Friday, January 30, 2015

Disney Pt. 3: Magic Kingdom

We had the Friday of Disney Marathon Weekend designated as our Magic Kingdom day. Actually, we planned to go to Magic Kingdom both Friday and Monday, but the weather forecast for Monday looked iffy - like, 80%-chance-of-thunderstorms-iffy. On Friday, however, the forecast was for temps in the mid-60s and sunshine, with a 0% chance of rain. What a glorious forecast!

A glorious forecast? Indeed. Also, a forecast full of LIES.

Our Friday at Magic Kingdom met the same fate as our first Magic Kingdom day on our last Disney trip: the forecast was way off. In reality, the weather on Friday never climbed out of the very low 50s, and was accompanied by grey skies at best and pouring rain at worst. (Care to rethink that 0% chance of precipitation, It was NASTY. Cold, damp and pretty miserable. Again, the kids were appropriately bundled, but Eric and I were underdressed. You'd think I'd have learned my lesson after our last Disney trip, when the exact same thing happened, but apparently not. (Also, apparently the weather in Orlando is a total enigma and the weather people have no idea what is ever going to happen there.) Luckily I just happened to have a scarf in the car, and wore E.J. most of the time, but it was still just pretty unpleasant all day long.

But anyway. Yucky weather aside, we had a good time! Let's talk Disney fun. This will be long!

Our plan was to get going as quickly as we could in the morning, in the hopes of arriving at Magic Kingdom in time to see Mickey ride in on the train to open the park. Somehow, however, we arrived one monorail-from-the-parking-lot too late and just missed it. Bummer! But, we knew we wanted to be at the park at opening anyway, to try to take advantage of lighter crowds and knock out as much fun as we could before lines started to get long.

Let's do this!

We decided to kick things off with some princess visits, and stopped in to see Cinderella and Rapunzel. There was no line at all to visit them, although Anna and Elsa next door were already boasting a 95-minute wait. Cinderella (or, as Ellie calls her, "Princess 'Erella") was up first...

Ellie and Cinderella

...then Rapunzel. Rapunzel loved Ellie's hoodie! Actually, lots of people did. We got a lot of questions about where she got it. It was actually a gift sent from Aunt Heather from Tokyo Disney!

Just a couple of Rapunzels

Ellie requested a ride on the carousel next, so she and Eric did that while I took E.J. to a nearby shop to look for his very own pair of mouse ears.

Cuties on the carousel

Next, we had to try our hands at the Sword in the Stone...

Sadly, neither of them was destined to rule the kingdom. Shucks.

New mouse ears!

...and then we ran into the Stepmother and Stepsisters from Cinderella, as they got off the carousel. They fussed over E.J., and one of them even "decorated" him!

E.J., you have a little something on your forehead!

We continued on through Fantasyland...

Rapunzel's tower

The Beast's castle

and stopped in to meet Ariel...

Under the sea!

...before continuing on to Pete's Silly Sideshow to meet Minnie, Daisy, Donald and Goofy. 

Off we go!

At Ellie's request, we started with Daisy and Minnie:

Ellie and Daisy

Chatting it up with Minnie

But, the whole time we were with the two ladies, Ellie kept asking to go meet Goofy on the other side of the building. So, as soon as we finished with the first two, we went right over to Goofy and Donald. And then Ellie did this:

#ReasonsMyKidIsCrying: we took her to see the lovable Disney characters she was dying to meet.

and completely refused to even go near them, even though she had just been bursting at the seams to meet them mere moments before. TWO YEAR OLDS.

But hey, suit yourself, kid. E.J. and I stepped in and took care of business!

Checking out Goofy

Donald is #1!

Next, Eric and Ellie rode Dumbo, which was a hit, just as it was on our last trip.

Ellie on Dumbo

I sat nearby and nursed E.J. while they rode, then he and I took some mouse-ears selfies!

I can't.

So, this is where things started to fall apart a little bit. We tried to find Gaston with no luck. We considered stopping for a cinnamon roll at his tavern but opted to come back for it (and never got around to it). Then we waited in line for the stepsisters, but that was too long and too slow so we abandoned ship. As we continued on, the rain finally started. I had E.J. in the (covered) stroller for a nap, so I told Eric to take Ellie into the (covered) line to meet Pooh and Tigger and I would keep walking E.J. around. Eric and Ellie made their way through the line, and when they were second from the front, Pooh and Tigger took a break. Only Pooh came back, so that's all they were able to meet (which would've been fine if they hadn't just seen Tigger there, and been so close!).

Playing in the rain

Ellie and Winnie the Pooh

Meanwhile, I walked E.J. over and spotted Alice in Wonderland and the Mad Hatter, so I got in line for them. I got to the very front of the line and then they took a break. I was promised that if I waited there, I would be first when they came back, and since E.J. was snoozing in the stroller, that's what I opted to do. Of course, when they tried to come back, it started pouring rain. I ducked my head under E.J.'s stroller canopy for cover (and we were under trees, which also helped), because I didn't want to lose my spot after waiting so long. Of course, the characters couldn't come back out in the rain, so we did this dance several times before we finally just gave up. That was an awful lot of standing in line in the rain for nothing!

But, onward. We decided we should get some lunch, take advantage of our FastPass for Mickey at the Town Square Theater, and wrap up our morning. We made our way back to Main Street, stopping for pictures along the way.

With my girl

Kids on Main Street

My boys

Stop it.

Family photo!

We caught a little Christmas show right in front of us...

We caught the tail end of all the Christmas festivities/decorations at the parks!

...then proceeded to Casey's Corner for some hot dogs and fries.


On our way down to the Town Square Theater, we caught the "Move It! Shake It! Celebrate It!"street party.

We moved it. We shook it.

Then, we stopped in to see Mickey. Both kids loved him!

Ellie loved that he talked to her!

The disappointing part of that Mickey encounter was that we wanted to have a baseball signed by Mickey as E.J.'s souvenir from the trip. We hoped this was our chance, but the woman working in our Mickey room wouldn't let him sign it because it would be endorsing whatever the company name on the ball was. Bummer!

We left straight from there and went back to the hotel for naptime. And, miraculously, both kids napped - even Ellie, breaking a five-day no-nap streak!

We returned to the park in the evening for our "big ticket item," so to speak: FastPasses to meet Elsa and Anna! Those are hard to come by, my friends, and as I mentioned earlier - the wait is always far longer than we are willing to stand around with a two-year-old, and I don't care how many times on this trip said two-year-old donned an Anna dress and acted out "Do You Wanna Build A Snowman" in our hotel. That wait was not gonna happen.

But, we had FastPasses! So back to the park we went. 

Disney at dusk

Ellie was appropriately dressed:

Eric and Princess Anna

And, I should take another second to share my other homemade slipcover for a baby carrier! For Magic Kingdom, I gave my Beco Gemini a little Mickey makeover. Pair that with infant mouse ears? KILLER.

He is seriously killing me.

We had some time before our date with the Princesses of Arendelle, so we decided to stake out a spot and watch the "A Frozen Holiday Wish" light show on Cinderella's castle, in which Elsa uses her magic to "ice" the castle. It was the last day for this show, so we were happy to see it!

Unfortunately, however, the show ended with a very brief burst of fireworks and Ellie FREAKED. Absolute panic and terror. Poor girl! Needless to say, we definitely scratched "stay for fireworks display" off our Magic Kingdom To-Do List and hightailed it away from the offending firework castle and off to see Elsa and Anna. The show may have scarred her for life, but the castle did look pretty!

The offending firework


And so, the moment was upon us! Elsa and Anna time! It should be noted that Ellie has recently been bitten HARD by the Frozen bug. She spent most of her free time in the hotel acting out various Anna scenes, and, for example, has gone to bed every night for the past week in Frozen pajamas, wearing gloves like Elsa, with her Elsa and Anna dolls beside her and her Frozen book tucked in by her pillow. It has become an obsession. So, we were pretty excited to see what she would make of a real life Anna and Elsa.

Ellie was so cute when we walked into Princess Fairytale Hall and saw the princesses! I wish I had a video of it! She even made conversation with the castmember managing the front of the line. The woman asked Ellie's name, and she answered, then launched into a roll call: "And that's E.J.! And that's Daddy, and Mama!" She also informed her that Olaf and Kristoff were missing! So cute.

Elsa was up first. I have to say, I was probably the least impressed with her of all the princesses we met. She wasn't very personable with Ellie, though Ellie didn't seem to mind!

Ellie and Elsa

Next up was Anna, and when Ellie walked up to her, Anna complimented her pretty dress. Ellie held up her skirt and very sweetly said, "This is my Anna dress." I nearly died.

"This is my Anna dress."

Ellie and Anna

When we finished with the princesses, we took advantage of the crowds congregating at the Light Parade and enjoyed a very short wait to meet Tinkerbell. She was funny—she talked Ellie's ear off (about what, I have no idea), and Ellie just stared at her blankly the whole time. Ha!

Ellie is all, "WHAT is this fairy talking about."

We learned as the trip went on that asking Ellie to say "cheese" (instead of "smile") results in a slightly less awkwardly forced toddler smile. At least this one shows teeth?

Proof that E.J. met some of these folks, too!

Ellie was asking to see Mickey again, and thanks again to that parade, the wait was only five minutes. So, we stopped back in with the Main Mouse. He was a hit with both kids yet again!

Shocking news of the day: the world's happiest baby loved Mickey.

Look at these guys!

Ellie and Mickey

Mickey was a hit!

When we left Mickey, the parade had finished and the fireworks were starting. Our efforts to escape the park before they began, thus sparing our daughter severe psychological trauma, were unsuccessful and poor Ellie was struck with terror. Eric scooped her up and made a mad dash for the monorail while she clung to him and cried. It was heartbreaking. Also, a little disappointing, because I love fireworks. I hope she outgrows this fear by the Fourth of July! Poor love.

We made it back to our hotel with one pooped Mickey and one hungry princess.

That Mickey is down for the count.

Too much dress for one chair!

We got everyone fed and in bed, and that was a wrap on Magic Kingdom day!

Up next: a little resting before the big race!

(If you'd like to see the rest of our photos from the Magic Kingdom, I've uploaded the full set here.)

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


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.)