Friday, October 21, 2011

Fort Danger

Recently, the boys (along with cousin Connor) built a fort downstairs in our living room.

They hid and played there for a good chunk of the day. You can see a little bit of little boys legs in the picture above.

Later, after Connor had gone home, they decided they wanted to sleep in their fort. A few modifications were made, and soon it was ready for sleeping.

With more weapons, of course.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Under Construction

Back in January, our upstairs shower started leaking, down to the first floor, and causing some wall and carpet damage in our living room. It took Carl and I a few weeks to agree that this was, in fact, the perfect time to replace the disgustingly nasty beige carpet that really isn't meant to cushion the sole of dirty little boys' feet.

But which part of the house to redo? Carl, having grown up in the harsh winters on the East Coast, has bad memories of walking around on cold floors. Thus, wood floors in any of the bedrooms was out of the question. I made some effort at lobbying for the downstairs guest bedroom to be done, but Carl wasn't biting, and frankly, I have bigger arguments to win. We also considered putting the wood in the kitchen. I see it done all the time in design magazines and online, but wood flooring in the kitchen just seems a bit impractical to me.  I also really wanted to do the stairs. The carpet there is not in good condition, and I love the look of the wood there. Turns out that doing the stairs is VERY expensive. As in $10,000 expensive. The stairs were out.

In the end, we're doing the entry way, the downstairs hallways and coat closet, our office, the dining room, and the living room. Its 900 square feet, and the next hurdle for us to jump over was exactly how to pay for these home renovations. Our insurance settlement only covers the living room, so the rest of it was on us. We were sidetracked for a while because we were already planning a refinance to a 15 year mortgage, and we were going to roll in a small equity loan. But I wasn't comfortable with a mortgage payment that would be too high for us to swing on only one salary, since I'm sort of a glass is half empty kind of gal, and I live in constant fear of this economy causing one of us to lose our jobs.

We eventually decided to sell some of Carl's stock options at IBM. Naturally, the stock market took a downturn right around the time we made this decision. We finally sold the options in May, and then we spent the next few months thinking about colors and floor types, and what exactly we were doing with our renovations. Reaching an agreement is not the easiest thing when you have two strong-willed personailities, but eventually we reached a consensus on the floor.

But since things are never simple ... we agreed on a handscraped bamboo floor, which has to be glued down. And every DIY expert out there agrees: gluing down wood is not a DIY project. Which meant we had to decide on an installer for the wood (another few weeks spent). Eventually we made our purchase, and scheduled an install date for the flooring of October 24. Secretly, I'm relieved we aren't doing this ourselves. We have so little free time these days, it would have taken us months. And the experts are going to put down 900 square feet in three days.

We also reached an agreement that the walls needed to be painted, and that it was time for the white to go. Which meant agreeing on a paint color.

Yes, that was an easy decision to make.


It took a lot of paint samples, but we eventually agreed on Light French Gray for the dining room and office, and Natural Gray for all other areas. Who knew there were SO MANY GRAYS out there?? Painting is easy work, so while I briefly toyed with the idea of hiring painters (to save time), we just couldn't justify such an extravagant expense.

As the clock was ticking, we reached our agreement late Friday night, and bright and early Saturday morning I was at Home Depot to purchase an awful lot of paint. With Chris and Al's help, we spent pretty much the entire weekend painting (minus one Chelsea soccer game)

Add in a few late nights and half of a "vacation" day for me yesterday afternoon , and we've finished painting just about everything except for the office and some additional trim work. The doors will have to be painted later, but since that will take place in the garage, there isn't a sense of urgency there.

 Light French Gray

Natural Gray

I'm dreading the office -Carl's side is particularly, ahem, problematic, to dismantle. My desk and the boys' desk is cleaned off and ready for moving once Carl packs up the computers. We've intentionally saved the worst for last because its going to be hard without the house's central nervous system being operational. But I can hardly wait for it to be done.

I'm also pretty excited to be losing the dining room. We're turning it into a secondary living room, or my reading room, as I like to call it. The perfect place for these Jane Austen throw pillows I recently discovered through Pinterest. We'll see if Carl even notices them. Or reads this blog.

Up next: the wallpaper in the kitchen will go, and we'll do some minor kitchen improvements. But that will all be past my October 24 at 9:00 a.m. deadline.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Can I justify this?

In vain, I am struggling.

It will not do.

My feelings will not be repressed.

You must allow me to tell you ardently I admire and love this Kate Spade Jane Austen clutch.

Its completely impractical for me, but I seriously must own this. Like now. For it has bewitched me, body and soul. And I love it.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Career Day "Dress Up"

Alex and Ryan had "Dress Like Your Future Career Day" at school recently. The school didn't exactly give us a whole lot of notice - around 14 hours, to be precise - so when I got the email in the afternoon, I made a mental list of what we could throw together at home. Their current future career choice are: a police officer for Ryan, and for Alex, an inventor. We did not have a police officer uniform, and other than a big white dress shirt, I wasn't sure what to do with inventor.

So we discussed our options at dinner. Ryan went with a professional soccer player, which was a good thing since the Target I stopped at on my route home had no police officer costumes in his size. He wore last year's Chelsea uniform, and voila! We had one "costume" set.

Alex didn't want to dress up. He didn't think anyone else would do so, and he's gotten to the age where peer pressure matters (sob!). After some discussion, he decided to be a spy. We had given him several spy items as a birthday present, so I knew we had the props to make this work. But spys wear black. And while we had a black t-shirt for him, we did not have any black pants. Nor did we have any long pants that currently fit him (at the rate he has been growing, I've put off buying jeans until we are closer to jean weather). So he ended up with camo shorts. Which is pretty much his everyday dress code.

I wasn't sure how welcome some of the props would be (the email from the principal only specificed no weapons), so I drove the boys to school so I could check with their teachers. On the way there, Alex decided he was not a secret soldier spy, kind of like Captain America. Also on the way there, we passed several kids walking and riding bikes on the way to school, and none of them were in costume. Alex got nervous, and before I had even parked the car, he had discarded his spy tool belt, his spy watch, and his spy night vision goggles hit the ground. Ryan's teacher wasn't thrilled with the soccer ball or the cleats, so we changed him into his normal shoes quickly. He then decided to roll down his soccer socks, too.

Thus, I ended up sending one boy to Career Dress Up day wearing a soccer jersey, rolled down blue socks, and Nike sneakers, and the other boy in his usual attire of a t-shirt and shorts. This does not bode well for the upcoming costume season as we head closer to October 31.

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Magic of Pirates and the Whole World: Orlando, Part III

Here it is. The long-awaited conclusion of my Disney trip report blog (you've been on pins and needles for the past month, right?).

Following our Goofy breakfast, we walked the long three-minute walk over to Epcot, where we spent our third full day at Disney.

Epcot is basically two different theme parks: Future World and the World Showcase. Since the World Showcase doesn't "open" until lunch time, we spent the morning in Future World.

I wasn't so sure how much the boys would like Future World - its more of an educational park, a giant Children's Science Museum, if you will. But it has some rides, and most importantly for Team Danger, it had Alex's most favorite ride of the trip, Mission Space.

There are two different versions of Mission Space: green and orange. Green is less-intense, so we rode this first. Basically, you are part of the first crew to travel to Mars, and the ride simulates the blast-off, flight through space, and the rocky "landing" on Mars. The blast-off is so intense -even on Green - that when you sit down and get strapped into the simulator, motion sickness bags are withing arm's reach. Its very, very cool, and I can't even begin to capture how much Alex loved this ride. He rode it 4 times this day, and would have gone more if possible.

There is also a playground when you exit the ride. ;)

The other very cool ride at Epcot is Test Track.

On this ride, you are a rider in the test car for the latest GM model, and they fling you this way and that way and then drive you really, really fast. Like 70 mph fast on the ride.

Other rides that we went on: Finding Nemo, which was okay, but not nearly as much fun as these animatronic pelicans outside the ride which every few minutes chirp, "Mine....Mine...Mine...Mine."

Turtle Talk with Crush was inside the building, too, and its very cool. Basically, the Turtle Crush from the Nemo movie is on a screen but manages to talk with all the kids. While we were waiting to go inside for Turtle Talk, there are aquariums and interactive exhibits for the kids. Alex and Ryan were most intrigued by Mr. Ray.

The other big attraction, with the long lines, is a ride called Soarin', which raises you off the ground and simulates a wind-surfing adventure over California. Its interesting, but we had done this at California Adventure back in 2009, and it fits in so much better there. I really don't get why Disney doesn't make a Florida version of this, or just do something to make it different. We went on several other rides, and they were all interesting and fun, but nothing that I really feel as if I need to do over again. The boys enjoyed playing in all the hand-on exhibition areas, called Innovations, but like I said before, it reminded me of a science museum for children, and frankly, we didn't come to Disney for things I could do at a lot of museums in Texas.

We ate lunch at a rather unspectacular hamburger spot, the Electric Umbrella. It was convenient at the time, but really, its a shame given the fact that Epcot has so many amazing restaurants in the World Showcase area. Ryan was getting tired and cranky around this time, and while we were waiting in line for the hurricane 5 simulator, I needed to remove him from the line. While we waited for Alex and Carl, he promptly fell asleep on the floor (it was carpeted). And he slept. Carl and Alex went to ride Mission Space two more times (we had picked up four fast passes earlier, but since Ryan wasn't going again, they went twice), and then they came back and Carl and I switched Ryan watching duty. I can't believe we didn't get a picture of Ryan sleeping on the floor. But we did get this one of him a short bit later, sleeping during the Lion King environmental movie we were watching.

When we were all done with Future World, Ryan was still pretty fussy and tired. So I took him back to the hotel for the rest of the day, while Alex and Carl went to explore the World Showcase areas we hadn't seen on our first night. We did make a detour to pick up Ryan's Mickey Pirates playset which had been delivered, and THAT perked up the exhausted little boy. There's a slight part of me that almost thinks Ryan was faking his fussiness and tiredness so we could pick up his toy earlier, but I think the power naps at Epcot were too difficult even for him to fake. I think...

Our trip to Disney coincided with our 14th wedding anniversary. We've always gone away for our anniversary as our present to each other, but this year was a bit different. So we found a way to go "away" from our kids for a bit: the Sandcastle Club in our resort. The boys weren't too happy with the idea of being dropped off, but once they were there and they saw the PS3, wii, play kitchen, and movies, all was forgiven. They ended up having s much fun they begged us to go back the other nights.Carl and I had reservations to eat at Bistro de Paris, over in France. Its one of the few restaurants that cater to adults exclusively, so it seemed like a good choice for our munchkin-free dinner. Plus, you can't go wrong with French food in my book.

After dinner, we had a wonderful time walking around the "World." We had Grey Goose slushies and margaritas and other fun drinks, and we did a lot of window shopping. I loved all the specialty stores in Epcot, as each pavillion would sell things unique to that country. I could easily spend a small fortune here.

Because of the Jedi Training disaster from a few days back, the next day involved a return to Hollywood Studios. This was supposed to be my pirate day, but it ended up being a Jedi and Pirate Day. See, I'm flexible and open to change.We let Carl sleep in a bit, and Alex, Ryan and I headed to Hollywood Studios for its rope drop on an Early Magic Hour. We ran right to Jedi Training sign-up, and even still, we didn't get a slot until 10:30 am. And I noted that NO ONE told me where to return, and that there were no signs telling me where to go, as well.

Since this was now our official Star Wars day, we went to ride Star Tours a few times. When you go on the ride, there are around 40 people per "ship." They somehow scan the passengers, and put the picture of one person up on the screen, and that person is the Rebel Spy that is trying to escape form the Dark Side. It only took five tries, but on the 5th ride, Alex was finally selected as the Rebel Spy. He was thrilled. (poor Ryan, he never seemed to mind that it was Alex getting picked for everything on this trip, but I felt for him).

Since we couldn't top Rebel Spy Alex that morning, after our 5th ride (love the early admission!), the boys were ready to part with more of their Disney Dollars, and build their own lightsaber. This was a Big Deal for Alex. When we had gone to Disneyland, I steadfastly refused to let him do this, citing high prices, and the fact that the lightsaber can bought anywhere back home. Turns out that was wrong, and all Alex has ever wanted since April 2009 is a full, two sided Darth Maul lightsaber. The ones they sell in stores and online might look two sided, but the second side is very small and only extends into a baby lightsaber. I did once find one on ebay for something like $200, but I don't love my son THAT much. Alex, of course, chose Darth Maul's lightsaber. Ryan chose Obi-Wan's, and they had so much fun building them. $24.99 and $21.99 well spent.

We met up with Carl at this point, and celebrated with a late breakfast. Soon, the time had finally arrived. The boys were about to join forces with the Jedi and defeat the Dark Side. Suffice it to say, we were the first ones to show up for our Jedi Training time slot.

Both boys loved Jedi Training. Alex was the first Padawan to volunteer to fight Darth Vader after their training was completed. His powers were so strong that when Darth first activated his light saber, Alex sent some force waves that made Darth's saber get stuck in his long, flowing black robes. Darth needed a Storm Trooper to help him pick it up.

 Ryan was feeling a bit shy, so he was towards the end of Jedi Training. He definitely had his moves down, though, after watching a dozen other boys and girls before him battle.

We had 12:50 reservations in the Magic Kingdom for the Pirates League, so once the boys were officially Padawans, we made our way out of Hollywood Studios and took the bus to the Magic Kingdom.

We had lunch at Casey's Corner, an old-fashioned hot dog restaurant, which meant eating outdoors. Fortunately, there was shade, and we had a prime view of 'Dream Along with Mickey,'  a show that occurs in front of Cinderella's Castle several times a day, featuring lots of princesses and princes and Peter Pan, Hook, Smee, and Mickey and friends. Then we made our way to Adventureland.

When I first planned our Pirates Day, I made reservations for the Pirates League. The boys can pick from one of eight different 'Pirates of the Caribbean' makeovers, and for $29.95, you get the makeover, a sword, and a lot of bling (sash, eyepatch, scarf, gold medallion, fake teeth, earring, etc). You can also spend more on a costume, but we thought it was too hot for costumes. So we settled for a quick change from the Star Wars shirts they put on in the morning into our Pirates of the Caribbean LEGO shirts. Mind you, this didn't stop Alex and Ryan from wanting one of the $69.95 costumes.

As soon as entered Adventureland, we ran into Alex's #1 Disney Desirable, Peter Pan. And on Pirate Day, nonetheless. How excited were we?! Peter was especially cool, because he was the first "live" character we actually met, and only the live ones can talk with you. They spent about five minutes with Peter, which is a lot for a theme park character interaction. Peter didn't seem to appreciate their love of pirates.

We pulled a Fast Pass for the Jungle Cruise, and then made our way to the Pirates League. Alex and Ryan debated for a good ten minutes which makeover to do, before finally selecting the exact same Captain Jack makeover.

Except... Ryan didn't want his eyes done. And Alex didn't want a beard. I joked with Carl that together they equaled one Captain Jack. I'm not complaining, though. I still think it was a great experience, and money well spent. Considering they spent over an hour with the boys, between the makeup, taking Pirates Oaths, finding their Pirate Names, and the presentation of all the bling, this was a good Disney Value.

When we exited the League, we came across Angelica. She was all by herself, without any other kids waiting to meet her, so the boys had some great character interaction time with her. We were on a definite character high at this point.

What else was there to do at this point but go on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride a few more times? We love playing "Spot Captain Jack," as he's always hiding during the ride. Plus, its cool, relaxing, and you get to sing the "Yo, Ho, Ho" song a dozen times. We then went to ride the Jungle Cruise and Aladdin's Magic Carpets, before making our way towards Tomorrowland, our favorite place in the Magic Kingdom.

It was time for more Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spins, more Space Mountain, and this time we also tried the Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor and Stitch's Great Escape. Pirate Mommy (as I am known on Pirate Day) even waited 30 minutes in line so the boys could get this picture with #2 Disney Desirable, Buzz Lightyear.

Pirate Mommy also waited an awfully long time for the boys to meet both Mickey and Minnie. We'd already met Mickey at his restaurant a few days back, but Mickey is so important to Ryan that we stood in line again. Plus, he is dressed differently, and that makes ALL the difference.

Dinner that night was at Cosmic Ray's Starlight Cafe, an okay counter service restaurant in Tomorrowland, and then we made our way out of the Magic Kingdom to the Contemporary Resort. To complete Pirates Day, we had reservations for the Pirates and Pals Fireworks Voyage. This was my  birthday present to Carl, and yes, once again I managed to give him a gift that he claims is more of a gift for myself than for him. How *does* this keep happening?

The Pirates and Pals cruise was great. We got some more pirate bling, and we got a chance to meet Captain Hook and Smee.

Then we walked down to the docks, and boarded our 'pirate ship,' which was just a barge. After the South Padre Pirates cruise in June, this was a bit of a letdown. Its hard to believe Texas can out-Disney Disney, but its true. The cruise was a lot of fun, with a sarcastic jokester "pirate" emcee, and of course, more bling awaited the children. The boat made its way to the Magic Kingom, past the Electrical Water Pageant, and we waited for "Wishes," the fireworks program to begin at 10:00 p.m. on the dot.

They were spectacular.

Alex was in awe.

Ryan was sound asleep.

Yes, that's right. The lull of the barge's motors put this five year old right to sleep, and he missed every single firework.

I'd decided to splurge on this cruise after talking with Alison, the mom of one of our Scouts. She described the cruise to me as a "Magical Family Moment," that one couldn't really put a price tag on, and that it was worth every penny. I'm not sure I would go that far. It was wonderful, and maybe if Ryan hadn't been asleep, I might feel the same. When the fireworks ended, a special guest was waiting for us on the docks: Peter Pan.

But since we were the last to disembark so Carl could carry the sleeping Ryan, there was a long line to see Peter. And we'd already spent good time with him earlier in the day, so we headed home. We splurged on a taxi ride rather than trying to handle the monorail/bus combo to get back to our hotel, and it worked great. Alex was especially thrilled, because he said this was his first taxi ride ever (who knew my son was so deprived??). He LOVED watching the meter rise. I think he was almost more thrilled with my $14 taxi ride than he was with the expensive fireworks cruise. Yet another reason why I hesitate to call the cruise a Magical Family Moment.

The next morning, we slept in. We were scheduled to change resorts this day, and we were downgrading to the All Star Movies Resort. Basically, the sale price on the Beach Club ended that day, and the sale price at All Stars began, so there was a $300 price difference between the two hotels for the last two nights of our trip. I thought we could tolerate the value hotel for two nights and save the $600, plus it was the resort the boys most wanted to stay in when I involved them in Disney planning. So we said goodbye to my beloved Beach Club. One nice thing about staying onsite at Disney, though: they move your luggage for you.

We went back to the Magic Kingdom to have an early lunch at the Crystal Palace. Its a Victorian style buffet restaurant that is home to Winnie the Pooh and friends. As a lifelong Pooh fan, this was the meal I was most looking forward to during the trip. The food was pretty good, and Eeyore was not his usual gloomy self when he saw I was wearing my Eeyore shirt. And Tigger seemed especially touched when I shared my childhood knick-name was Tigger, given to me by myself. Dad was Pooh Bear, Boo was Roo, and Mom was Kanga).

After lunch, we caught the last half of the Celebrate a Dream Come True parade. We'd seen it a few days back in the heat of the afternoon, so we weren't so thrilled to see it again, but it turns out there were different characters this time around. Which made waiting to cross the road for ten minutes more palatable in my mind.

We then went to do some of the rides we hadn't done yet, like the Haunted Mansion (not a favorite with Team Danger) and Winnie the Pooh's ride (always a favorite with Mommy Tigger). And of course we returned for more Buzz Lightyear spinning rides. We didn't do Space Mountain this day - a consequence for some bad behavior by our eldest, but I did have several close encounters with princesses. I was excited to find short lines for Cinderella's Fairy Godmother and her step-sisters and step-mother. Of course, the reason for those short lines is that they had stopped the line a while back. So I snapped a few photos of them while I stared longingly. I also walked pass Princess Tiana (form Princess and the Frog). She was on her way to her official greeting spot - where the lines were out of control crazy - but she stopped and smiled at me and I took her picture. And that, my friends, is as close to a Disney Princess as this mother of two boys got on the trip

Next on our agenda was a split day with Epcot, so we left the Magic Kingdom around 2pm and took the monorail. We did a few of the rides we hadn't been on yet in Future World - like designing our own roller coasters and then going in this freakish simulator that inputs it and swings you all around. And Alex and I decided to brave the Orange Level of Mission Space. How bad could it be, I thought? Turns out, its pretty freaking bad. I can handle a lot of roller coaster action. But orange had me beyond ill. The simulated blast-off was horrific - the fact that the ride comes with an emergency stop button AND motion sickness bags is a pretty good indicator of how awful it is. Never, ever again will I ride Orange Mission Space.

We rode Spaceship Earth again - to help calm our stomachs - and spent a lot of time playing some of their future games (like a computerized touch screen shuffleboard, where you shuffle electricity chips into their sockets).

Finally, we started to make to the World Showcase. We hadn't spent much time here as a family - Carl and Alex had explored it on their own, Carl and I had our date night here, but other than our first few hours here for dinner in Mexico our first night, Ryan hadn't really been around the 'World.' One of the things Alex was most excited about trying out was the Kim Possible Adventure. You get these "Kimmunicators" (basically a cell phone) and ti sends you on a mission to one of the countries. We'd rented a Kim Possible movie before heading to Disney so the boys would better understand this, and while the animated Kim is a bit too sexy for a Disney child character in my book, the idea of a teenage girl spy with ninja kicks is pretty cool (there is a definite dearth of powerful girl lead characters in children's tv and movies - a big pet peeve of mine, but that's another blog post to make).

Our first mission took us to Germany. It takes you to all of the sights, and into stores, where some beer steins on display happen to start singing and dancing when you answer something right. Its like a scavenger hunt, but way, way cooler, and it was a tremendous amount of fun to see things that other people don't see. This was so much fun, and its a great way to get the kids involved in the different countries, and to teach them things about them. At the end, when you solve your mission, there is a giant wooden Glockenspiel in the center of the country, and you hit a button on your Kimmunicator, and it starts to open up and do its magic. Its uber cool, and everyone around starts clapping. Alex was super proud of himself for this one.

We had so much fun in Germany, we accepted our second mission. This took us back to Norway, and we learned all about fjords and vikings and Thor and woolen sweaters and trolls and fish. This wasn't quite as cool as the Germany mission, but we still had a blast. And Ryan was out of his funk by this time, which helped improve my enjoyment tremendously (despite having slept in, this was another full, long day for us. Ryan had a hard time with these long days, and it would show around 3-4 pm if he hadn't rested. My own fault for not sticking to my plans for rest breaks, which makes his crankiness all the more hard to take - since he wouldn't be like this if I had some better parental judgment. Its hard to remember on vacation, though, and its my greatest regret from the trip, because I KNEW this going in.).

We ate dinner that night in Germany, at the Biergarten. I was excited about this restaurant. We love German food, I love German beer, the kids love buffets, and who doesn't love a German musical show? Especially one that involves glockenspiels and Edelweiss being played with cowbells? Which brought back lovely memories of my trip to Switzerland last year, although I still wonder why a song which symbolizes Austrian defiance of Nazi Germany taking over Austria in the Sound of Music was given such prominence in the Germany Pavilion. Does Disney think most folks are not smart enough to distinguish between the Alpen countries? 
After dinner, the boys played soccer with our German maitre'd outside the restaurant while we waited for 9pm, when "Illuminations," the big water and firework display in Epcot was set to start. We then took our perch on the faux Bridge of Sighs in Italy, and it wasn't long before the magic was ready to happen.

The fireworks were beyond spectacular, not as much color differentiation as the Magic Kingdom's, but they were in such unusual arrangements as to make up for it. Plus you get to look all over the World, and see the fireworks against all the other countries... just beautiful.We all loved it. The boys, especially. Carl and I were happy. The boys were happy. We finally found our Magical Disney Family Moment.

This would have been a perfect night to stroll back to our room at the Beach Club, a mere 3 minute walk from the gates. But due to poor planning, we instead strolled back to our rental car at the Beach Club, and drove to the All Stars.

All-Star Movies is one of three All-Star budget resorts, where everything is larger than life. They have a Toy Story wing, so we requested a Buzz Lightyear room. The kids had fun outside the hotel, and in the Fantasia pool, but this was a small, run-down room on the inside. I won't be going back there, and I only survived by reminding myself that its about what one can expect for $68/night.

Our last full day was spent at Animal Kingdom. I'd heard some mixed, at best, reviews from friends about this park, but I thought we at least needed to try it. We arrived early at 8am for Early Admission. This is a HUGE park, and we walked our feet off. It was also hot, and had very little shade. We decided to follow one of the Traveling Plans again, and it worked really well for the first hour. But then we lost interest in moving back and forth from one side of the park to the other to avoid lines considering the heat and humidity, and the plan fell apart.

One of the main attractions here is the Kilimanjaro Safaris. I don't know. Maybe I'm prejudiced because this was our longest wait  of the whole trip - 45 minutes - and the sign out front of the ride said it was only 15 minutes - and I'm likely being unreasonable to still be bitter that Disney got the wait time wrong once on our whole trip, but still.... We never would have stood in line for 45 minutes had we known, and picked up a Fast Pass instead. But at 15, we decided to wait it out. Other than some lions that were lying down and hard to see, and a bunch of elephants, a lot of these animals can be seen down in New Braunfels at the Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch. or at the zoos in San Antonio and Houston. They tried to Disney it up, but at the end of the day, I felt we'd wasted a lot of good early morning ride time on something I could do back in Texas.

The hit of the park was Expedition Everest, a really fun, really fast roller coaster which has you searching for the elusive Yeti on Mount Everest. You climb up a really, really tall track, and then it starts to go down, except... the track has been torn away! The Yeti has found you! And all of a sudden, you start falling down, down, down, backwards, and racing away while your stomach is still up at the top of the tracks. The boys LOVED this ride! I personally found it a bit intense, and so did Carl. He sat out the return rides, but the boys and I braved it three more times throughout the day.

The other really big hits of the day for us were the Finding Nemo stage show, and the Lion King stage show. These were AMAZING! Truly Broadway style productions, that last about 30 minutes each, in nice, air conditioned theaters.  The boys also enjoyed the giant dinosaur dig playground and they played there for over an hour. Carl and I had a shady spot to chill and drink margaritas. Disney is so smart to sell alcohol. :)

There were three other main rides at Animal Kingdom: Primeval Whirl, which was closed for renovation, Dinosaur, a ride in a "jeep" back through dinosaur time that moved so fast and jostled you so much that all four of us were scared and unhappy (me because I was afraid any one of us would fly out of our seat belts at any time and get killed by the next fast moving jeep - seriously - my bottom was off the seat more than it was on - they need WAY more safety restraints on that sucker). The other ride was Kali's River Rapids, which is just what you think it is. We didn't go on it, though, because we couldn't get Fast Passes for it and the wait was over 1.5 hours. Which is ridiculous, but I think its mainly because there are so few rides at AK (compared to the other parks).

We called it quits at Animal Kingdom around 4pm, and headed back to the hotel to relax. We had dinner reservations that night at T-REX, in Downtown Disney. I could have spent an entire day alone at Downtown Disney shopping, let alone all the other activities they had there. T-REX is the dinosaur equivalent of Rainforest Cafe, and it is very, very cool. Unfortunately, the food was pretty rotten. And the drinks were expensive - $15 each! We drank sodas that night.

We also spent some good time at the LEGO Imagination Center, which is big, but in the end, a LEGO store. I bought the only slightly unique things there, personalized LEGO mugs for ALEX and "That's not my name" RYAN because his name was in all capital letters on the mug.

The boys were in heaven, and I left them and Carl to go do souvenir shopping at the World of Disney next door. I got all sorts of goodies for family back home, and fun things for myself, including a Christmas ornament, picture frames, a charm bracelet for myself, and a Disney Dooney and Bourke. :)

The next day was our last at Disney. We checked out of the hotel in the morning, and because Disney is connected with the airlines, we checked in for our flight at the hotel, gave them our bags, and got our boarding passes. What a luxury to not have to lug the bags around! We spent the morning at the Magic Kingdom, and got some last minute Space Mountain and Buzz Lightyear spins under our belts.

And some more Disney ice cream.

 And as we walked out of the Magic Kingdom, Alex and Ryan waved goodbye to the Castle, and Alex said "Goodbye, Disney. See you in three years."


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