Thursday, January 29, 2015

Disney Pt. 2: Hollywood Studios

After Ellie's race, we left the Wide World of Sports and went straight to Hollywood Studios. We decided to go all in for this day of our trip - we had to get the kids up early to leave Jacksonville on time, and then we were just plowing through our day with no planned naps for either of them. It's a risky game, my friends, but one of necessity in this instance, as our hotel wouldn't be ready in time for naps anyway. And really, the kids did much better than we probably should've expected! I guess we just had too much fun for anyone to be angry (or, you know, we got really, really lucky).

Look at these handsome guys, ready for some theme park fun!

So, Hollywood Studios! I think I only ever passed through there once in my life before, and I really had no memory of it other than that is is home to the Tower of Terror, which sounds like a horrible ride to me so that was hardly a pull. What really drew us to Hollywood Studios was the character meal offered at Hollywood and Vine, which included an encounter with Ellie's hero du juor: Doc McStuffins! We had an early afternoon reservation to make all her little dreams come true, but we had some time to wander the park before all that took place.

Hollywood Studios!

So, we kicked things off with a ride on The Great Movie Ride—E.J.'s first ride! He did great, and the ride was fine, but Ellie was TERRIFIED. It got too loud and she flipped. Poor thing. Lesson learned: no more rides and/or loud noises, if we could help it. (And so we saw our dreams of the Magic Kingdom fireworks display drifting away...)

Footprints in the cement (a la the Chinese Theater) in front of the ride

A spectacular journey into the movies!

E.J. riding on through the land of Oz

Ellie holding Eric's hand on the ride

After the ride we made our way over to the restaurant. We had some time to kill while we waited for our table, so E.J. grabbed a quick snooze in the stroller while Ellie admired both her race medal and a katydid on a bench outside the restaurant.

Ready for lunch at Hollywood & Vine

I remember readings reviews of strollers, and people talking about how great it is if the seat reclines, because the baby can take a nap on the go. That always made me LOL because Ellie was so NOT a sleep-on-the-goer. E.J., on the other hand, made good use of our stroller recline for the very first time!

Kicking back, admiring the fruits of her efforts

Big ol' katydid!

After a short wait we were brought in to our table, and the magic started happening right away. Doc McStuffins was the very first "celebrity" to visit our table, and Ellie nearly exploded with joy. She was just beside herself.

Look at that face!

The highlight of her little life thus far.

Ellie showing off Doc's autograph! (She really is very excited, this is just what happens to her face when you ask her to "smile.")

As we ate, we were also visited by Handy Manny, Jake of the Neverland Pirates, and Sofia the First. Most of them commented on Ellie's medal—she's very impressive, after all! In addition to each character visiting our table multiple times, they also did a couple little song and dance numbers from time to time. And, you know, we also ate some food. It was a lot of fun!

Pleased to make your acquaintance, Handy Manny!

Hugs from Sofia

E.J. is not buying what Sofia is selling.

Ellie is not so impressed with Jake, apparently.

E.J. and his #1 Dad

Song and dance!

After lunch we went over to Star Tours, where we caught the tail end of a show featuring Darth Vader and a couple of storm troopers. We snapped some pictures and then Eric and I took turns riding the ride while the other one stayed with the kids. It's a 3D simulator ride that puts you in different scenarios based on the different Star Wars movies. Eric's was based on Episode I, so he went underwater with Jar Jar Binks, and mine was from Empire Strikes Back so we were flying through the snow. It was cool!

Star Tours

Darth Vader himself

Outside and inside the Star Tours ride

The best way to sightsee on Endor!

If you don't mind, I'd like to take a moment to toot my own horn. I made a couple of different slipcovers for my baby carriers for this trip. For Hollywood Studios, I made a cover for my mei tai out of Star Wars fabric. I was quite pleased with how it turned out!

Testing it out before we left home

In action!

After Star Tours we did a little more walking around.

E.J. getting his very first look at NYC!

I was wishing my nephew Santiago was with us - he loves Cars!

We tried to wait in line to meet Buzz Lightyear and Woody, but the line was very slow-moving (Buzz and Woody took an insane amount of breaks) and although we almost made it to the front, we had to leave the line before we actually met them because we had Fast Passes to the Disney Junior Live On Stage show that we didn't want to miss out on.

Ellie playing around in line

Silly girl!

So, we left the line and ran over to the theater to get our seats for the Disney Junior show. It was pretty fun - with the exception of one performer, it was all puppets. The concept was that Mickey and the gang wanted to throw a birthday party for Minnie, but needed help with various tasks. They called on the other Disney Jr. hit shows (Doc McStuffins, Sofia the First, Jake and the Neverland Pirates) to help. Each part of the show also had its own little effect that rained down on the crowd: "snow" for Sofia, bubbles for Doc and gold (tissue paper) coins for Jake. Ellie was a little spooked by one part of the Sofia section, but she loved the Doc part and even danced along a little bit!

Disney Junior Live on Stage

Snow!

Doc McStuffins, Stuffy and some bubbles!

Jake and the Neverland Pirates

After the show, we decided it was time to hit the road. We really wanted to stay and do a little more, but we knew we were lucky there hadn't been any major meltdowns yet, given how underslept both children were. We knew we needed to get going, check in to our hotel, get ourselves situated and get everyone fed and to bed. Sure enough, both kids passed out almost immediately upon getting in the car!

A last photo of the Sorcerer Mickey hat - they began tearing it down after our trip! I'm not sure what is taking its place, but the hat is no more.

Sweet E.J.

One last family photo!

We stayed off-campus this time, at the Lake Buena Vista Resort Village and Spa, which was excellent. It was just a few minutes from the parks, and thanks to an especially amazing Black Friday deal, we were able to stay in a three-bedroom suite for less than we would've paid for much smaller rooms at any of the Disney resorts. That meant everyone had their own bedroom, plus we had a full kitchen, separate living area and even a washer/dryer. I mean, this hotel room was literally more square feet than our current house. I do not exaggerate. It was HUGE. And the master bathtub! Oh, that tub. There is not much I wouldn't do to have a tub like that in my own house someday (and someone to pay my water bills for me, because I am a grown-up now and have to think of practical things like that).

Top row: the living area and kitchen; Middle row: the room Ellie slept in, the washer/dryer, and E.J.'s room; Bottom row: the master bed and bathrooms

This tub came equipped with jets and DISCO LIGHTS.

We got ourselves settled and the kids off to bed, then Eric and I relaxed a bit and hashed out our plan for the next day.

Coming up next: Magic Kingdom!

(If you'd like to see more photos from Hollywood Studios, you can see the full set here.)

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Disney Pt. 1: Disney Kids' Races!

We spent the second weekend of January in Orlando for Disney Marathon Weekend. Running a marathon has been a goal of Eric's for some time, so last April he signed up for the Disney Marathon. While doing so, he discovered that there were also kids' running events, and Ellie could run the 100m dash the Thursday before Eric's race! That seemed like a great way to kick off the marathon fun, so we signed Ellie up and planned to make a weekend of it, with six nights in a hotel, two planned Magic Kingdom days, one day at Hollywood Studios and of course, the races for Eric and Ellie!

The whole thing began with an early start on Thursday, January 8th. We left Jacksonville earlier than anyone should have to get two kids out the door, and made it to the Wide World of Sports in Orlando with plenty of time get get checked in and pick up numbers and such for both of our runners. We also spent a few minutes wandering through the expo.

Always an exciting sight!

Our runners at the Wide World of Sports

Inside the Expo

Wise, marathon-appropriate words from Mr. Disney himself

These two look so official!

We then went out to find the starting line for Ellie, and posed for a photo op.

Ready for a fun weekend!

The weather was CHILLY. I hesitate to write anything about the temperature, given the snowy conditions for my friends up north at the current moment, but I guess I have to embrace that I'm an obnoxious Floridian now, so here it is: it was cold. Very cool temps and wind. The kids were appropriately layered but somehow I hadn't really thought to pack enough warmth for myself. Luckily I wore E.J. for the majority of the trip so he helped keep me a bit warmer than I otherwise would have been. (Babies—so multipurpose!)

As the start time for Ellie's race approached, E.J. and I went to stake out a spot along the course to cheer, while Eric accompanied Ellie in lining up for her heat.

Mickey waiting to hand out high-fives at the finish line!

Eric and Ellie are lining up!

When it was time for Ellie's heat, they started off with Ellie in Eric's arms. After a short distance he put her down to run on her own, which she wasn't totally on board with at first...

Not loving it.

...but she pulled it together and ran the rest of the way! I guess having Mickey waiting at the finish was a good motivator!

GO, ELLIE!

At the finish line, she received her medal. Way to go, Ellie!

So fancy!

We stopped for an official "finisher" portrait, too:

Proud moment!

I'm so proud of my little runner! I hope she enjoys running with her daddy as she grows up. So far, she seems to. When Eric did run the marathon, and I told her we were going to go see Daddy run, she replied, "But, Daddy and Ellie can run TOGETHER!" I sure hope so, kiddo!

On our way out of the Wide World of Sports, we stopped at Guest Relations to make sure we were all squared away to hit the theme parks, and then went back to the car to get ourselves ready for some more Disney fun!

One race down - just the marathon (and a good bit of theme park action) to go!

 Eric looks ready to go!

(If you'd like to see more pictures from Ellie's race, you can see the full set here.)