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!

Monday, March 10, 2014

BFFs and 13.1

A few months ago, my BFF (best friend forever -- title from elementary school), Carrie, started talking about possibly wanting to run her very first half marathon this year.

Of course, I took this idea and ran with it.

Carrie lives in Madison, Wisconsin.  I live in Columbus, Ohio.  Finding races somewhere in between us (Indiana) on weekends that we were available was proving to be difficult.

Last week, she said to me, "If you can come to Madison for the half marathon in August, I'll register right now."


Well, there was a little more to it than that, but the end result was both of us registering.

On August 16, my BFF is going to run her first half marathon and I get to run it with her!  Squeeeeee!


Carrie and I met in second grade, but we weren't "best friends" until fourth grade.  We lived a few blocks away from each other and were pretty much inseparable in 4th and 5th grade.

In the spring of fifth grade, I moved away...but it didn't seem to matter how many miles were between us or how many months went by between phone calls, when we got together, it was like no time had passed at all.

Please don't mind the quality of the following pictures.  Most were taken in the dark ages before digital cameras were available.

I think this was the summer of '91.  Yes, those are fanny packs.  Don't judge.
Summer of '92
Summer '01 (alcohol may have been involved here)
Fall '01
Summer 2011
Carrie and I haven't lived in the same time zone in 25 years, yet, she was my maid of honor in my wedding and I was hers.


I'm so super duper excited about our next adventure together.

Expect selfies.  Lots of selfies.

Do you still have a BFF from childhood?