Thursday, May 31, 2012

Make fun all you want, but . . .

I'm really disappointed that my daughter doesn't mispronounce the word "festival" anymore. Talking about festibuls all summer long seemed . . . more fun somehow.  She does still mispronounce a few things and we don't always correct her because . . . well, then we couldn't make fun of her behind her back. For example, when P is mowing the lawn, A will ask me if her dad is "mawn lowing."  With our mawn lower.  As in, "Daddy, Mommy almost backed over the mawn lower when she was pulling out of the garage this morning!" (Really, though, he shouldn't put it so close to my car.) She also still pronounces "mustache" like "moostache" so we still have that as well.

Anyway, we did kick off our summer festival season last weekend - we attended two. P stayed home because he's no fun. On Saturday we went to a local Memorial Day fair. She insisted on riding a few rides and, since she was too short to ride by herself, I had to climb aboard with her. Talk about taking one for the team. I tried to talk her out of it. "Do you really need to ride the Ferris wheel?  We just got back from Disney World!"

"There is no Ferris wheel at Disney World," she responded, and marched up to the line. She had me on a technicality.

We also took the opportunity to tuck into our first funnel cake of the season.  I showed some restraint and only took a few bites. Something about seeing the dough bobbing around in the grease . . . I dunno. I'd be more inclined to eat funnel cakes if I hadn't seen that. Ignorance was bliss. We listened to some music, did some of the kids' activities, and even won a can koozy and free tickets to the county fair in August. See, one festibul begets another!  We would have stayed longer except that it started to rain.

On Sunday, the kid and I attended a fine art fair after church. It was incredibly windy. I felt so sorry for the artists - particularly the ones who specialize in glass. I heard one artist say that she'd rather have rain than the crazy winds. I didn't have a lot of money to spend on art, but I did pick up a photo of a sea turtle.

On Monday, I went to yoga bright and early. The plan after that was for me and my daughter to go to the garden shop and then spend the afternoon planting annuals. We did go to the garden shop as planned. She carefully selected some petunias for the front yard. When we got home, I set her up with all the tools she needed to plant them. And then one of her BFFs showed up and she dropped me like a hot potato. So, I spent the rest of the afternoon gardening solo. I have a feeling this is a preview of the teen years. Looking on the bright side, I got a lot more done without Chatty McChattington at my side.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Last Disney Post (promise!)

I'm writing these vacation posts partly just to bore you into a coma but also so that I can look back and remember what the heck we did on our vacation.

By Thursday, we had visited all four Disney parks (well, except the water parks, but we weren't planning to visit those regardless). So then it was a matter of which parks we should hit a second time. For Friday, we came up with a consensus: we'd spend the morning at the Magic Kingdom and spend the afternoon swimming at the resort. The challenge with the Magic Kingdom is that you can't just waltz in and out. First you have to take a tram from the parking lot. Then you have to get from the ticket center to the actual park. There are two choices: ferry and monorail. We took the monorail. You think you're almost off the hook at this point, but you still have to stand in the bag checking line (to make sure you're not carrying any contraband). Then you stand in line again to get through the turnstiles (this involves a fingerprint scan). Finally, you're in the park. I would not be surprised at all to learn that Disney took some of my DNA for analysis at one of the checkpoints along the way.

The kids rode a few rides. I think the parents were pretty much rided-out by then. Friday was a weird day. I was THIS close to drinking the Disney kool-aid and believing that nothing ever goes wrong there. But then a couple things went wrong. First, the ride that the kids were most desperate to ride broke down. Then, when it was time to leave, Disney used the B word on us. We were informed that the monorail was down and that the ferry was not running. We were instructed to get in line and wait for a . . . bus. We stood in line for an eternity, baking in the heat and watching families around us implode. One guy walked up from the back of the line to find out when the line would start moving. The guy behind me yelled at him, "The line is back THERE, buddy!" We watched bus after bus pull up, not take on any passengers, and then leave. Very strange, aye.

Eventually we got on a bus and made it back to the resort. We made it to the pool much later than we had intended, but we figured we'd live now that the kids could get their swimming ya-ya's out. Except that they couldn't, because some black clouds rolled in and the resort closed the pool. Gah! It re-opened a couple hours later and the kids finally got to soak up the chlorine like they wanted to.

Later, we went to Downtown Disney for shopping and dinner. It was raining like crazy, but we soldiered on once again. We stopped at the Lego store and had dinner at the House of Blues.

On Saturday morning, it was time to say good-bye to our friends. We had to check out of the resort that day. They were headed to Animal Kingdom and we wanted to go back to Epcot since our first visit to that park had been a fairly short one. So, we bid them adieu, packed up our crap (including our daughter's $15 light-up balloon pictured below) and drove to Epcot. We caught a few of the shows we hadn't seen the first time (such as Captain EO - talking about trippy nostalgia!). And yes, I let my daughter stand in the Chip and Dale line this time. And guess what? She was complaint-free the whole time.

It was hot, but we also walked around the lake and visited all of the various countries. We had lunch in France. It was pricey (but served by real French people, yo) but it was really good.  Finally, when we could take the heat no more, we headed out to our car. We trudged across the black asphalt, feeling the soles of our shoes melting a little with every step. I don't know what the actual temperature was, but I think it was pretty close to the temperature at which I reheat pizza in my oven at home. When we got in the car, we found that the parking stub we'd left on the dash had turned black.

On Friday night, we stayed in a hotel that I'd gotten on Priceline. It was a Hilton Garden Inn and it was super nice. Not only did the man at the front desk tell me that he'd be DELIGHTED to give me a room with two beds at no additional charge, he also invited me to take as many free chocolate chip cookies as I wanted. (Take that, Clarion!)

The three of us went swimming and then ordered a pizza and hung out in our room. We decided it was high time to make our daughter tackle the homework she'd been neglecting all week. This went over about as well as you'd imagine. We finally gave up and went to bed. Then on Sunday, we flew back home. The return flight was completely uneventful, so nothing to report there. Well, unless you'd find my daughter's confusion during her solo trip to the lavatory to be amusing, which you wouldn't.

We now return to our regularly scheduled programming.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios

(I'm almost done, I promise.)

On Wednesday morning, we headed to Animal Kingdom. It rained quite a bit throughout the day, but we had rain gear so we soldiered on. I think my daughter impaled the eyeballs of about fifty strangers while swinging her umbrella around. We hopped on a safari first thing in the morning, as we had heard the animals are more active then. As you know, I really struggle with this sort of thing. I'd rather know that a giraffe is loping freely across some African plains than to be living in Disney World with tourists passing by a thousand times a day. And yet, we've done such a spectacular job of destroying our natural resources and habitats that zoos become sort of essential for conservation. I do know that Disney does not take any animal out of the wild - most come from other zoos. Or at least that is the line they give . . .

We saw a couple of shows at Animal Kingdom and also rode a roller coaster called Expedition Everest. My stomach felt a little bit iffy for the rest of the day. P and I got off the coaster and declared that we were done with rides for the day. Our daughter, of course, rode it a couple more times because it was, and I quote, "AWESOME!"

On Thursday, we descended upon Hollywood Studios. This park was a lot more crowded than Animal Kingdom. Our friends' middle son was celebrating his 10th birthday that day, so we did another "theme" lunch. We ate at a place called the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater.  You sit in an old car and watch B movies on a big screen. It was a lot of fun. We ate birthday cake for dessert and then my friend Sherri insisted on carrying around the leftovers for the rest of the day. She finally gave in about six hours later, when she realized the leftover cake had morphed into a pile of glop.

There aren't tons of rides at Hollywood Studios, but we did tackle all (or most) of them. The kid was pissed that she was too short to ride the Rock-n-Roller Coaster. I rode it, despite my concerns about the inversions. Our friends' oldest son rode it with me and I'm pretty sure I deafened him in his right ear. I was not sure I was up for the Tower of Terror. P refused to ride it. The Tower of Terror is, of course, the ride that hauls you (in an elevator) umpteen stories into the air and then "drops" the elevator in a seeming free fall. I rode it. Just once, though.

Our daughter danced at both parks (see photos below). She danced at some street party at Animal Kingdom, and danced in the street at Hollywood Studios. The girl can rock a beat, let me tell you.

The day ended with another park-closing extravaganza (our third of the week). The Fantasmic show requires you to be seated over an hour in advance, which was a little frustrating. I baked in the sun and daydreamed about swimming pools and ice. I chatted with the family sitting to my left. They were Canadian and were super-nice (which is, as I understand it, a firm requirement for all Canadians).  I noticed that their two children had albinism so I told them how I have no pigment in my skin either and maybe I should have been hanging out with them instead of my own family. We compared notes on sunblock and how to handle the Florida heat. They had been struggling with the heat quite a bit and had retreated to their hotel room mid-day to cool off each day.

The most important thing that happened at Hollywood Studios is that I saw the 3D Muppet movie and bought a Gonzo to take home with me. I took him to work, where everyone is on strict orders not to touch him. 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

15 years ago today . . .

 . . . I married some guy I picked up in a bar.

When I asked our daughter how long she thought we'd been married, she said, "About 35 years."

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Epcot and Beach

After spending something like 14 hours at the Magic Kingdom on Sunday, we weren't sure what Monday would hold. We were sort of playing each day "by ear" and waiting to see what the weather would do. Our friends' middle son came down with a painful ear infection (as opposed to the infections that feel good, I guess) and needed to see a doctor right away on Monday morning. Not that we were happy he had an infection, but this gave the rest of us a chance to sleep in a little. We came up with a plan to have an early lunch at the resort and then head to Epcot for the afternoon/evening.

I loved Epcot. The first thing I noticed was: they sell beer there (no alcohol is sold at the Magic Kingdom).  I didn't buy anything to drink at Epcot, but wondered if this is why adults seem to love Epcot more than kids do. Speaking of what Disney sells and where, did you know that Disney does not sell gum at any of its properties? I'm assuming it's because they don't want you leaving wads of chewed-up Trident all over their shit. It's probably for the best.

Epcot doesn't have as many rides as the other parks, but there was plenty to do. Our daughter particularly enjoyed an attraction called "Turtle Talk with Crush" where the turtle from "Finding Nemo" talks to the audience (he's a cartoon, though - not live action). I was really impressed with a lot of the special effects at Disney. We rode a Finding Nemo ride where they project Nemo and his friends into a live aquarium (so that the cartoon fish were right next to .  . . real fish).  I dunno - maybe I just have a low thrill threshold! We also enjoyed a simulated ride called "Soarin.'" We visited several of the countries in the World Showcase. My favorite attraction at Epcot was the manatee tank. Disney takes in manatees that need rehabilitation and eventually releases them, making room for more manatees in need. I noticed that the two manatees in the tank had seriously compromised tail paddles (sliced off by recreational watercraft of some type, I imagine). And then finally, we stayed at Epcot for the closing light show and fireworks.

Oh, and one other note. I thought there was a firm "no crying at Disney" policy but let me tell you - there is crying and plenty of it. Not necessarily by the kids in our group, although they had a few moments of dissatisfaction, too, but I witnessed some spectacular meltdowns in other families. I saw one kid get spanked in a gift shop at Epcot. I saw another little girl get hauled into the stroller parking area and placed on a cement ledge while her father advised her, loudly and in no uncertain terms, that her lack of gratitude would NOT be tolerated. I yanked my kid out of a line to meet Chip and Dale because she was complaining that our friends' kids had sweet tarts and she didn't (never mind that I had a whole backpack full of treats and snacks for her - they just weren't SWEET TARTS, fer cryin' out loud). I warned her about 97 times and then snapped and told her she would NOT be meeting any chipmunks that day. She sat on a bench and cried while our friends went through the line and hung out with Chip and Dale. Oh, and while she was wallowing in self-pity, she uttered this dramatic little gem: "If you don't love me, why don't you just sell me!"  First off, we are still paying on our adoption loan and there's no way we'd even consider selling her until that's paid off. Second, the market for uber-talkative little girls who refuse to walk at Disney World and force their fathers to carry them instead . . . is pretty soft right now.

On Tuesday, we skipped the parks and headed to Daytona Beach. My friend Lisa lives in that neck of the woods, so she and her husband joined us. They brought their three children as well. Despite the risk of sunburn that the beach brings me, I do love to bounce around in the waves. A day at the beach soothes the soul, I tell you (at least two of my friends are reading this right now and thinking, "Oh, c'mon, she has no soul!") The kids had a lot of fun digging in the sand and convincing themselves that they were doing stuff with sand and water that no other kid in the history of time had ever thought of before.

A few more photos:

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Magic Kingdom

(These are the Disney World posts I warned you about.)

In addition to the lice trauma/drama, we had one other pre-flight incident. We forgot A's carry-on bag. We realized it when we were about 35 minutes from home and did not want to go back. I pulled over to the side of the road so that we could argue about whose fault it was. I blamed P because he had packed the car and should have known it was missing. He blamed me because I did the packing. A blamed both of us because we are horrible parents.  Anyway, we stopped at a Target and replaced some of the items that had been in the carry-on (markers, paper, stuffed animal, etc.) My daughter chose a Victorious backpack, and let me tell you it is nearly the most hideous thing ever manufactured. She loves it. From there, other than the lice incident, things went pretty smoothly. 

We arrived in Orlando on Saturday, May 12th. Our friends had arrived at the resort before we got there (they have a time share; we stayed just a couple miles from Disney World). We grabbed our rental car and then headed over to the resort. The suite was really nice - it featured two master suites and then an extra bedroom with twin beds in it. It also had a fold-out couch. Most nights, our kid slept there with their youngest kid.

Once we were settled in, Sherri and I went back out to buy groceries for our families. We chose the grocery store nearest to the resort, which was a Super Walmart. It was quite the adventure. We were the only native English speakers there, as far as I could tell (not that this is really noteworthy - just a little different from the boring ol' Midwest where we live). While we were gone, the first floor of the resort building caught fire and everyone was evacuated. Part of me felt terrible for the people on the first floor (they were moved to other buildings) and part of me just felt glad it wasn't us (we were on the second floor). The kids were excited and couldn't wait to tell me and Sherri about the fire trucks when we got back. Our husbands didn't seem to be too traumatized, in as much as they had reacted to the emergency by sitting on the curb with a couple of beers.

On Sunday morning, we got up bright and early to head to the Magic Kingdom. Now, you'd think if there was ever a day when a kid might want to hop out of bed and get moving, it would be on her first day at Disney World. However, if you think that . . . you'd be wrong.

Eventually, however, we were on the road and headed to the Magic Kingdom. The parking attendant wished me a "magical day," which felt like a lot of pressure if you ask me. Although A's birthday was 10 days before this, we were celebrating her birthday "officially" on Sunday. My friend Sherri (a Disney pro) made sure my daughter got an "it's my birthday" pin at the gate. We had also booked a special lunch at Cinderella's castle. I am so glad we went to Disney World this year, because my daughter is just on the cusp of not thinking princesses are cool anymore. Belle and Snow White are slowly being replaced by iCarly and Victoria Justice. However, the thrill remained for now. She got to meet all of the princesses at the lunch. She collected autographs in her official autograph book at a dizzying rate. She also asked our waiter for his autograph.

We were at the Magic Kingdom when it opened and we were there when it closed. We stayed for the parade and fireworks. It was a long day, but a good one. I rode almost all of the rides - except the ones that spin. The kids went on the teacups and honestly, I couldn't even watch. No matter what ride my daughter tried, she invariably hopped off, threw her arms in the air and yelled, "THAT WAS AWESOME!" I sincerely believe that if a ride ripped off her left ear in mid-air, she'd still decree the ride to be AWESOME. I wish someone could explain to me why my child is not afraid to ride a roller coaster in the dark but will not even consider riding a two-wheeler bike with no training wheels.

As a first-timer at Disney, I made a few random observations:
  1. The toilet paper was not perforated. Seriously, check it out for yourself next time you're there.
  2. The Disney employees are as nice as everyone says. Sure, I know the niceness may be involuntary, but I don't care. 
  3. Everything is very clean.
  4. Disney does a good job of keeping you from realizing you are standing in line for an attraction. They shuffle you from room to room, show you movies, etc. I dug it.
  5. The cost wasn't as bad as we feared. We carried in water and snacks and saved a lot of money that way. We did splurge on some things (like the princess meal) but there's really no need to splurge on a basic necessity like water. 
  6. The costumed characters really do take their time with kids. We didn't feel like we had to rush along. 
  7. The last observation is about me: I have no sense of direction. I mean, I've always known this, but Disney World made me realize just how bad my internal compass is (I think it is missing entirely). My friend Sherri told me which way to walk, because she's smart and can read a map. Without her, I think I'd still be circling Space Mountain in an endless loop.