worth of people in it. Our FastPass window was an hour long, so let's wait the 45 minutes, then use the FastPasses to ride twice. That would give us 3 times around on Buzz, which would hopefully satisfy Luke. But not long after we got in line, the FastPass line started stacking up again. By the time we got inside the building, there were literally 6 cast members involved just in managing the FastPass line! Something was seriously wrong, and they decided to punish the people in the stand by line while they tried to fix it.

After several pauses of several minutes, I started timing them. We stood at a stand still, with not a single person from the stand by line being allowed on the ride, for 8 minutes, 4 minutes, and 6 minutes, while the FastPass line moved constantly (except when they stopped it long enough to let 10-15 stand by line folks through before we mutinied). From the time I started watching/counting, which was over 30 minutes, only about 20% of the people who boarded the ride were from the stand by line; the other 80%, literally several hundred, came from the FastPass line. (Best estimates I can find shows Buzz to have an hourly capacity of 900-1200 people.) It was beyond ridiculous!! Where on earth were all these people coming from?! For those 50 minutes, the FastPass functioned as the regular line, while the regular line was the "no, I'd really like to wait *extra* time for this ride" line. I'm not sure who was angrier, me or my dad. I would have been angry about it anyway, based on our previous experiences and knowing full and well that isn't normal, but I'm an industrial engineer. Queuing theory is a major part of what we do, so in my *professional* opinion, something was very very wrong, but no one seemed to be trying to fix it. (Clearly, I'm still a wee bit upset about it. It really put a black mark on the whole trip for me.)

We did finally get on, but I knew it was going to be hard for me to enjoy myself because I was so angry. If we missed our FastPass return window because there was some kind of glitch with their system, I was going to be furious. I had heard rumors that FastPasses don't really expire. Once your "start time" has passed, you can use them any time, even after your one-hour window has passed. But I didn't want to hold my breath and bet on it, since it was only hearsay. Nothing we could do about it at that point, so we'd just have to hope we got off in time and the FastPass return line wasn't suddenly insane again. I decided to try and calm/cheer myself by riding alone (only 2 blasters per car, and we had 5 people) while taking pictures of everyone else having fun. After all, the point of the trip is to have fun, right?

When we got off, we had about 5 minutes left on our FastPasses, so we ran around and got in the now all-but-gone FastPass line. The cast member who decides how to incorporate FastPass riders into the regular line naturally decided to stop the FastPass line right in front of us. Oh come on!! But I kept my cool. "Excuse me," I said, "was there a problem with the FastPasses earlier?" She said she didn't think so. "The FastPass line was really long and moved constantly. We stood there in the stand by line without moving for 8 minutes at one point while the FastPass line kept moving." Well, ma'am, FastPass riders take priority. "At the expense of everyone else in line? It just seems like there were *way* too many of them coming in during that hour." FastPasses don't expire, she said, since they don't want to worry about things like people only being a few minutes late or who missed them for dining reservations. Since it was right after lunch, it was probably everyone who had held on to them for a couple of hours. "So official Disney policy is that FastPasses don't expire? Once the start time is passed, you can use them any time that day, even if it is many hours later?" Yes, ma'am. "So why do they put an end time on there?" That one seemed to stump her, and she let us go through at that point (probably just to get away from me, which is fine, too!).

I actually suspect that they don't advertise the policy for *exactly* the reason that had just happened. Having a one hour window printed on the ticket makes you think you must be back during that window, so people return at a fairly even rate and it keeps both lines moving well. But now that I know for sure, I will be grabbing FastPasses as I can when available on any ride I want to ride later. That way I'll have them "just in case," knowing full and well I can use them whenever I want after the start time passes. If that is the policy, then I'm going to take advantage of it! And I'm going to tell all of my friends (that would be *you*) so they can take advantage of it, too. :-) (Note that you can't just walk around and grab FastPasses for every ride all in one shot. You can get another FastPass either after the start time for the one you have passes, or 2 hours after you obtained your previous one, whichever comes first. If you aren't sure if you can get another one, go ahead and try it. The machine will either give you a FastPass or spit out something that tells you when you can get your next one.)

I do want to stress that all other FastPass rides worked just fine in both the FastPass line and the stand by line without any issues during the entire trip, even at the Magic Kingdom on other rides. And as I mentioned, we've never had this kind of issue before. I'm still baffled as to what went so very wrong at Buzz that day!

Our last time around turned out to be the best. The ride came to a hault for several minutes in the main large room with the volcano and the pop-up monsters. Now, you would expect me to be upset that the ride stopped, right? And I would be, depending on ride. A stopped roller coaster would not be cool! However, on Buzz, it's great, allowing plenty of extra time to take out the targets and rack up points, sometimes allowing multiple hits on the same target. I was riding with Mom that round, Luke was with Dad, and DH was by himself. Seems like Mom scored over 300K, and I was over 600K (mid-200s is more normal for me). Even Luke had over 100K (20-50K is more normal for him). We thought we were hot stuff. Until we got to one of the tunnels (no targets in there) and DH asked me for the camera. Um, okay. I passed it to him in the next car. What, you're up to 700 or 800? He just smirked. When we got off the ride, he showed me this:

Cheater! LOL Amazing what happens when you ride by yourself, so you control the spin and you aren't competing for targets with anyone else in your car. By the time we finished our 3rd ride, it was nearly 3PM. We did zip over to Space Mountain just to check the wait time, but it was showing 90 minutes. Buzz was showing 80 minutes. People were everywhere. Luke, what should we do next? "Thunder Mountain!" I was afraid it was going to have some sort of insane wait time as well; I just hoped there were FastPasses left. Wait, what time is it? 2:54. The fastest way from Tomorrowland to Frontierland is through the hub, but there is also a 3PM parade that starts on Main Street, goes through the hub, and then on through Liberty Square and Frontierland. We *had* to get ahead of it if we had any chance of making it to Big Thunder Mountain in the next hour. RUN!

We were all breathing heavy by the time we got there, and sure enough, the wait time was 90 minutes. *Way* too long, but FastPasses were available. And now that we knew it didn't matter what the end time was, we grabbed them. What to do while we wait? Let's try Pirates of the Caribbean. It moves pretty constantly, and even a 30-45 minute wait is tolerable because it is inside with some theming to look at (unlike Big Thunder).

Nope, Pirates had a 65 minute wait. No thanks! Luke started getting whiny, and I realized it was time for snack. We parked ourselves at the Tortuga Tavern (formerly El Pirata y El Perico), which was actually *open*, another sign of how insanely busy they were. (It's a seasonal restaurant, and in our previous 13 years of visits, I don't ever recall it being open before.) We had worked ourselves pretty hard and had some terrible frustrations. We had also decided to skip nap for a 3rd day in a row while at Disney, which we all knew was a potential disaster waiting to happen. We got some ice cream bites (Nibs, I think?), popcorn, and drinks, and enjoyed the ceiling fans for nearly an hour. Sure, we could have spent that hour in line for Pirates, but we really needed the respite. We talked, laughed, people watched, chased birds (okay, maybe not all of us did that), and relaxed. Aahhh!

And during that hour, the line for Pirates did nothing but grow! To the point that they had nearly filled up the *external* queue. Now, the outside queue was moving quite quickly, but still. We have rarely even seen them *have* outside queue during our March trips. There's a reason we go when we go! If I wanted to be there with the rest of the planet, we'd go at Christmas. I figured most of the influx was from the parade having ended nearby not long before. The wait time was now showing 80 minutes, but I still thought that was an underestimate; it had said that for a while, but the line was longer now than when they changed it. Is there something else in the area that we can do while we wait for it to die down?

Well, The Jungle Cruise is on up around the bend a bit, and it's something Luke has never done. I hadn't done it in years and years; I'm not even positive DH had ever done it. The line is usually way too long, but when we checked, it showed 50 minutes. (It's sad when you're starting to consider 50 minutes reasonable during the first weekend in March!) And the queue is fairly entertaining. There's stuff to see, good old-timey music, and rather amusing announcements coming over the intercom periodically. Let's give it a try. Our skipper was very good, with excellent delivery and timing, and a big smile! Luke wasn't quite sure what to make of the ride, but he seemed to enjoy it, especially the temple. Sadly, most of the photos of Luke didn't turn out very well.

It's been over an hour. Let's try Pirates again. Wait time was showing 75 minutes, and though the line was quite a bit shorter, it was still taking up about half of the outdoor queue. Um, anything else to kill some time with? The Swiss Family Robinson Tree House is right next door, and Luke hasn't done it either. It never has a line, and still didn't! Let's see if that gets us anywhere, and even if not, it should be time for dinner by the time we're done. Luke has never seen the movie, and he wasn't very impressed with the props and stuff. (I can't believe I'm about to say this, but I think I actually like the rethemed one in Disneyland better. They've converted it to Tarzan, which Luke would have loved!) But he did like being up high and having great views of the park.

Pirates was still a no go, so we started considering dinner options. The two closest counter service options, Pecos Bill's and Casey's, didn't have chicken nuggets for Luke. Really the best option was the Starlight Cafe over near the Fantasyland/Tomorrowland border. We trotted back across the hub, and Luke stopped to watch whatever show was going on in front of the castle. Fine, it's probably easier to get food without him anyway. DH stayed with him with instructions to find a table when they finished, while Mom, Dad, and I went to stand in line. Chicken nuggets, rotisserie chicken, and hamburgers were procured, and we enjoyed a nice leisurely dinner (in the room with the animatronic singer, which Luke *hated* last year, but begged to eat in that room this year; go figure). Luke finished first and asked to play with DH's phone, which was fine. I had seen a hat I wanted earlier in the day, so when everyone had finished, we asked if the boys wanted to go check out Buzz Lightyear while we went hat hunting. "No, I want to play with Daddy's phone." We come all the way to Disney, and you'd rather play with something you can do at home than ride a ride? Whatever. Shopping took about 20 minutes, but no joy. By then, we were well past our Thunder Mountain return time, so we met up with the guys and headed out, hoping that what the cast member had told us earlier was correct. We did stop for a quick group picture, though, something I was determined to have with all of us there!

We got on Thunder Mountain with our "expired" FastPasses with no trouble at all. We had considered waiting in the stand by line, but it was still showing 80 minutes, and we were all starting to get tired. Not worth the wait. With 5 FastPasses for 3 people (we used DH's and Dad's tickets to get FastPasses, even though they weren't going to ride), Luke would get to ride twice, and that should be good enough. While we did this:

Dad was doing this:

And we were probably all equally happy! LOL

I was really fading and my feet were killing me (remember the worn out shoes), so I let Mom have the second ride with Luke while Dad and I started walking over to Pirates to see how the wait looked there; DH waited for Mom and Luke to get off the ride. It was nearly 7PM, I knew we'd be racing the parade (again! I swear I hate those things), and I wasn't sure I could keep up without a head start. Turned out to be a good thing, too! I made a quick bathroom stop, and by the time I was done, Mom, Luke, and DH had already caught up with us. Pirates was now showing a 5 minute wait. Now *that's* more like it! We even had a surprise for Luke. Ready, set, glow!

Amazing what a low-light lens camera will get you on Pirates!

Luke had been begging for ice cream all day, and I knew we could use our patented "sneak off through Adventureland and come out near The Crystal Palace so we can exit the park quickly without going through the hub during the fireworks" move, so we said okay. This turned out to be a HUGE mistake, but there was no way to know that at the time. I guess not being able to find anywhere to sit except right next to the smoking section should have been a hint, and even the ice cream tasted funny (though Luke didn't seem to mind, which is all that mattered). The first fireworks for Wishes went off just as we exited Adventureland. I figured we'd be on the ferry before it was done, well ahead of the crowds.

Turns out that the horribly unfunny joke was on us. We had to cross two bridges, one to exit Adventureland, and one to cross in front of the Crystal Palace. Other than the year that they would not let us exit through Adventureland, I had never had any trouble using this exit strategy. Until this year. We got to the end of the first bridge, and no one was moving. At all. We tried veering right and left, but no one was going anywhere. According to Google Maps, the distance from the end of the Adventureland bridge (where we came to a stop) to the bathrooms between Casey's and The Crystal Palace is 300-400 feet (92-122 meters). It took us the *entire* length of Wishes, 15-20 minutes, to go that far. That calculates out to literally 25-ish feet (7.6 meters) per minute, which is as excruciatingly slow as it sounds, even more so when it is you and literally hundreds of other people moving that slowly. (Remember the final subway scene in Crocodile Dundee? It was pretty much just like that, only no one walked on our heads.) No amount of cast members shouting and/or directing helped any at all. We spent most of that time physically standing on the bridge that leads to The Crystal Palace. I would like to thank the structural engineer who overdesigned the heck out of that thing so that it didn't collapse with that much standing weight on it, something I'm sure it was never intended to do. Not only was it slow and miserable, it was truly dangerous. If there had been any sort of real emergency, someone could have been seriously hurt in the literal crush of people.

Once we got past the Crystal Palace, near those restrooms, things seemed to shake out just fine, but by then, we had been separated from my parents. The initial "if we get separated" plan was to just meet at the guard's tables at the security checkpoint. But that was before we had come to a virtual stop for 15 minutes. When I realized it was less dangerous to allow us to get separated if need be, I had made sure they knew where we were parked so we could just all meet up at the car. Once we did finally get out of there, we headed straight for the ferry. I pulled out my phone to see if maybe they were already in line, when I got a text from Mom. "At bag check tables near ferry." Shoot! That ferry was now boarding. We decided to wait, since we hadn't followed through with the original plan, and texted that they should just come on. After all that, actually leaving the park was remarkably uneventful.

This was one of the few years I have actually been grateful that we were leaving Disney. I think everyone enjoyed themselves at least some of the time, but it was a rough trip. Actually, I don't think a trip had gone this badly since our first trip with Luke when he was an infant (and my memories of that trip are probably colored by the fact that I was in the midst of terrible postpartum depression at the time).

We were all just dead dog tired the next morning. A very brief conversation with Luke perfectly encapsulates how we were all feeling:

DH: Luke, do you want cheerios or kix for breakfast?
Luke (looking dazed): Breakfast, please.

Poor baby! We finally got everything packed up around 10:30. We did stop at Rainforest Cafe at Downtown Disney on the way out for lunch with my parents, especially since that is something Dad has never gotten to do with Luke, then we went our separate ways home. We had dressed for the 80-degree weather (27C) in Orlando, so we were taken by surprise when we stopped for dinner in middle Georgia and it was only 45 degrees (7C)! Luke changed into jeans and I (already in jeans) put on the only long sleeved shirt I had. BRRR! We finally got home around 9PM.

And while we were off having fun, Star was spayed. She wasn't very happy with me when I picked her up. She *hated* having to wear that cone. Morning school bus temps of 32 degrees (0C), a royally angry kitten, 200 new emails in my inbox at work, and it was Monday. Such a harsh return to reality!

Currently feeling: at least we survived

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Disney 2011 - Day 3: Hollywood Studios

I decided before we left on this trip that we would be sleeping as late as Luke would allow. It *is* a vacation, after all, and an integral part of my personal definition of a vacation is that I don't have to set an alarm. Even after such a late night, Luke usually still gets up at more or less normal time (7AM +/- 30 minutes) but he's really grumpy. Instead, he slept until nearly 8! Consequently, we were a little later than I had anticipated for our arrival to the Disney Hollywood Studios, which necessitated a slight change in plan.

Thinking we would arrive right as they opened, I had intended go directly to Toy Story Midway Mania and get in line, then pick up FastPasses for later in the day. Upon our arrival at 10, however, we knew the line was likely too long already, and if we had any chance of getting FastPasses at all, we needed to do it right then. Mom, Luke, and I headed down Sunset Boulevard while DH took our tickets and ran to Toy Story. If the wait time was reasonable, he would get FastPasses while we walked over there. If not, we would continue down Sunset to another attraction. The verdict? 80 minute wait. Um, no. The park had barely been open an hour and they were already giving away FastPasses for 4:35 to 5:35! DH grabbed them, and we kept walking.

The moment I had been waiting over 7 years for had finally arrived! When you first learn that you are expecting your first child, you can't help but start planning: what do we need, what will the baby need, what sorts of things will I do with my child as s/he grows? My dream was a little risky: roller coasters. I love them, Mom loves them, Jacob loves them; Dad and DH, not so much. But that's still 60/40 in favor of Luke loving them, right? When he loved The Barnstormer at age 2.5, I was so happy. When he adored Big Thunder even more, I was thrilled. When he declared Expedition Everest his favorite roller coaster, I was ecstatic. All I could think was "you just wait." Every year since he was born that I have ridden The Rockin' Roller Coaster without him, all I could think for the duration of the ride is "I can't *wait* to take Luke on this when he's tall enough!" In October of 2010, at the tender age of 6, Luke officially measured 48.5 inches. March could not come soon enough! But we had to be sure. He walked up to the measuring stand right beside the stand-by entrance and backed up to the stick.

The picture above was taken later at the measuring stand inside near the load area, but as you can see, he clearly passed. The cast member at the entrance was very excited for him. "You're good to go," she said with a huge smile on her face and gave him a high five. If I'd known what was coming next, I would have had my camera ready. "Yessssss! Woooooo!!" He whooped and hollered. I can't even describe his actions other than to say that Mom and I were laughing ourselves silly. He was *so* excited! Here is one of the poses he used outside. (I did not coach him to do that at all! Totally his idea.)

The queue was at 40 minutes, but it's not too bad, especially when you get to play with the "marble doors." Anyone who has waited in the queue is familiar with these. They make a unique and unmistakable sound when you rub your hands over the marbles (they're loose inside the grid):

After the silly little movie, you move to the short internal queue area, where you get your first glimpse of the ride vehicles quite literally launching into the building. Luke watched the first car go, then turned around to me with a huge grin on his face. "Mommy, the car disappeared!" Well, yeah, that's pretty much what happened. You may remember me telling the story of Mom's reaction to her first ride; it was quite similar. (See here, 5th paragraph.) There was a girl in her teens a few folks in front of us who looked scared out of her mind. Based on the gesturing, I think they were using Luke as an example of "well if that little kid can do it, so can you!" LOL Finally, it was our turn!

Ready? (Sorry for the blur.)



The music/soundtrack for the ride is deafening, intentionally so I'm sure. The restraining mechanism that comes down over your head and shoulders has speakers right at ear level, blasting away; the music "follows" the car and is not piped into the ride building. I could neither see nor hear Luke; I had no idea if he was laughing, crying, screaming, or what. When it was over and we pulled to a stop (we had to wait for the car ahead to clear), I looked over and saw this:

Hmm... maybe he's a little stunned? It is definitely a bit intense, especially if you've never ridden it before. We finally pulled up and got off, but Luke was not happy or excited at all. "Did you like it?" I had expected him to either be jumping up and down or crying; instead he was almost devoid of emotion and merely nodded gently. "Are you sure you liked it? It's okay to say no." It was okay, he said, but it was too short. Um, okay. I admit, it's not the longest roller coaster in the world. It's inside a building, for goodness sake, but that was not at all the reaction I expected. Like it, don't like it, too dark, too scary, have some sort of reaction! But to be blah and indifferent is just strange, and I was terribly disappointed. It took me a while to order our photos, then we left for lunch, stopping for a quick (though unconventional) picture out front. Sorry, the geeky side of me loves this! (Not that Luke has any clue what a record is....)

We had no dining reservations for Friday at all. All the places I looked at had none left at reasonable times. Lunch at 3:30? No thanks. Plus, there were people everywhere! What is going on? Apparently it was ESPN The Weekend. Ya know, there is an *entire* ESPN sports complex at Disney. Shouldn't activities be centered *there* instead of at the Hollywood themed park? I texted DH that we were on our way, and that I intended to check the wait at the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater. I received a quick return text. "Masses gathering outside Sci-Fi Diner." Okay, scratch the Sci-Fi for lunch. Back to the old standby: The Backlot Express. Seems like everyone got either hot dogs or chicken nuggets. Luke had asked to eat outside, and I had originally said no, but it turned out to be hotter inside than out, so we moved out onto the covered patio, right next to the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular. Lunch was punctuated with gunfire and explosions from the other side of the fence, and the most daring squirrel I have ever seen. It was clearly trying to raid our lunch table, to the point that I thought it was going to climb right up my leg! All it needed was a fedora and a whip to fit right in.

Luke seemed much perkier after he ate, and it occurred to me that he had not had a snack all morning. You'd think we'd have learned this lesson by now! Maybe that's why he didn't really like the roller coaster? He had burned too many calories jumping up and down in line, which combined with coming off an adrenaline high, and he just crashed? I was terribly upset that I may have ruined the whole thing by forgetting a snack. I really didn't think we'd have a chance to ride it again, especially with all those people there, so we'd just have to wait until next year to find out.

Indiana Jones finished just about the time we were done with lunch. People just kept pouring out of the venue! The Backlot isn't far from Star Tours, and I figured the speeder bike line would be long, but I wanted to go ahead and do it while we were there and thinking about it. I knew Star Tours itself was closed since they are revamping the ride with a new film and likely upgrading the ride mechanism while they're at it. It wouldn't have been a surprise to me if they had the building covered or behind a wall. I was pleased to see that they just had the doors closed and roped off. However, what *was* walled off was the grassy area just across the walkway, where the speeder bike lives. Noooooooo! We walked all the way around that end of the grassy area, thinking they might have moved it further around, but it was no where to be found. In fact, you could still see the corner of the storm trooper backdrop just sticking up over the top of the fence. I was crushed! I was so upset and distracted, in fact, that I didn't even remember the (still open!) Star Wars store connected to Star Tours. I never even set foot in there this trip! DH informed me later that he had been in there while we were riding the RRC and hadn't seen much new, but still, not the point. First the Rockin' Roller Coaster is a bust, there are way more people at the park than there should be, and now we don't get our 5th annual speeder bike photo. Maybe we should leave now before anything else goes wrong? That seemed a little rash since it was only about Noon, and we still had two major things to do: the motor stunt show and our Toy Story FastPasses. Guess we'll stay.

We still had 90-ish minutes before the 1:30 stunt show, so we proceeded over to the ride that encompasses everything this park is about: The Great Movie Ride. Luke had never been on it. It's a little long, and I was most concerned about the scene from Alien, but I figured if we told him about it beforehand, he would probably be okay this year. We all found the costumes on display in the queue interesting, but the line moved quickly enough that we only had time to walk past them. We did have to wait a bit in the room where they show movie trailers, and when the one for Raiders of The Lost Ark came on, Luke was mesmerized to the point of holding up the line. He's never seen the movie, but he absolutely knows who Indiana Jones is. I was a little concerned about the trailer, knowing it at least had the potential to be too much for Luke, but I also generally trust Disney in this regard, and the trailer was fine. He thought the ride was pretty interesting, though he probably didn't even know a quarter of the movies on display. Due to the timing, we actually missed the animatronic alien all together, which was fine with me. The Great Movie Ride had occupied about 30 minutes, and it was time to head on over to the Lights Motor Action stunt show. With all the people around, I didn't want to risk getting crummy seats like we did last year. Luke had a blast, as always, and I didn't take a single photo.

After the stunt show, we weren't really sure what to do. We still had plenty of time before our FastPasses were ready, and right across the street was another thing that none of us had ever done before: the Honey I Shrunk The Kids Playground, which is exactly what you would expect it to be. I figured Luke was now old enough to take care of himself around the other kids, to follow our instructions, and to generally be trusted to go in and come out of the climbing things by himself, with us waiting for him at the bottom/exit, of course. It was a zoo inside there with kids and parents *everywhere*, but Luke was having a blast!

My mom doesn't care much for this type of berserk environment, so she stepped outside and waited for us at the (closed) cafe that is right next door. Things had been going pretty well, so I left Luke and DH inside while I went and found a restroom. We had agreed that when I got back, I would text DH, and it would be time to leave the playground. I held up my end of the deal, only to receive the following text in reply: "Your son is lost." Not cool! The last thing I had said to DH when I left was for him to keep an eye on this guy inside who was setting of my mommy alarm bells. I can't really say what in particular rankled me about the guy, but I did not want him *anywhere* near my son. I pointed him out, and DH said he would watch him. All I could think as I walked back in was "where is my son, and where is that guy!"

I stood guard outside in case Luke came out. DH went inside and started hunting. Apparently Luke was not the only child missing, as there were cast members walking around inside calling a list of names of various children. The fact that it wasn't just my son who had been gone long enough to cause concern actually made me feel better. Finally, Luke stuck his head out and was rather confused to see a very angry me standing at the bottom of the steps. "Come. Down. Now!" It seemed to take 15-20 minutes, but text message time stamps say 6 minutes from when DH texted me to when I texted Mom & DH saying I had him. It was a *very* long 6 minutes. The only answer Luke gave to "where were you" was that he was with some other kids in the secret place. I probably should have gone back in with him and made him show the cast members where this "secret place" was, but I was so upset about the whole thing I was not about to let him out of my sight again. We met Mom back at the cafe and had a snack to give everyone time to cool off (literally and figuratively).

We were about an hour from our Toy Story Midway Mania FastPass return time, so we thought we'd pop over and see what the wait time was. Anything in the 60 minute range would have been acceptable. Yeah, try 100 minutes!! Next.

We had walked past the Studio Backlot Tour on the way to Pixar Place. They were showing Pirates of the Caribbean props near the entrance. We hadn't done the tour in years, and Luke had never done it. I figured most of it would be rather boring to him, but I knew he would enjoy one particular section. It said it had a 10 minute wait, but we missed making that tour by about 6 people, so it ended up being more like a 25 minute wait. Ugh! This was supposed to be quick and simple; totally not worth that kind of time. But the grin on Luke's face at Catastrophe Canyon was well worth it. Earthquake, fire, explosion, flood; what's not to love?

I hoped to get some good shots of him with the two Star Wars vehicles as we drove by "the bone yard", but those shots didn't turn out well. This one did, though. I took it just for my brother. Can anyone name the movie this vehicle is from?

The tour lets you off at the American Film Institute exhibit, which rotates in costumes, props, memorabilia, and the like from various films, usually with some sort of Disney connection. They had some from Narnia and Pirates 2 & 3, and you might recognize these (from two different films).

And finally, it was time! Toy Story Midway Mania, here we come! It was just as much fun this year as last. I was even ahead for most of the ride. I nearly doubled DH's score on one of the first screens, but he kept gaining on me, and by the next to the last game, he'd passed me. Just couldn't let me win for once! LOL I really thought my arm was going to fall off when it was over, and it ached for the rest of the day. Really need to figure out a training regimen to start in January so I'll be ready next time.

Once again, it was dinner time, we had accomplished all of our major goals for the park, and we had no dining reservations. Where should we try? It was 5PM on the dot. Perhaps give Sci-Fi Dine-In another shot? The few benches inside were full, but there was virtually no one waiting outside. "How long is the wait for 4?" About 15 minutes. That'll work! For those not familiar, the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater looks like, well, a drive in theater from the 50's. It is dim inside as if it were dusk, you eat in "cars," and you watch trailers for old B-list sci-fi films, including the always amusing concession ads. The food isn't amazing or anything, but you're really paying for the atmosphere.

Let's see if I can remember now. Luke had pizza, Mom had the shrimp pasta, DH had the Italian grilled chicken sandwich, and I had the Beef and Blue Salad (sliced butcher steak with iceberg wedge and blue cheese dressing). Mine was actually very good! Luke didn't like the pizza at all (no, not all Disney restaurant pizza is the same; yes, I tried it to make sure), and I think Mom and DH just thought theirs was okay.

Our waiter was also serving a much larger party, so it took a while for us to get our check (the food was reasonably prompt, but not the check). We'd already sat through at least two loops of the clips, and Luke was getting restless. It was after 6PM, and the park closed at 7. I hated that everyone was sitting there waiting, so I sent DH and Luke off to wait in the line for Toy Story again. It should be around an hour wait by now, and as long as you are *in* line by park close, you get to ride. DH told me to go get in line at the Rockin' Roller Coaster once I'd paid so that Mom and I could ride again before we left. I debated that. After they left, it actually occurred to me that I hadn't been to the Star Wars store, so I figured we would just do that until they texted that they were finished with Toy Story. So imagine my surprise when I get a text that reads "He wants roller coaster." Seriously? After all that disinterest, after complaining repeatedly that it was "too short," after me being upset *all* day about him not enjoying it, now he wants to ride it again? Okay, twist my arm. I just hoped the line wasn't too long. I had no interest in waiting 2 hours just to ride it one more time. No, it was only 40 minutes, just as it had been that morning. Totally doable!

And then a miracle occurred. It was a moment I thought I would never see in my lifetime. If you had told me even 5 minutes before it happened that it was coming, I would never have believed you. In fact, it's still hard to believe even now that it happened. Yet I have photographic proof!

That, ladies and gentlemen, is my husband standing in the queue for the Rockin' Roller Coaster. But wait, you say. You can still bail out before you board the ride vehicle. Maybe he just didn't want to wait outside by himself while the other three of us rode?

Kind of hard to bail out once you strap in and take off! I still can't believe he did it. A very small part of me can't help but think that maybe he bribed Luke into riding it again by saying that he would ride it with him, just to make me happy since I'd been so upset by Luke seeming to not enjoy it earlier, but DH swears that isn't the case. I mean, I know he loves me, but I never thought he would ride a "real" roller coaster for me (no, The Barnstormer and Big Thunder don't count!). Perhaps he was shamed by the fact that his 6-year-old actually rode it? If I am recalling our previous discussions correctly, it is really the steep drops that he doesn't like. Can't do a whole lot of long drops while inside a building! From a hills perspective, RRC isn't nearly as bad as Everest, plus RRC is dark, so you can't really freak out anticipate where you are going. RRC is actually the "lesser of evils" in terms of big coasters for him. Who knows. The point is that he rode it. May never do it again, but he did once, and I have the proof. I've known him for nearly 17 years, and he still manages to surprise me on occasion!

It was well after 7PM by the time we got off the ride. The park was nearly deserted. That gave us the ability to take this awesome group shot with *just* us in it!

Don't ask me what Luke is doing. I can't explain it. Those glasses are the one thing he wanted from the Rockin' Roller Coaster gift shop as we left. Other than hiding at the playground, he'd really been quite good all day, and they weren't that expensive, so we indulged him. He absolutely loves them!

And with that, we called it a night.

Currently feeling: my husband did what?!?!