Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A Week of Magic part 5

This will be the last post from our family vacation in Disney World.  If you missed the earlier posts, check out part 1, part 2, part 3 and part 4 of our visit to the most magical place on earth.

It was Friday.  Our last day in the most magical place.  After breakfast, we hopped on the bus to Hollywood Studios.

Upon arrival, I booked our Fast Passes for Rock n Roller Coaster, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror and Star Tours and we went in search of characters.

The girls were really excited to see Jake from Jake and the Neverland Pirates and Sofia from Sofia the First.
Yo ho, let's go!

The Rock n Roller Coaster was our first ride of the day.  Aleena wasn't tall enough so we rode in waves: Randy, Ellie, my brother and I went first while my parents waited with Aleena.

Ellie chose to sit in the front seat of the roller coaster.  I was a little panicked when I realized that the coaster went upside down a few times, but Ellie loved it.

Rock n Roller Coaster with Uncle Matt
Next it was my parents' turn to go and Ellie got to ride again using Aleena's Fast Pass.

Up next was the Tower of Terror.  Aleena is tall enough to ride this one, but once she saw how high the elevator went, she declined.  The first wave was Mom, my brother, Ellie and I.

I've gotta say, this one was scarier than I remember it being 20 years ago.  I had a death grip on my brother's arm while Ellie was all, "WEEEEEEE!  This is awesome!"

The second wave was Dad, Randy and Ellie again.  Lucky girl.

After the Tower, we headed to the Disney Junior Live puppet show.  The girls were excited about this one as it included, Jake, Sophia, Doc McStuffins and all of the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse gang.  The show was really cute.

Star Tours was next.  Aleena was able to ride this one and since there were no big drops, she enjoyed it.  We're not Star Wars fans at all, but you don't have to be to have fun on this ride.

My mom had requested to see the Muppets 3D show and I really wanted to see Beauty and the Beast so we did both.  Neither were as good as I remember them being 20 years ago.

We finished up Hollywood Studios around 3:30pm and were all pretty tired.  Our jam-packed week was catching up with us so we went back to the hotel to relax and play in the pool.

Our flight home was at lunch time on Saturday so Friday evening was spent trying to get our goods to fit in our suitcases.

Such a great week.  I was sad to see it end, it went by so fast, but I was looking forward to sleeping in my own bed, showering in my own bathroom and snuggling with my pooches.

Here are a few things I learned while on vacation in the most magical place on earth:
  • Use the app.  I downloaded the My Disney Experience app on my smartphone.  I could check wait times and make reservations for meals, look at a park map and check show times on my phone.  Some people could book fast passes from the app on their phones.  Disney chose certain people to test this feature but it appeared to be only iPhone users.  Rest assured, this feature is coming!
  • Know the park layout.  On our first day, when we got our fast passes, I didn't request them in any specific order.  We ended up walking 10 miles that day because our first fast pass was at one end of the park, our second was at the other end and our third was back near the first.  We learned to be more efficient as the week went on.
  • Get Fast Passes early.  There are only so many fast passes for each attraction per hour.  If you wait until lunch time to get fast passes, your ride time will be after dinner.
  • Make reservations 180 days in advance.  I booked our Bibbidi Bobbidi and Akershus reservation exactly 180 days early.  I booked our lunch at T-Rex on that same day--178 days early--and ended up getting a 1pm lunch time, not ideal for us, but we made it work.  I should have made two reservation phone calls, one for T-Rex and another 2 days later for Bibbidi and Akershus.
  • Autograph books are fun!  The Little Ladies loved getting autographs from all of the characters.  I took pictures of them posing with characters and when we got home, I had the pictures printed in wallet size and glued the pictures to the autographed pages of their books.  The Little Ladies now have a fun keepsake souvenir to remember their week in Disney World.  Bonus: it was probably the cheapest souvenir we got all week!
  • Pick and choose.  You won't have time to do and see everything that the Magic Kingdom has to offer.  Make a list of the things that you absolutely don't want to miss. Hit those attractions and anything else will be a bonus.  When I was younger, everyone in our family got to pick 3 things they didn't want to miss.  We never went home disappointed.
  • Don't look at the credit card balance until you get home.  The prices will blow your mind...and can ruin the magical mood.  Just know that, even visiting with a frugal mindset, you'll spend double what you'd normally spend for a family vacation.  Our dinner with the princesses?  The bill for five adults and two children was almost $400.  I don't know about y'all, but that's not what we spend on a meal on any other vacation.  I threw up a little in my mouth as I paid our credit card bill when we got home.  Magic doesn't come cheap.
Our vacation was magical, exhausting, fantastic and totally worth the ridiculous amount of dollars spent.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

ORRRC Half Marathon 2014

During the week preceding the ORRRC Half Marathon, I tried to nail down a pace goal.  I haven't been training for speed, but was pretty confident that I would beat my fastest half marathon time of 2:09:53 by a few minutes.  I decided that I'd try for a finish time of 2 hours and 5 minutes.  My predawn runner friend, Marcie, planned to run with me and help me reach my goal.

Marcie thought I should shoot for a faster time, but I was afraid to start faster and crash and burn before I got to the finish line.  I kind of like to choose goals that I know I can accomplish...which defeats the purpose of a goal but, whatever.

My brilliant husband said, "You really don't know what you can do unless you just go for it."

True, but the fear of failure remained.

My Thursday night Turtle running group pal, Angela, gave me an idea, "You'll probably hate this idea, but maybe you shouldn't wear a watch.  You seem to get stressed out about how fast you're running instead of just running."

She was right.  I hated the idea.  I'm a numbers girl.  I live for seeing the pace, the time and the splits.

As much as I hated the idea, it was exactly what I needed to do.

Thursday night, I made a new plan with Marcie: she can wear the watch, but will not tell me what our pace is.  She won't tell me to slow down or to speed up.  I'll run at a difficult but sustainable pace according to my body, not my watch.  I will finish when I finish and I'll know that I did my best and be thrilled with my time.  Marcie promised to email me our race splits after we finished so I could have my geeky numbers to peruse.

Plan made. (Remember the last time I planned to run without a plan?  Ooooh, foreshadowing.)

I had a small panic attack when I left the house Sunday morning while my Garmin sat on the counter.  My wrist felt naked, but I knew that this was the right thing to do.

If I'm being honest, I only tried to look at my watch bare wrist one time: before the start to see how many minutes we had until the starting gun.  Never again.  I didn't miss it.  Several points during the race, I was curious how fast we were going, but I didn't ask.  I was better off not knowing.

Soon, we were off and running.  I settled into a pace that was hard, but that was the point, right?  I was able to get out a few sentences at a time, but was running too fast to hold a conversation.  That's ok.  That's what Marcie was there for: to converse at me.

The first 5 miles of the course have rolling hills....I take that back, they don't roll.  They go up, flatten out and go up again.  Lucky for Marcie and I, we've been hill training.  The hills were giving my legs a good workout, but were nowhere near the size of the hill that we train on.

Around mile 2, Marcie and I ran into my buddy, Chris, who was running the full marathon.  He hung with us chatting with Marcie and I until the half and full marathoners split around mile 6.

Mile 5ish.  Photo taken and owned by ORRRC.

True to her word, Marcie sent me our splits (pace per mile) Sunday afternoon.

Miles 1-6:  9:03, 9:11, 9:06, 9:03, 8:59, 9:11

Side note: Marcie told me after we finished that she saw 9:03 as our first mile and she was a little worried, but she stuck to the plan and didn't say anything.  She let my breathing and my legs figure it out.  My body is so much smarter than I give it credit for.

After mile 6, we started seeing a lot of the half marathoners that were ahead of us, who had reached the turn-around point and were on their way back.  We saw a few friends and we waved and cheered for each other.

Marcie teased me, "You know everyone here!"
"Nah.  I don't know that guy."

Marcie and I reached the turn-around at mile 8ish.  When we turned around we found ourselves running straight into the wind.


Luckily, I was distracted from the wind by scanning the half marathoners heading toward the turn-around looking for friends who were behind us.  There were a bunch and, again, we waved and cheered for each other.

We turned a corner at mile 9-point-something and were sheltered from the wind.  Whew.

Miles 7-10:  8:57, 9:05, 8:57, 9:00

At mile 10, Marcie said to me, "Do you think you're up for a sub 30 minute 5K?"

Yes.  I was pretty sure I could finish with each mile being under 10 minutes.  I was also pretty sure that the past 10 miles were all done at a sub-10 minute pace.

Marcie said, "A sub-2 hour finish is in the bag.  Now, let's see how far under 2 hours you can go."

I started to get excited.

 Mile 10ish.  Photo taken and owned by ORRRC.
A little after mile 11, I was really feeling the fatigue.  I was on the verge of feeling nauseous from working so hard.  I have a strict no vomiting rule and needed a distraction so I said to Marcie, "Tell me a story."

And she did.  There's no way I could keep a conversation at this point.  I was pretty much speaking in grunts.

We turned the corner to head to the finish line just after mile 12.5.  Unfortunately, the road to the finish was uphill and we were back to running into the wind.


On our way up the hill, Marcie was a little ahead of me.

"Come on, Jamie!  You've got this!"

I grunted, "I want to finish ahead of you!"

"Well then get up here!"

She wasn't making this easy on me, was she?

I kicked it in high gear a sprinted to the finish.  Barely ahead of Marcie.

Miles 11-13:  8:43, 8:47, 8:34, the last .15mi was 7:49

I was beaming as I crossed the finish line.

Official time: 1:57:48

Holy shit.

I was shocked.  Completely stunned.  Speechless.

Then I cried.  (Of course I did.)

Marcie put my medal around my neck and hugged me, "I'm so proud of you!"

And all I could say was, "Holy shit."

That was hard.  I knew my legs would hate me the next day (they did) but I was thrilled and in awe of what I was able to do...and all I had to do was try.

Post-race selfie!
When we started, I was guessing that I'd finish in just over two hours.  I have been running hills... which have made me stronger and a little faster, but I haven't been doing any speed training.  None.  I wonder what I could do if I trained appropriately....

About the race...
The Ohio River Road Runners Club Marathon and Half is held in Xenia, Ohio.  It's a small race, but growing every year due to word of mouth, no doubt.  This race is well-run, has fantastic post-race food and you seriously can not beat the price.

The course starts at the Xenia YMCA, runs through town on the roads, then onto hilly country roads before heading to the Erie Trail (paved multipurpose path) for an out and back, finishing at the YMCA.  The course is just challenging enough to make racers wish they'd trained on hills a little more.

Xenia is not a big city like Columbus and, therefore, does not have the crazy amount of spectators that Columbus has.  If you need cheering spectators to keep you going, this is not the race for you.

I, for one, will be back every year because I like the price and the challenge...and it's fun to see so many of my Columbus runner friends taking over the streets of Xenia.

Anyone else want to join us next year? (waggles eyebrows)

Friday, April 4, 2014

A Week of Magic part 4

If you missed the beginning of our week, check out part 1, part 2 and the most magical, part 3.

After the late night on Wednesday, we slept until 7:30ish on Thursday then got up and moving.  We had breakfast and were at Epcot around 9:30.

Upon arrival, Randy immediately went to Norway where Elsa and Anna, the princesses from the movie, Frozen, were signing autographs and posing for pictures while I got Fast Passes for Soarin', Turtle Talk with Crush and The Seas with Nemo and Friends....and Randy found that the line for Elsa and Anna was four and a half to five hours long.

No, I'm not kidding.

Those ladies are very popular.

Since our Little Ladies adore Elsa and Anna, we decided to take turns waiting in the ridiculous long line.

Randy waited first while my mom and I took the girls on Spaceship Earth (the giant golf ball), The Seas with Nemo and to see Turtle Talk with Crush.  Turtle talk was amazing.  We just love Crush (the sea turtle in the movie Finding Nemo).  All of the kiddos sit in the front of the theater and Crush, on a movie screen, talks to the kids, answers questions and tells funny jokes.  He totally interacts with the kids.  I'm not sure how he does it, but it's pretty cool. (I'm sure there's a "behind the scenes" about Turtle Talk somewhere, but that would ruin some of the magic, so I don't want to know.)

After our Sea adventures, we went back to see how Randy was doing.  He'd made friends with the mother in line ahead of him to pass the time.

My mom took Randy's place in line and Randy and I took the girls on Maelstrom, an indoor boat ride through Scandinavian seascapes and swamps inhabited by magical and mythological creatures.  A lot of the ride was dark and a tad creepy and there was one small water slide/drop, but Aleena enjoyed this ride.

When we got back to my mom in line, we had about 45 minutes left to wait so we stayed in line, very excited to see the princesses of Arendelle.

The thing about seeing the characters in Disney World....they take the time to talk to the kids and to really interact with them.  Which is awesome.

Taking the time to interact with the kids also makes the line move much more slowly than if they'd just sign, smile and move on...but that wouldn't be very magical, now would it?

Finally, it was our turn!  (Right at the four and a half hour mark.)

All four ladies had a wonderful conversation about chocolate, the princesses signed our autograph books, posed for 27 a few pictures and we were on our way.

We escaped Norway just in time to have a quick lunch before our Fast Pass time for Soarin'.

Soarin' is a really cool ride that makes you feel like you're flying.  There are no sudden drops so it was a winner in Aleena's book.

By this time, we were all pretty pooped and decided to head back to the hotel to relax before dinner.

We stopped by the Character Spot on the way out to see Mickey, Goofy and Minnie and I snapped the most adorable picture of Aleena nose-kissing Minnie.

The next day would be our last in the most magical place.  I was sad that our vacation was coming to an end, but starting to look forward to sleeping in my own bed.

Stay tuned for our final day in Disney...coming after the ORRRC Race Recap.  Race day is in 2 days!!!!!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Sneaky, Sneaky

I have a race in four days!  This one sneaked up on me.  With Disney and all of the fun times I've had running in the dark with friends, it's suddenly April and race week!

So of course, I'm all, "What am I going to wear?!"

Because that is what's most important about a race, right?

I haven't officially decided what I'll wear.  I'm still stalking the forecast.  (Like a crazy ex-girlfriend.)  So far, it looks like we'll have perfect weather!

This is my first race of 2014, and if you'll recall, this was the race that I had to miss last year when I tore a calf muscle.

The ORRRC (Ohio River Road Runners Club) Marathon and Half Marathon is a small (although every year it gets a little bigger) race in Xenia, Ohio....which is a little over an hour from Columbus.  It's inexpensive and well-run.  The race starts and finishes at the Xenia YMCA.  Awesome volunteers make and serve yummy post-race food and the Y is kind enough to let the runners use the showers before we all head home.

The only drawback....if you were to consider this a that the streets are not lined with spectators.  There's a crowd near the start/finish line and there are volunteers at water stops and police officers at intersections.  That's about it.  If you need a crowd to keep you going, this is not the race for you.

Two years ago, I ran this half marathon alone, for the most part.  I had my music in my ears and I just ran.  I don't mind the solitude.

This year, I get to run with friends!  My fellow predawn hill repeater, Marcie, wants to run with me on Sunday.  We keep changing our minds about what pace we want to keep, but one thing we're sure of, we'll work hard and have a great time doing it.

That's Marcie up front in the blue.
I mean, really, how could we NOT have fun?

Do you have any big plans this weekend?
When is your next race?

Monday, March 31, 2014

A Week of Magic part 3

If you missed the first and second posts about our Disney trip, check them out.

Wednesday was Ellie's birthday.  She's seven.  I'm still coming to terms with that.

I'd known since last October how awesomely magical this day was going to be.

The girls had no idea.  Squeeeeeee!

We didn't set the alarm for Wednesday morning, but were awake at 6:30 anyway.  We leisurely made our way down to breakfast and hopped on a bus to Downtown Disney.  We did a little shopping.  I found a non-breakable ornament for our Christmas tree.

We had lunch at The Ghirardelli Ice Cream and Chocolate Shop.

You read that right.  We had ice cream for lunch.  It was awesome and there is no evidence picture.

After lunch, we headed to the Magic Kingdom to the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique.  Never heard of it?  Think: princess dress up--to the max.

My parents wanted to treat the girls to a princess makeover for their birthdays (Aleena's was in January) and since my girls love, love, love dress up, I knew they'd go ga-ga over this.

First a little about the boutique.  There are 2 Bibbidi Bobbidi locations: one in Downtown Disney and one in the Castle at the Magic Kingdom.

Who wouldn't want to play dress up in the castle?!

There are 4 different Bibbidi Bobbidi packages to choose from ranging in price from The Coach Package, $55, to The Castle Package, $195.

Now, if a kiddo wasn't head over heels in love with princesses and dressing up, I'd never recommend the Castle Package but my girls thought it was the best thing since birth (and birth was a pretty amazing event).

The Castle Package included:
  • the dress ~ not the Halloween-costume-cheap-dresses, either.  Nice dresses that are sized and actually fit.
  • hair do ~ complete with nice rhinestone embellished metal accessories.  None of the plastic, breakable junk.
  • crowns and wands ~ to match the dresses.  The wands light up.
  • makeup ~ the girls got to pick the color eye shadow and lipstick from a tray of colors, then got to bring home the rest of the tray. 
  • nail polish ~ they got a choice of pink or blue and got to bring home both the pink and the blue bottles of nail polish.  It's real nail polish, not the plastic crap that peels off.
  • photo shoot ~ plus photo prints.  The girls loved this.  They're total hams and love posing for the camera.
The ladies who work for Bibbidi Bobbidi are called Fairy Godmothers in training.

Our Fairy Godmothers were fantastic.  They had conversations with the girls and found out that they love Frozen and know all of the words to Let it Go and Do You Want to Build a they had a singalong.  It really was the perfect experience for my little princesses.
...let the storm rage on....

The appointment took about an hour, then we had the photo shoot.  This was really fun for the girls too.  They got to model their new hair and dresses and totally ham it up for the camera.

After we finished with the Bibbidi Bobbidi experience, we headed to Epcot.  We had a dinner reservation at Akershus to dine with princesses.

That's one cool princess.
I had trouble deciding between dining at Cinderella's Castle and Akershus.  I think I made the right choice.  The food was excellent and we saw all of the princesses that we really wanted to see: Belle, Aurora, Cinderella, Ariel and Snow White.

I had mushroom ravioli in a Parmesan cream sauce...totally low-cal (not) and so good...the rest of the family chose a short ribs plate and the girls had the kids' grilled chicken meal.  I had a taste of Randy's ribs, they were excellent, the kids' chicken was also delicious.

After dinner, Ellie was served a special birthday dessert: a cupcake with a candle.  The cupcake was complete with Mickey Mouse shaped sprinkles.

Disney knows how to do it right.

After dinner, we stuck around at Epcot to catch the nighttime laser and fireworks show, IllumiNations.  This was the only night show we saw all week since our girls don't do well with less than 12 hours of sleep and we were pushing our luck with them all week long.  IllumiNations was a good choice.

We didn't get the kids to bed until 10:30pm since we had to wash all of the gel and glitter out of their hair, but we planned to sleep in the next morning.

Stay tuned for part 4....

Monday, March 24, 2014

A Week of Magic part 2

If you missed it, read Part 1.

On Monday morning, we set our alarms for 6:15 still hoping to catch the 8am bus.  Didn't happen.  We caught the 8:20am bus instead.

Monday was Animal Kingdom day!  The last time I was in Disney World, 19 years ago, Animal Kingdom was being built, so I'd never seen the park before.  I was super excited to check out the animals....which we did first thing....right after I got Fast Passes for DINOSAUR, Expedition Everest and Primeval Whirl.

The Kilimanjaro Safari line moved pretty quickly and soon we were on an open bus on our way through an African savanna.  In our bus, there was a list of animals that we might see on our safari.  Aleena called it a "menu".  We all got a good giggle when she told us that giraffes were on the menu.

The "menu"
It was really neat to see the hippos, giraffes and zebras since we don't have them at our local zoo yet.  Giraffes and zebras are coming in May.  I'm not sure if our new Africa exhibit will have hippos.

After our safari, it was time to head to DINOSAUR, a roller coaster-type ride.  The height requirement is 40 inches, so Aleena was allowed to ride this one.  The ride is dark and loud at times and I warned Aleena about it.  She loves dinosaurs, so she was all excited for this ride.

Outside of DINOSAUR.
It turns out that this ride was a little too realistic for my sweet Aleena.  T-rex was really big and really loud and really hungry.  Meteors were exploding all around us.

When the ride ended, I asked Aleena if she enjoyed it.

She furrowed her eyebrows and said, "No."

Fail number two so far.

After DINOSAUR, we left Animal Kingdom and headed to Downtown Disney and the T-Rex restaurant for lunch.  T-Rex is similar to the Rainforest Cafe, only with dinosaurs instead of rainforest animals.

T-Rex was awesome. The atmosphere was fun with dinosaurs roaring and lightning flashing and meteor showers in the sky (ceiling).  The food was pricy but delicious.  We all split an appetizer platter and my mom and I split the Omnivore entree salad with chicken added to it.  It cost $18.  For a salad?!  Ouch.  This salad was HUGE!  My mom and I couldn't even finish our halves.  Don't worry, my dad and Randy polished it off so it didn't go to waste.

Of course, T-Rex has a gift shop and it's a dinosaur haven.  Complete with a Build-a-Dinosaur (like Build-a-Bear but with dinosaurs) section.  Both of my girls used the money that Grandma (my mother-in-law) gave them to build a dinosaur.

After lunch, we went back to Animal Kingdom.  Primeval Whirl was next on our Fast Pass list.  Primeval has a 48 inch height requirement, so Aleena and I went on the TriceraTop Spin while everyone else went to the bigger roller coaster.  I'm a little bummed that I didn't get to ride it.  It looked really fun.

Next, we checked the wait times for Expedition Everest and saw that the line was short.  My parents, Randy and Ellie rushed over to Everest while Aleena and I rode TriceraTop one more time, then played a few carnival games before heading over to Everest to meet the rest of our family.

TriceraTop Spin
Expedition Everest is a big roller coaster with a 48 inch height requirement so Aleena can't ride.  When we booked our Fast Passes, we included Aleena's ticket even though she can't ride the big stuff.  A couple of us adults would take Ellie on the big ride, when the first group got back, the rest of the adults would take Ellie again using Aleena's pass.

Everest was probably my favorite roller coaster that we rode all week, but this is where the Yetti comes in.  I don't want to ruin the surprise of the ride so I won't tell you much about it except that it's about a Yetti encounter on the mountain.  Ellie has had bad dreams about Yettis a couple of times since we've been home but she loved the ride.

That's Ellie in the back of the car with her hands up.  That kid is a roller coaster junkie.
By this time, we were all pretty tired so we decided to head back to the hotel to relax.

I'm sad that we didn't have time to see  It's Tough to be a Bug or to see the Nemo Musical.  We'd need much longer than a week to do everything there is to do in Disney World.  Because of this, we decided to scrap our Sea World plans for Tuesday, add another day to our Disney park passes and head back to Magic Kingdom on Tuesday.


By the time Tuesday rolled around, none of us had any delusions about making the 8am bus.  We took our time waking up, eating breakfast and heading to the Magic Kingdom.  When we arrived, I got Fast Passes for Peter Pan's Flight, Space Mountain (since Ellie wanted to ride again) and The Barnstormer and we headed to Adventureland to ride The Magic Carpets of Aladdin.

My parents and Aleena are on the carpet behind Randy, Ellie and I.
The Magic Carpets is a ride similar to Dumbo and TriceraTop Spin.  Aleena loves this type of ride.  she knows exactly what to expect and there are no sudden drops.  She isn't a fan of that tickle in her belly.

We started making our way to Peter Pan, which was a fun, slow-moving ride that everyone enjoyed.

We took turns using the Fast Passes on Space Mountain and Ellie got to go twice since Aleena isn't tall enough to ride.  I rode the first wave with Ellie, then took Aleena to Dumbo while the second wave of our family rode Space Mountain again with Ellie.

After Dumbo, we all headed to The Barnstormer to use our last Fast Pass of the day.

The Barnstormer is a small roller coaster with a height requirement of 40 inches.  I was hoping it would be tame enough that Aleena would like it.  No such luck.  She and my dad were in the seat behind Randy and I.  I looked back at her about halfway through the ride and she had the look of terror on her face.  Poor kid.  She was such a trouper all week.  She rode everything she was tall enough to ride, hated a lot of it, but never complained.

That was fail number three for my sweet Aleena.

Once we were done with our rides, we hopped on the Disney World train to Main street and headed back to Adventureland for some Dole Whip.  Never heard of it?  Pineapple juice with pineapple soft serve ice cream to make a yummy pineapple float.  It was so good that it was gone in a flash and I never got a picture of it.

But I did get a selfie on the train!
After our bellies were full of ice cream, it was about 2:30pm.  We decided to find a seat on the curb on Main Street and wait for the 3 o'clock parade....which was awesome.  The parade was brand new, it just started the week we were there.

My Little Ladies are big into princesses and all of the Disney Princesses were in the parade.  Including Elsa and Anna.  Total score.

After the parade, we headed back to the hotel to relax, eat dinner and go to bed.

The next day would be Ellie's seventh birthday and we had some epic plans to look forward to....

Thursday, March 20, 2014

A Week of Magic part 1

Last week, Randy and I took the little ladies to Disney World!

We've been planning this vacation with my parents and brother for the past year.  Back in October, I made the reservations for our dinners and activities.  All reservations can be made 180 days in advance.  I highly recommend this.  One of my reservations, I made 178 days in advance and we had to eat lunch at 1pm because there were no 12pm or even 11:30am reservations available.  Seriously?!  A little advanced planning is much better than not being able to attend any character meals...and if you want to see characters, a breakfast, lunch or dinner is the way to go.  No long waits and no running around trying to find the characters.  They're all in one place.  Very convenient.  More about this later.

Disney World is called "the most magical place on earth" because it really is the most magical place on earth.

Our whole week was full of fun and was also exhausting.  We all came home needing a vacation from our vacation...we also came home with bank accounts a fraction of the size they were before we left but it was all worth it.

I'm going to share with you what we did, what we loved, what we should have done....about everything except the resort.  We stayed at The Shades of Green, a resort, on Disney Property, for military families.  Most people have never heard of it because most people aren't eligible to stay there.  If you or a family member who you'd be traveling with is active in or retired from the military or works for the Department of Defense, send me a message and I'll fill you in about The Shades of Green.

I have no idea how many posts will be in this series.  I'll figure it out as I write.  I don't want the posts to be super long.

We arrived in Orlando on Saturday afternoon.  We unpacked, my dad and Randy went to the grocery store for snacks and didn't think I'd have a vacation without alcohol, did you?...and we had dinner at one of the hotel's restaurants.

We set our alarms for 6:30 Sunday morning.  Breakfast was at 7 and the first bus to Magic Kingdom left the hotel at 8.  I'll tell you this now: we never made the eight o'clock bus.  Not a single time all week.  And that's ok.  This vacation was stressful and exhausting enough with the masses of people and keeping track of my children...adding stress of opening the parks every day wasn't necessary.

Speaking of keeping track of my children, one of the might have been Sunday....we were all walking along the crowded streets of Magic Kingdom, Randy was pushing Aleena in the stroller and a feeling of panic came over me.  I looked around frantically and yelled, "Where's Ellie?!"

She was holding my hand.

Crowds do that to me.

We all chuckled about that for the rest of the week.  In all seriousness, I'm a basket case in a crowd.  Completely panicked that I'm going to lose my kids.  I bought both girls a RoadID just for this trip.  I had their names, my name and cell phone number, Randy's name and cell phone number and any drugs they're allergic to engraved on them.  Both girls put them on when they got dressed every morning and didn't take them off until bath time at night.  Other parents asked me about the RoadIDs several times throughout the week when they noticed them on my kids.  I wish I could take credit for this awesome idea.  Last year a Twitter friend, Shannon, mentioned that she bought RoadIDs for her kids when they went to Disney.  I thought it was brilliant.

Sunday was the only day that the park was super crowded.  There were certain times during the week when we were in a crowd, but it wasn't constant.  Only times like immediately following a parade or fireworks show.  This is a perk of going during the off-season.

Sunday morning, we went to the Magic Kingdom.  We got Fast Passes for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Space Mountain and Under the Sea.  The line was short for Big Thunder Mountain Rail Road and we ended up not using our Fast Pass time.  We should have done a Fast Pass to Enchanted Tales with Bell instead.  We ended up waiting for 55 minutes for that one.  It was the longest wait for an attraction all week.  There was one longer line that we waited in, but it wasn't for a ride. It was to see characters.  I'll bet you can guess who they were.

On Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.  When the ride finished, we asked Aleena, "Did you like it?"  Her answer: "Not. At. All."
Ellie's first of three rides on Space Mountain.
Sunday's lunch was at Cosmic Ray's Starlight Cafe.  It was ridiculously expensive, as all Disney World food is, but it was pretty tasty.  At least it wasn't expensive and gross.  There's that.

Sunday afternoon, we had our first (of two) Mickey Mouse shaped ice cream on a stick.  You know....vanilla ice cream...chocolate shell...on a stick.  So they're $3.75 a is no object when you're at the most magical place on earth.  Ha.

I can eat Mickey Mouse ice cream and take pictures at the same time.
We headed back to the hotel at dinner time and ate dinner there.

I think I'll stop here but I'll leave you with a cliffhanger: on Monday we went to Animal Kingdom and Ellie has been having nightmares about Yettis ever since.  Awesome.

Have you ever been to the Most Magical Place?  I've been three times, but the last time I went was 19 years ago.  A few things have changed since then!
Have you taken your kids?  This was our first trip with the kids.  I'm sure we'll go again, but not for several years.  Cha-ching!