Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A Day Without Freak-outs. . .

Wednesday morning found us waiting at the resort bus stop, waiting for the bus that would take us to Disney's Hollywood Studios.  It didn't take long, but riding the bus can be a pain with a stroller because it has to be folded.  (I always felt rushed to get the stupid thing folded up while everyone else climbed on board the bus because I seemed to be the only one that could do it.  Not that it took more than 10 seconds to fold it, but if there was stuff in the bottom it wouldn't fold.  One advantage to having your own stroller:  You know how it works.)

The great thing about Hollywood is it's size. . . small.  If you compare a map of Hollywood to a map of any other Disney park, you will see the difference.  Instead of sprawling across the land, this park is set up like a city.  So everything is sort of layered, with attractions tucked in behind each other.  There are a few exceptions, like the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith and The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.

We started by heading to Star Tours to get a Fastpass, but Tommy, Tom, and I ended up getting in line because the wait was 20 minutes.  Inside, the scenery was straight out of Star Wars, as was expected, but seeing it in person was pretty cool.  We got pulled to the front of the line because they were looking for a group of 3.  Very cool.

And the ride. . . WOW!  You're riding in a "Starspeeder 1000" that takes you on a crazy 3D adventure throughout the world of Star Wars.  Every "tour" is different, utilizing "light speed" to transition between settings.  The "ship" rocks, rolls, and shakes to make it feel like you're really flying through space.  Even "light speed" forces you back in your seat.  It was an incredible ride, and when we came out, through the gift shop of course, Tom bought Tommy and Bug each a shirt.  (Tommy was staring at the "build your own light saber" station with greedy eyes, but he already has like 5.)

While we were on Star Tours Mom and Dad went to get Fastpasses for Tommy, Mom, and me for the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.  When we were all back together, we headed down one of the streets of Hollywood.  I marveled at the buildings, which were designed to capture Hollywood in its heyday.  The street ended at Tower of Terror, Rock 'n' Roller Coaster, and Fantasmic!  (We skipped Fantasmic! because we were unsure how Bug would react.  Some books said it could be frightening for toddlers.)

Time for the Tower of Terror!  But before we could get in line, we checked the Fastpass times for the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster.  Unfortunately, the time was while we would be at dinner. . . again.  So, we deeded that, while it was probably an awesome ride, we would skip it because only Tommy and I would ride it.  

Tower of Terror was for Mom, Tommy, and me.  The inside was set up like an abandoned hotel, cobwebs and all.  Then we got packed into an old library and watched a clip from an "episode"of The Twilight Zone about the Hollywood Tower Hotel before the lights went out.  Then a bookcase opened and we got in another line that wound through the bowels of the hotel on the way to a freight elevator which was the "only elevator in the hotel that still worked."  The atmosphere was amazing.  The designers really did a great job with this one.

Note the partially open door below the sign. . .
That's where it shows you just how high you are.
The three of us sat in the middle of the elevator's three rows of seats.  It took us up, then, surprisingly, it opened up to a floor of the hotel where we watched ghostly scenes before moving forward through the hallway and in to The Twilight Zone.  (My mother was probably eating this up because she loves the show.)  Our trip ended in a pitch black shaft.  We knew what was coming.

We went up, then plummeted several stories.  All three of us broke out in uncontrollable laughter.  Occasionally, we would stop in our ascent, and the elevator doors would open to reveal the outside world and give us a feeling of just how high we were.  Then we would drop again, a free-fall into darkness.  I don't remember how many time we went up and down, each time to different levels, but it wasn't enough.  It was too much fun to have it end that quickly.  Definitely a highlight ride, a "must ride" ride.  

Through the back alleys of Mos Eisley, and past Star Tours again, we headed toward the hot air balloon with the face of Kermit the Frog.

Outside of the Muppet 3D Vision theater we delighted in the fountain featuring Miss Piggy decked out like the Statue of Liberty while Fozzy Bear filmed, Gonzo directed and Animal caused his usual trouble with the water pipes.

The line for the show wasn't bad.  We might have waited about 20 minutes before we were ushered into a room where we were told to "move all the way forward and fill in all the empty space" because they wanted to squeeze 600 people into a room that felt only big enough for maybe 200.  Talk about claustrophobia.  But then the doors opened and we moved into a huge movie theater where we watched the Muppets in 3D for 17 minutes.

Was it worth it?  Yes, as long as you love the Muppets and don't have to wait long.  The glasses were cheap and hurt my face.  Bug would't wear them at all, but then, he is 2 and doesn't really get stuff like that yet.  What I liked best was Sweetums coming out from "back stage."  Sweetums is one of my favorite Muppets, along with Animal and Beaker.

We found a place for lunch after the Muppets.  Tommy got to watch a Jedi Training session while we were there.  He didn't believe me when I told him that what those Storm Troopers were doing outside the window, though.  He insisted that they were there sort of like the Disney characters.

They drove around like this!
After lunch we rushed to catch the Lights, Motors, Action!  Extreme Stunt Show.  We missed the first couple minutes while we climbed an infinite staircase at the back of the bleachers in order to get to the top.  The stands were packed, and we had to split up.  Tom and I sat with Bug, while Tommy, Mom and Dad went a little further down the stands.

It was a great show, with explosions, flying cars and motorcycles, jet skis, and the highlight of the show for Bug. . . Lightning McQueen!  He seemed unimpressed until that red race car with eyes for a windshield pulled in.  After that, he was captivated, even after Lightning left.

Bug first sees Lightning McQueen

Beginning of grande finale
This show was a "must see" for us because of my car-lovin' husband and son, but it was hot and loud.  Boy was it loud.  Bug did not enjoy the volume of the people shouting into microphones whose speakers projected directly into the stands.  We were trapped between metal bleachers and metal roof, the raucous echoing around us, abusing our ears.  It wasn't the cars, or even the explosions.  It was the microphones amplifying the voices that should have been talking into them, but had the intonation of shouting.  Tom thought the set up was poorly thought out in so many ways, but it worked.  Other wise, a good show, though.
"Hero" car disappears
in burst of flame

I wanted to catch Disney Junior--Live on Stage! now, but it was getting late and we all were hot and tired.  So. . .

Hold on to the rail!
Grandpop & Bug on the bus.
We walked back to the buses after that, headed home for our daily afternoon nap.  But dinner found us back in Hollywood, waiting in the "living room" of the 50's Prime Time Cafe.  This restaurant is made to make you feel like you're sitting in Donna Reed's kitchen in the 1950's.  There are booths set at angles with small black-and-white TV's mounted up on a shelf in the corner.  The idealistic family shows play while you eat, interspersed with advertisements for Disneyland in California.  If I remember correctly, Walt Disney, himself, make appearances in some of the ads.  Very cool.  Oh, and the chairs were those metal-framed, padded vinyl types with silver flake on a black background.  You know Tom loved them.

The food was fantabulous, "home-cooked" meals.  I would recommend anything on the menu.  Our server was "Dad," even if he was a bit--how do you say--flamboyant.  Tom and I had vanilla malts reminiscent of the "5 dollar shake" from Pulp Fiction.  Bugs meal, a hot dog and french fries, came on a  Mickey Mouse-shaped plate, which he thought was pretty cool.

While we waited for Tom to visit the "bad boy area" (read "smoker"), Tommy had fun with hula hoops.  He was really good.

Afterward, we headed toward the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular show.  Mom had said it was lame when she came with her high-school girlfriend a few years before, but it was a sit-down show with no line, and Bug could enjoy it, too.  (Although my little man flirted with the girl in front of where he sat with Grandpop for part of the show.)  We all enjoyed it.  Well, maybe Ms. Critical didn't enjoy it as much as the rest of us, but she's so picky, you know.

At this point, we had missed the last Disney Junior--Live on Stage! show.  I know that Bug didn't know what he was missing, but I was a bit disappointed.  There isn't a whole lot for little guys like him, and he loves Disney Junior's shows and characters, but oh well.  It wasn't the first thing we missed, and it certainly wouldn't be the last.

So I stayed outside with Bug while everyone else went for another trip "far, far away on the Starspeeder 1000."  It was a different trip than the one I took with Tom and Tommy in the morning.  This time they ran into Darth Vader and visited some snowy planet.

Then we cut through the alley again to find Mater and Lighting McQueen.  The line was nice and short, and we only waited about 10 minutes.  Bug wasn't too sure about it at first, but he calmed down enough to get a couple good pictures.  We also started using our Photopass at this time. . . finally.

It was getting to the point where people were getting cranky because of the long, hot day, so we started back to the park entrance.  But on our way, I wanted to find Buzz Lightyear for Bug.  After checking the map by the Sorcerer's Apprentice hat, we made a u-turn around a building and down a ramp, ending at the entrance to Pixar Studios.  "Pixar" is Bug's first sight word, and when he saw it spanning between the buildings he said, "Pixar!"  We walked down and back, looking at all the props straight out of Toy Story.  The character meet-and-greet had a line that, at almost 9 pm, said was a 75 minute wait.  75 minutes!  That let at night, shame on parents who have their little ones stand in line for that long.  I don't care what it's for.  Bug didn't know he was missing out, so we left.

On the way out, we stopped for another Photopass photo with all of us in front of the Sorcerer's Apprentice hat.  A good way to end the day.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Florida Sunshine & Sweet A/C

The great thing about a kitchenette in you villa:  breakfast.  Tuesday morning--and every morning there-after--we ate breakfast at "home."  It helped to reduce the morning stress load a bit, allowing for a more relaxed getting-ready time.  On the other hand, because we weren't scheduled to be out of the room on those mornings we were usually later to the day's park than desired.

On this morning we hopped the monorail at the hotel and rode to the "bus terminal and ticketing center" where we climbed off, went down the steep ramp, around to the other side, back up another steep ramp, and waited for the monorail to Epcot.

Pulling into the Epcot station, Bug got an up-close view of the giant silver golf-ball that is Spaceship Earth.  His response, "Big ball!  It's really heavy," had us laughing.

The first thing we did, after getting our bearings. was head straight to Soarin' for a Fastpass.  I went inside, while everyone else waited outside.  It was crazy inside the Land Pavillion:  I had to walk down a ramp around the perimeter, then down steps (or an escalator), then throughout the center of the building just to get to the Fastpass line.  I probably waited ten minutes in a line that looked much shorter than it really was, but came out with return times of 1:30 - 2:30.  Not bad.

It was maybe around 10 in the morning and already in the upper 80's, promising to be a HOT day.  I remember thinking, Thank goodness we're in Epcot with ill the air-conditioned buildings.  Everyone was chitin water as we headed next door to check out The Seas with Nemo and Friends.

Tom and I delighted in the seagulls out front.  They were from the movie Finding Nemo, and true to their characters as they stood on the rocks and cawed, "Mine. Mine. Mine."  It was a great intro into the building that houses a 5.7 million gallon salt water aquarium environment.  Walking into the building took you under the sea.

The ride had no wait, and gave more under water details, such as walking under a fishing boat like the one Nemo dares to approach in the movie.  We climbed into "clamobiles" and started our journey through an animated undersea world.  At the end the animated sea creatures "swam" with the live fish and dolphins in the large tank.  It was really cool to see the combination.  Truly a great work of imagineering.

Afterward, we went to visit Bruce in his shipwreck playground.  Then we saw ginormous manatees. They swam into the viewing area right after we walked up.  I've never seen them in person and was shocked at their size.

Bug & Daddy on
Journey into Imagination with Figment

On to the Imagination! Pavillion and the Journey into Imagination with Figment.  I LOVE Figment!  I just had to say that.  The adorable purple dragon gives lots of laughs as his trouble making escapades wreak havoc through the professor's "tour."  Afterward, we walked through a fun learn-n-play area called ImageWorks where we played with motion and sound, and I even created my own "Figment."  (He was green, and I named him Boober.)  This was the only part of ImageWorks that Bug actually liked.

Bug making his Figment
Creating "Boober"

Jumping water
Reverse waterfall
We watched the jumping water and reverse waterfall for a a few minutes, I inwardly lamenting the fact that nobody else showed any interest in seeing Captain E.O.  Then we headed for the World Showcase for lunch.

Above the reverse waterfall

Grandpop & Bug
with new umbrella
Happy, Doc, Grumpy & Snow White
We made it as far as Italy, pausing to snap pictures of topiaries in the form os beloved Disney characters and a beautiful little train garden.  We bought a panda umbrella for Bug to shade him from the beating sun.

Train garden
Lunch was the best pizza I have ever had grace my tastebuds.  The men had pepperoni.  Mom and I shared a white pizza with some special cheese, artichokes, and--the creme dela creme--white truffle oil.  Everything is better with white truffle oil.  It was all served by an authentic italian waiter.  I could barely understand him through the thick timbre of his accent.

We went no farther into the World Showcase because it was so dreadfully hot, and we were tired.  Besides, we had a Fastpass to claim.

Tom took Bug into Innoventions while the rest of us went to Sorain'.  We were early, so we hung around the gift shop for a while, Tommy admiring the pins.  I was captivated by tiny plants encapsulated in glass and growing in some sort of clear gel.  The labels said they were grown from samples taken from plants grown in Living with the Land.  (Another attraction I wanted to see but missed.  There's just not enough time for everything.)

Soarin' was awesome!  Other than the feet of people sitting in the row in front of us, this ride really made the effect of hang gliding feel real.  We felt the wind as we soared over the Golden Gate bridge, Napa Valley, and more.  At last we came gliding back to Walt Disney World over Main Street USA with its building lit up at night.  Then we soared into the night sky as Wishes was ending with the last firework so big it engulfed the sky, and its boom rocked us where we sat.  Awesome ride.  I highly recommend you give it a try.

It was back to the room for a nap afterward.  We did look at Test Track, but the line was ridiculous and the Fastpass return time was during our dinner time.  When we came back a little later to check the times again, Fastpass was sold out.  It was a shame because that was the one ride Tom was looking forward to.

Dinner was at The Crystal Palace with Winnie the Pooh, Piglet, Tigger, and Eyore.  This place is in the Magic Kingdom, so we walked from the hotel.  Of course, as we entered the park the Move It!  Shake It!  Celebrate It!  Street Party was in full swing.  Luckily it was just a bit farther up the road than we had to go, so we missed the craziness as we took our little side street.

We were seated pretty quickly, and hit the buffet before any characters made it to us.  Tommy's plate had a few grapes and a roll on it.  Not nearly enough food for a 13 yea old boy walking around Walt Disney World.  When we told him he had to eat more than that, he said he wasn't hungry.  A bit later he said he didn't feel good.  We got him to eat grapes and sip apple juice, but not much more.

On the other hand, Eyore was coming!  I love Eyore.  Bug wanted nothing to do with him, so I gave him a big hug, got his autograph, and posed for the camera.

Next was Tigger.  He's Dad's favorite, so Dad was the Bug holder for the Tigger pictures and autographs.  When he left, Tigger bounced away.

Piglet and Pooh came right behind each other, Piglet first.  At first, Bug was shy with Piglet, but the big pink softy had skills.  He was even able to take Bug's nuk out of his mouth and get huge, laughing smiles from him.  Pooh didn't have so much, but Piglet returned during Pooh's visit and we got more smiles.

Then we went back home because Tommy still wasn't feeling well.  Mom and I were convinced he was dehydrated, and we told him he had to drink.  It would make him feel better.  He did eat some grapes too, but because he wasn't feeling well, he didn't eat or drink enough to hold back the inevitable sickness that comes with being severely dehydrated.  He got sick.  Tom got him some Powerade and told him to keep sipping.

Because of all this, we didn't get back to Epcot like we wanted.  We were going to go for the Magic Hours only available to guests staying onsite.  After watching IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth, Tom could ride Test Track and I could take Tommy on Mission: SPACE.  But alas, Epcot Magic hours would have to wait until Thursday.  (And, boy is THAT a story.)

So Tom and I watched Wishes with the music from the smokers' area at the main hotel while going to get Pepto, beer, and wine.  Then Mom and I took Bug down to see the pool.

Bay Lake Tower has a private pool, separate from the Contemporary's pool.  A key card is required to get in.  One side has a zero entry, meaning that it's like a beach and you walk in instead of using stairs.  Needless to say, Bug got soaked in his clothes.  He also soaked me and Grandmom, so I had Daddy bring down his swim diaper and trunks along with my swimsuit.  We all had a grand time.  It was the first time Daddy got to see Bug swim, and he was impressed.  Bug was also thrilled to show off his tricks to Daddy, and to swim with him since Daddy had worn his swim trunks, too.

Flowers at one pool in Epcot
We had an early night compared to the rest of the week, but we still had a good day.  Epcot was full of beautiful flowers, trees, and topiaries.  I missed visiting the Pixie Garden where Tinkerbell and her fairy friends frolicked (in topiary form) amongst the spring blooms and blossoms.  There was also an area dedicated to butterflies, but we only saw that in passing.
Floating flowers going into
World Showcase

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Pixie Dust & Evil Henchmen. . .

Monday morning found us somewhat rested and having breakfast at Chef Mickey's.  It was a delightful breakfast, with a superb buffet and five Disney characters walking around.  We got to see--in order of appearance--Goofy, Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, and Pluto.  Goofy and Pluto are two of Bug's favorite characters, but he was still tired and hadn't eaten anything when Goofy first appeared.  He hid in my shoulder.  Mickey and Minnie had him opening up a little, possibly because Grandmom got him to eat a banana.  He was still shy for Pluto, though.  Pluto gave him "kisses" and "sniffed" him, but he clung to Mommy.

The food at Chef Mickey's was fantastic.  They had you typical buffet offering of fresh fruit, sausage, bacon, eggs, and pancakes.  But they also had kid-sized Mickey waffles, buttery croissants, and a tasty quiche.  The orange juice tasted freshly squeezed.  The coffee was the perfect strength.  Overall, this was the best character meal we went to, and I highly recommend it.

We took the monorail back to the Magic Kingdom after we ate.  We didn't walk because we weren't sure of the path.  Once there, we went into Tomorrowland and got Fast Passes for Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin.  This was a bit crazy because the line was long, and none of us knew how to do it.  I got to try, but when I put Bug's "key to the world" into the machine it said it was invalid.  Luckily there was a cast member there to help me.  Apparently, if you have an "infant" "key to the world"--what they call the card we were each given to use for charging and park entry--they don't run it through when you enter the park.  If the key doesn't go through upon entry, you can't use it for anything inside.  Frustrating!  (Apparently it depended upon the person who helped you through the gate because some of them ran Bug's card, and some didn't.)

We saw Chip & Dale and Stitch in Tomorrowland.  Chip posed for a photo, but he wouldn't sign the autograph books.  I guess maybe that's only for the character meals.  Dale was harder to catch and successfully evaded us.  Stitch, however, stopped and danced with Tommy, delighting both boys.

Of course we had to ride the Mad Tea Party again.  This time Daddy rode with me, Bug, and Tommy.  He doesn't do skinny things well, and was using Bug as an excuse to take it easy.  Bug on the other hand wanted to make the tea cup spin as fast as possible.  Either way, all enjoyed the ride, and Daddy took delight in watching Bug's jubilation first hand.

We had issues with lunch in that we couldn't decide on a place to eat that used "counter service" on our Disney Dining Plan.  The first place we stopped didn't have anything on the menu that my mother would eat.  Enter the beginning of stressed-out freak-out.  Because she was unsatisfied, Dad got huffy.  She got huffy back.  Thank goodness, Tom was there to say that he didn't see anything for the kids there, effectively neutralizing the situation.  I don't even remember where we ended up.  Maybe back at Contempo Cafe in the Contemprary?

But I digress.

Bug & Tommy with Emperor Zurg
Our first Fast Pass experience was pretty cool.  We got in line at our appointed time--Fast Pass gives you an hour window to come back to the ride for a shorter wait--and pretty much went right up to the front of the line.  Split into three cars of two--Mom and Dad, me and Tommy, Bug and Daddy--we climbed on board to shoot down the bad guys on the Space Ranger Spin.  (A tip I learned from one of the many books read:  Hold down the button on you your gun, and "aim" at small and far away objects for a higher score.)  Great fun, but Daddy had to keep Bug in the dark about how to spin the car for fear of spinning in high-speed circles throughout the entire ride.

We went back to the room for a rest around 2:30, which is a bit late for Buggy to be napping, but oh well.  He snuggled in between Mommy and Daddy on our bed for about a two-hour siesta.  A day in Disney without a nap is just plain crazy, especially with a 2 year-old.

An enchanted dinner with the princesses in Cinderella's castle started our evening off right.  We had a picture taken with Cinderella before going up a staircase that wound around inside one of the towers.  Mom and I were greeted by our server as "Princess" and tended to first.  The men and boys were "Prince" and tended to in order of age.  The boys got swords and "wishing stars."  I fell in love with the menus which had Cinderella and her Prince in stained glass on one side with the options on the other.  Our server let me keep two.

While we reveled in our mouthwatering desserts, the princesses began their procession through the dining room.  Each was introduced by an excerpt from her movie.  Snow White was a beautiful representation of the animated princess, right down to her facial features and structure.  Princess Aurora was much less impressive, as I didn't find her to be up to par in the looks department.  (Shallow, I know, but she is an iconic Disney princess and therefore held to a standard.)  Some of my negative view of her might also stem from the fact that she basically ignored Bug as he sat in Daddy's lap.  Ariel was elegant and much prissier than her animated counterpart.  But that is not an insult.  She was pretty, and her dress gorgeous, and she interacted with Bug very well.  His favorite, however, was the last princess to greet us, and she came dressed in her everyday dress instead of a gown.  (A shame, really, because I love her golden-yellow ball gown.)  Belle was so very friendly with my little man, talking to him about his Lightning McQueen shoes and how she was friends with Lightning.  He showed her how his shoes flash and actually began talking to her in an enthusiastic tone.  She listened very well, and they conversed for a few minutes.  It was too cute.

Watching The Barnstormer
Waiting for Dumbo
Two hours later we were back in the heat of the Florida evening trying to figure out which way to go.  We hit the new Dumbo the Flying Elephant in Storybook Circus.  Waiting in line we were privy to the thrills that The Barnstormer offered.  Bug wanted so bad to ride it, but the line was just too long.  He had fun watching, though.  On Dumbo, he just wanted to be up high.  It was a rather sedate and calming ride for my little thrill seeker.

We checked The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh after riding Snow White's Scary Adventures, but the line was long.  By the way, the Snow White ride is scheduled to close this year.  I think they are opening a new one that involves the dwarves a little more, but don't quote me on that.  I felt obligated to take Bug on this ride since it is the only thing I remember from my first visit to Walt Disney World when I was his age.  It must have terrified me because it is a very clear, although inaccurate, memory.  Bug, being the adrenaline junky he was bred to be, and afraid of nothing, found the ride quite entertaining.

It was then that we hit a little bump.  We couldn't agree on what to do, but we wanted to see the Haunted Mansion which has a Fast Pass.  Well, Mom got into one of her tizzies she has when the stress starts pushing too hard, saying we had to go check the times in a tightly wound, slightly higher pitched voice than normal.  I walked away, pushing Bug in his stroller, Tommy in tow.  

We hit the Mansion with a 20-minute wait.  I have always remembered loving this ride, with it's entry and the hitchhiking ghosts.  I do not, however, remember the way you are herded into a confined space and told to keep moving so everyone can fit.  The line only reformed once we were almost to the "doom buggies."  Our ride was stopped three times.  Obviously no one knew why, but it was irritating, even to Bug.  The last time he said, "I wanna GO!"  The hitchhikers provided much-needed comedic relief at the end, though.  The ghost on the "doom buggy" next to us was laying on top and swapping heads.  He had us laughing out loud.  Even Bug thought they were funny.

Tommy & Dad on It's a Small World

Out of the Mansion and back toward It's a Small World for another short wait.  Again, this ride didn't possess the magic I remember from my childhood, but then it is sort of geared toward the little ones.  Bug loved riding in the boat through the different "countries" while the worldly "children" sang It's a Small World in different languages.  He even sang along at times!  

Just before the Main Street Electrical Parade we gathered our stroller--stroller parking at Disney is great, by the way--and headed toward Main Street.  Big mistake.

While I wanted the boys to see the parade, I was not prepared for the Hell that Main Street becomes for this event.  Everyone in the entire park must have been crammed along the parade route.  We couldn't move, but yet a very nasty cast member kept yelling at us and everyone else to "keep moving."  Well, I'm sorry, but if the mob in front of me isn't moving, just where do you expect me to go, lady?  We got pushed one way, then another.  People cut us off and stopped in front of us to watch the spectacle that couldn't be seen through the throng of bodies amassed on the sidewalks.  

At one point I found a clear spot to stop so I could put Bug back in his stroller.  While he was begging buckled in, another cast member yelled at me that I had to move.  "You can't leave this here," she said nastily, pointing to the stroller.  

That's when I snapped.  I stood up in the woman's face an yelled right back.  "Well, excuse me," the utter disgust in my voice dripping like molasses because I had had it.  "I'm trying get my child buckled into his stroller so he will be safe.  Disney is supposed to be about the children.  My son's safety is my priority, lady."  She backed off and went to bother someone else.  Score one for the Sackett-Baker clan.  

As we pushed our way through to get out, I got tired of people stepping in front of Tom pushing the stroller.  So I got in front of him, grabbed the safety bar, and began pushing right back.  I was as nice as I could be, saying "excuse me" and allowing people to move before pushing through.  It really wasn't the the other guests I was irritated with.  We were all in the same boat essentially.  It was the cast members that were yelling at everyone who was trying to do what was "asked" of them, but ignoring those people doing exactly what was causing the problems.

We were able to get out a back way, thanks to those cast members in the restaurants and stores at the circle-end of Main Street.  The tension eased as we entered the almost vacant ally behind the storefronts.  We asked a very friendly cast member for walking directions back to the Contemporary.  She was pleasant, saying "happy birthday" to Tommy, and telling Bug he looked very awake and like he was up to something.  I couldn't see his face, but he was probably giving her his flirty smile.

The walk back to the room was quick and relaxing compared to the fiasco we had just left.  We had the sidewalk to ourselves, and it ended at our lobby door.  We even made it home before the first monorail pulled out of the Magic Kingdom station.

After a short unwind, Daddy took Bug to bed, and I took Tommy back to ride Space Mountain.  He kept talking about it, and I knew he wanted to ride it.  So at 11 pm we walked back and headed straight for the big white dome.  

A 50 minute wait greeted us, and I told Tommy we might not get to ride anything else.  He didn't care.  It was all about Space Mountain.  As we entered the building the cast member gave Tommy a card and told him to give it to the second cast member he saw.  It was a method used for determining how long the wait was, but it proved to be entirely useless.

The ride shut down while we waited.  Apparently you aren't supped to put your hands up on this roller-coaster because of its confinement, but some brilliant person did just that.  A sensor was tripped that stopped the ride.  The sensor couldn't be reset by itself, so they had to shut down and restart everything.

Enough people in front of us left that our wait was probably just a little longer than expected.  But it was worth the wait because Tommy loved  the ride.  So did I, for that matter.  A ride that was almost completely in the dark, with "stars" surrounding us, it was all tight twists, turns, and corkscrews.  

We got back to the room at 1 am.  I had been having issues with my key card not working.  It let us into the lobby, but I had to wake up Mom to let us in because it wouldn't open the room.  But we got in, changed, and crashed out for the night.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Magic is Real. . .

So is stress and exhaustion.  So I’m going to be honest with you here, and tell you what it’s really like to visit Walt Disney World as the mother of a 13 year-old and a 2 1/2 year-old, the wife of a man who doesn’t like crowds or schedules, the daughter of a man who needs schedules and a mother who cannot handle stress at all.
But don’t get me wrong!  We all had an extraordinarily magical time, even through the stress.  And some truly special bonds were strengthened during the week.
Now, having said all that, I’ll save you the trouble of reading about our Disney adventures and misadventures all at one time.  What I’ll do is tell you each day’s story, one at a time.  Some are cute and endearing.  Others are OMG!-type moments.  To be sure, we had a great time, but it’s not all fairies and pixie dust.

Our tale begins with trying to pack for four people, two of which are completely in the dark about what is going on to the point of not even knowing we're going somewhere.  Now, of course, Bug wouldn't really have understood, but as is the fashion with 2-year olds he has a tendency to be a parrot.  Nuff said.

We did the big "reveal" at the airport, but it was a bit disappointing.  Maybe the excitement and confusion of being at the airport diffused the "We're going to Walt Disney World!" spiel.  Tommy just sat there, emotionless.

Mom & Dad in WDW t-shirts
Here's what we did:  Mom made us all shirts that said "I'm going to Walt Disney World!" and had Mickey Mouse jumping in celebration.  We wore them to the airport under our jackets.  Inside the airport, we sat on a bench and said we had to organize.  Then we took off our jackets and handed Tommy and Bug their shirts along with Mickey Mouse ears with their names.

Bug in his CARES restraint

True to his bloodlines, Bug loved flying.  Once we started moving, he kept saying, "Go fast!"  By the time we landed, however, he was ready to get off.  We used a special seatbelt designed for little people called CARES.  A flight attendant even commended us on the use of the restraint, saying it was the best system for toddlers.  (We also used temporary tattoos by Safetytat with my cell number on the boys' arms in case we got separated.)

We caught Disney’s Magical Express from the airport.  With special tags on our checked luggage, they hit baggage claim for us.  Then they took us by way of bus to our hotel.  
Bay Lake Tower
We stayed at Disney’s Contemporary Resort in the new Bay Lake Tower.  We were able to check in, but our villa wasn’t ready.  Tom, Tommy, and Bug got pins that said it was their first time, and Tommy got another one for his birthday.  We ate lunch at Contempo Cafe where our dining plan was royally confused and screwed up, leaving us with less “counter service” meals than expected.  They also lost three of our meals in the confusion.  That’s half.  We got it straight in the end, but were still one meal short.

Disney's Contemporary Resort

Being room-less, we left our carry-on bags with the valet and headed for the monorail to the Magic Kingdom.  (The Contemporary Resort is on of only three resort on the monorail system. The other two being the Polynesian and Floridian.)  We squeezed the stroller onto the escalator because we couldn’t find an elevator.

But Bug loved the monorail ride.  He was enthralled with watching out the window as we rode along, hitting every single stop because Magic Kingdom is the stop right before the Contemporary.  We later found out that it was a 7-minute walk from Bay Lake Tower to the Magic Kingdom, and only took the monorail “home.”
Upon entering, we bought the boys autograph books, and I got a hat.  By this point, my dear, sweet husband had been without a cigarette for approximately ten hours.  Bug was yet without a nap after having been woken up at 4:30 in the morning.  So some of us were a little edgy.
Mad Tea Party
We hopped on the Walt Disney World Railroad and made a round trip back to the main entrance of the park.  Then we ventured through Tomorrowland into Fantasyland where we took a spin on the Mad Tea Party.  Now this was the highlight of Bug’s day.  I don’t know that I’ve ever seen him have more fun than when we were spinning as fast as we could in our little tea cup.
Alice and the White Rabbit were standing near the exit when we got off, but the line was ridiculous.  Personally, they just weren’t worth the wait in the heat with nerves already beginning to fray.  I should point out, however, that the wait time for the ride was posted as 25 minutes, but we only waited 10-15.

Magic Kingdom view from our balcony
It was now 4pm and our room was ready, so we hopped back on the monorail.  The villa was nice to have with six people.  We were able to have breakfast and coffee in the room.  And, although we paid a lake-view price, we had a view of the lake and the Magic Kingdom’s Wishes Nighttime Spectacular.  (A room with a Magic Kingdom view costs more.)  
Sunrise from our balcony
The view was spectacular.  In the morning we could watch the sun rise over what I assume was Orlando.  And at night, with our TV tuned to Disney Radio, we could watch the Wishes fireworks show and hear the music, too.  It was so much better with the music: “wish upon” was accompanied by a bright white shooting-star soaring over Cinderella’s castle, then “star” was punctuated by a purple star-shaped firework floating over the water.  The details are endless, but words do no justice.  You really have to see it in person.

Tommy at Hoop-Dee-Doo Revue
Dinner was at Fort Wilderness.  What a show!  Even though Bug was a crazy, overtired monster, we all enjoyed the spectacle that is the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue.  We celebrated Tommy’s 13th birthday there, so he was singled out buy a performer who announced his name, age, and state to the house.  It was great!
It had rained while we were at dinner, and was still raining when we came out.  Of course we left our ponchos in the room under the stroller because we took the boat to Fort Wilderness.  By the time we got back to our dock, the rain had stopped, but we were soaked.  Well, everyone but me.  For some reason, I was able to walk--or run--between the raindrops and was only slightly wet.  Bug thought it was a great adventure.

When bedtime rolled around. . .Okay, let’s be honest, bedtime was long past, and we were all beyond exhausted.  Bug had been up for 17 hours, and Tom had gone 16 hours without a cigarette.  The rest of us had to deal with that along with our own burnout.  When Daddy put Bug in his crib--we rented one from A Baby's Best Friend--he laid down and didn't move all night.  I’m betting no one else moved much either.