Thursday, December 18, 2008

Marshmallow Shooters

Chris made these marshmallow shooters for the older boys this weekend, and they're a lot of fun. He made them using these instructions.

It's a pretty simple concept. You make them with a length of PVC pipe that you cut into specific lengths and use joiners and caps to put all of the pieces together.

When you're done, you put a marshmallow into the gun and blow. The harder you blow, the further they go. You can shoot them at least 20 feet. Since the bullets are marshmallows, you can shoot other people, which Chris demonstrated to the boys by shooting me.

I'd highly recommend these for all families with boys between the ages of 3 and 15. Older boys can make their own, of course. The one caveat is that younger ones to do need to be monitored with them. Our boys have a tendancy to take a deep breath in with the guns in their mouths, sucking the marshmallows out of their guns and into their mouths. It could be a potential choking hazzard. Baby Roo likes to wonder around the yard and pick up all of the sticky, used bullets.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

In Which Tigger Falls off a Train

Another blog I was reading today had a story that reminded me of an incident that occured when Tigger was younger that I've always meant to record so that I won't forget it. I'll share it here, and maybe it will cause a few other people to giggle.

Tigger is very gifted verbally and has a lot to say, but when he first started talking, he did it one word at a time. My dad called him the One Word Wonder. He could tell you anything, but he did it very slowly and without sentences.

When he was about 19 or 20 months old, the two older boys and I went to visit my parents at their house in Florida. (Roo didn't exist yet.) One of the things we did there was go to the Jacksonville Zoo. There's a neat train at that zoo. It's inside the zoo, and it has multiple stops, so you can use it to get around the zoo.

We had enjoyed a nice but exhausting day at the zoo, so when it was time to head out, we told Piglet that we'd ride the train one last time and then go. When we sat down, Tigger asked about a seatbelt. My mom and I laughed and told him that we didn't need seatbelts on a train that goes about 3 MPH. It was a nice ride until the train just came to a complete stop in a very abrupt, jarring fashion. Tigger bounced out of his seat and landed on his hands and knees on the floor of the train. (The conductor announced on the speaker a few minutes later that we had been driving past a construction site, and there was debris on the tracks. That's why we stopped so suddenly.)

Fortunately, the seats were a good distance apart, so he didn't hit his head on the row in front of us. He was fine but very scared. He stayed on the ground looking stunned for a few seconds, and then he started to cry. I picked him up and nursed him, and he was soon happy again. (Incidentally, nursing is always called "open" in our family. Piglet named it when Tigger was a baby. That piece of information becomes important later on.)

When we got home, my dad asked the boys what we did that day. This is what Tigger told him: "Zoo. Fun! Train. Fall. Sad. Mommy. Holdyou. Open. Better."

Now, at age 4, Tigger can go on and on about things in very long, sophisticated sentences, so it's funny to think about the very humble beginnings his speach had.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Plans for the Future

Tigger and Piglet informed us of their plans for the future last night over supper. Apparently, they when they're men and need to get their own house, they're going to get an apartment together. It's going to be the highest one and as far away from the stairs as you can get.

Chris asked them where their wives would sleep. Tigger immediately replied, "They can sleep downstairs!" Piglet said, "Well actually, I think they're supposed to sleep with us."

I've asked them before if Roo can live with them, but Piglet tells me that Roo won't be a baby any more then, but he won't be a man like he and Tigger, so he'll need to stay at home with us.

Piglet also plans to buy a blue Mustang when he's ready to drive. He reminds me at least once a week that I'll have to drive him to the car store because he won't have any way to get there when he's buying his first car.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Stores Going Out of Business

I just got an email that had a list of stores that are going out of business or closing some locations in the upcoming months. I knew about Linens and Things and have been going in there every once in a while to see the new markdowns, but some of the ones on this list are news to me. I'm surprised that J. Jill is on the list. I thought that I kept them in business with my own purchases!

1. Circuit City stores... most recent

2. Ann Taylor- 117 stores nationwide are to be shuttered

3. Lane Bryant, Fashion Bug, and Catherine's to close 150 store nationwide

4. Eddie Bauer to close stores 27 stores and more after January

5. Cache will close all stores

6. Talbots closing down all stores

7. J. Jill closing all stores

8. GAP closing 85 stores

9. Footlocker closing 140 stores more to close after January

10. Wickes Furniture closing down

11. Levitz closing down remaining stores

12. Bombay closing remaining stores

13. Zales closing down 82 stores and 105 after January.

14. Whitehall closing all stores

15. Piercing Pagoda closing all stores

16. Disney closing 98 stores and will close more after January.

17. Home Depot closing 15 stores

18. Macys to close 9 stores after January

19. Linens and Things closing all stores

20. Movie Galley closing all stores

21. Pacific Sunware closing stores

22. Pep Boys closing 33 stores

23. Sprint/ Nextel closing 133 stores

24. JC Penney closing a number of stores after January

25. Ethan Allen closing down 12 stores.

26. Wilson Leather closing down all stores

27. Sharper Image closing down all stores

28. K B Toys closing 356 stores

29. Loews to close down some stores

30. Dillard's to close some stores.

Stump the Grocery Store Cashier

One way to liven up trips to the grocery store is to buy the most unusual produce you can find and then watch the cashier squirm as he tries to figure out what it is. I don't really do this intentionally, but it seems that a lot of the high school boys my grocery store employs aren't familiar with anything except apples, oranges, and carrots.

These little baby cauliflowers we had for supper last night certainly stumped the guy who checked us out. Each of the pieces in the picture were individual baby heads, not pieces cut off from a bigger head. The fact that they came in orange and purple just made them even cuter. When I saw them, I just had to buy them. We've bought purple and orange heads of regular cauliflower in the past, but I'd never seen the baby ones before. Tigger loves cauliflower, and I knew he'd love these. I steamed them and put a little butter and salt on them, and he gobbled them up.

(On a different but related note, one of my favorite memories of Piglet as a toddler occured when I served cauliflower for supper one night. He was always trying to teach Tigger, so he picked up a piece of cauliflower, held it up in front of Tigger's face, and said, "See this? This is called a flower." I don't know if comes out as funny in writing, but he used the same inflections as the word "cauliflower", and he clearly thought we were saying "called a flower" instead.)

The poor cashier we had this time was just really baffled by a lot of our food. We bought parsnips, too, which he rang up as rutabaga. I corrected him, since the price of rutabaga was $.70/pound less, but he told me, "Oh, I always do it this way. They're about the same." I guess I've never thought of parsnips and rutabaga as being about the same. I know that my family will eat the pot roast I'm making today with parsnips in it, but I don't know if they'd be as happy with rutabaga.

My favorite clueless cashier was the one who rang up some jicama a few years ago. Jicama is a yummy Mexican vegetable pronounced hee-cah-ma. The cashier held it up, got a dreamy look in his eyes, and said, "Can you believe that a week ago I didn't even know what jee-ca-ma-ma was?"

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Books We're Reading

A big part of the reason I created this blog is to create a record of the things we've done with homeschooling so that I can be sure to do the things that worked really well with the younger children and avoid repeating things that didn't go as well. If you're not interested in homeschooling, this is probably one of those "there's nothing to see here"-type of posts.

We spend a large portion of our day with me reading to the boys. At least three times a day, I read a short story or a chapter or two from a longer book. Right now, we're reading 26 Fairmount Avenue. It's the autobiography of Tomie dePaola, the children's author. Actually, it's the first in a series of his autobiographies. I guess he figured it would be too intimidating if he offered his whole autobiography in one large book.

One chapter of the book details him going to see Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarves when it opened in 1938. He was four years old at the time. He did enjoy the movie, but he was disappointed that it wasn't exactly like the fairy tale that he was familiar with. After we read that chapter, I found a telling of Snow White in fairy tale book we had that was exactly as dePaola described in his book. I read that to them, and then I showed them the movie. I've had the DVD since before we even had children, but they'd never seen it before. After we watched the movie, we talked about the differences in the book and the movie. The boys really enjoyed it.

We're almost finished with 26 Fairmount Avenue now and still really enjoying it. I hope our library has all of the books in the series!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Beautiful Sewing Patterns

For those of you who sew, Jennie Chancey at Sense and Sensibility Patterns is now offering ePatterns for some of her creations. She has created many beautiful patterns sized for today's figures but using historic dress styles from various periods in history. Even if you don't sew, it's fun to look around her site to see some of the beautiful creations some women have made using her patterns.

I think my favorite is the little girls' pantaloons pattern. If I ever have a girl, I'm definitely going to buy this pattern.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Look who can read!

That's Piglet with some books he checked out of the library yesterday. For about three months now, he's been working on reading from a phonics book that has 128 short lessons in it. Yesterday, he finished up the last lesson, so now he has learned all of his phonics rules and is reading really well.

As a reward, he gets to pick out his own books at the library. He was supposed to get his own library card, too, but his Mommy forgot to take something with our current address on it, and they wouldn't give him one. He was okay with that, though. I let him use my library card to do the self-checkout all by himself, and that was really what he wanted to do.

For those of you interested, we used Alphaphonics. A friend of mine whose oldest children are a few years older than Piglet introduced me to the concept of no-frills phonics books when Piglet was a baby. I think she actually used Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, but they're both very similar. The concept is that you teach your child all but the most obscure phonics rules in a short period of time, and then your child can read. They still need a lot of practice, of course, but they have the ability to read just about any word you put in front of them, and you can tell them that they officially know how to read. It really builds their confidence.

I have to admit that I did have my doubts a few times. Even after we started this program and it was going really well, I kept seeing phonics programs in homeschooling catalogs that take several years to complete, at well over $100 for each year's materials. I wondered if I could really do it for $30 and in just a few months, but it really did work. We do still need books for him to practice with, but those are free with a library card (provided I actually get them back on time).

I did actually end up buying the 100 Easy Lessons book, too, before I began teaching him to read. I prefer Alphaphonics for several reasons, but I will say that Alphaphonics has very little material for the teacher. 100 Easy Lessons, on the other hand, has a word-for-word script to follow. Anyone who feels like they couldn't teach a child to read without more instruction for themselves would really like 100 Easy Lessons.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Comments Are Enabled

When I set this blog up, I accidently had it set to where only people with blog accounts could leave comments, but I've changed that so that anyone can. So if you've tried to leave a comment and couldn't, you can now.

I do have the comment status as moderated, meaning that I'll have to read and approve all comments before they're published. That's just so that no spammers get through and so that I don't miss anyone's comments.

Two Knights and a Pirate

My boys love dressing up, especially Tigger and Roo. This morning, Piglet decided he needed to be a knight, which made Tigger decide to be a knight. Roo had to dress up, too, but the knight clothes were all taken, so he was a pirate instead.

That's a telescope in one hand and a pretend ketchup bottle in the other hand. I guess pirates love ketchup.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Our Disney World Vacation--Drive Home and Final Thoughts

We left Friday, September 19, at about 7:30 am local time. We ended up making good time and driving straight through. I think we got to our house at about 12:30 central time. It was a really long drive, but by the time it was late enough to stop, we were within about 2-3 hours from the house, so it seemed silly not to keep going.

We did have a really, really good time and will definitely do it again in a few years. I could have booked what's called a bounceback special while I was there and gotten the Free Dining at the same time next year, but I didn't do that. We'd rather go every few years and stay in style than go all the time and stay at the cheaper hotels. Also, we decided that as much as we like Free Dining, we're going to stick to the least crowded weeks from November through February in the future. That's most of the weeks in those months with the exceptions of Thanksgiving week and the week before Christmas until the week after New Year's. It's just very hot in September. It would be okay if that were the only week we could travel, but we can travel any time of year, so we might as well go when the weather is cool. I'd go in August if I had to, but I'm glad we don't have to. Even though they don't usually offer Free Dining in other months, they do offer hotel discounts that are almost as valuable.

Taking a 15 month old really wasn't bad at all. I'm used to carrying him in the front pack, so that helped a lot. It would be hard to hold onto a toddler who was walking around, but we kept him in his stroller or in his pack at all times. The long drive was the biggest challenge. He was okay, but we had to use the DVD player more than I would have liked. The older boys would have been fine with all of the coloring books, magnet sets, and other car toys I had packed. A younger baby would have been fine if I had just handed over a new, cheap little toy every once in a while. But Roo is at an age where he just walks around and gets into things all day, and you can't do that in a carseat. Watching TV was one of the only things he could do, so we did it a lot, and once I turned the DVD player on for him, I had to turn it on for the older ones, too.

I was worried about not having a stroller for Tigger, but he was fine. When I read other people's trip reports on the Internet, it seemed like most people take a stroller for kids up to 5. Tigger has never really liked walking, so I was really worried. When we first started planning our trip, I figured I'd just rent one of the nice, big strollers they have there on the days he got tired, but then before we left, they raised the daily rental price of the single strollers to $15/day and the doubles to $31/day, so I didn't want to pay that much money. But with the breaks we took, neither of the older boys ever got too tired. There were a few times where Tigger said, "It's getting hard for me to walk," but each time he said it, we were already on our way to either a restaurant or the park exit. When we explained that we'd be sitting down really soon, he kept going without any fussing.

We will try not to drive through a hurricane next time. I think we've had enough of that to last a lifetime.

We'll probably try to get a suite rather than a regular hotel room next time. If Roo is 3 next time, our family will be too big for a regular room at the Wilderness Lodge. We'd have to stay at one of the more expensive deluxes, like the Contemporary, which is just too much money to have us all crammed in one room. I'm not sure where we'll stay. There are suites at one of the All Star resorts, but we'd rather not stay that far away from all of the parks unless we have to. The cabins at Fort Wilderness are okay and have full kitchens, but they only have one bathroom. Ideally, I'd like to stay in the new Disney Vacation Club resort they're building at the Contemporary. I'm sure it will be really expensive, but DVC is a timeshare, and sometimes you can get rooms for a little less by buying them from someone who can't use their timeshare that year. I'd love to be able to stay on the monorail loop. Or maybe it will work out next time that we can use my parents' motorhome.

I'll definitely do Tour Guide Mike again next time. You have to pay the fee for each vacation you take, but it's worth it. For about $21, we got the equivilent of a whole additional day on our vacation.

We'll probably try to stay at least 7 days next time, unless that's just absolutely impossible. We didn't get to do much stuff outside of the main themeparks, and we didn't get a lot of time to rest.

So those are my random, assorted thoughts about our vacation. I'll leave you with a few pictures that didn't fit in with any of my posts that we took at Disney World, plus a few pictures of the boys at home playing with some of the dress up clothes we bought there.

Our Disney World Vacation--Day 5

Thursday, September 18
Animal Kingdom in the morning, Downtown Disney in the afternoon

This was our last day at Disney World. We actually checked out of the Wilderness Lodge this morning and then checked back into the Doubletree hotel later in the day, again staying free with points. Packing up and moving isn't much fun, and I wouldn't have done it just to move to a cheaper hotel, but since the other hotel was free and still a very nice hotel, it was worth it.

We got up and moving pretty early. Chris pulled the minivan up to the front of the hotel, and I called bell services to come and get all of our stuff and load it up for us. Since we'd paid with a credit card, I didn't have to actually do anything to check out, so we went to the bus stop and got on a bus for Animal Kingdom.

We hadn't actually planned on visiting Animal Kingdom this time. It's our least favorite park, and with such a short trip, we didn't want to overplan. Our plan for the last day was to go to whichever park we felt we hadn't had enough time in. But we really had time to ride everything we wanted to ride at least once, and we rode most of our favorites more than once, so there wasn't anything we felt that we had to go do again. Plus, I had gotten the movie A Bug's Life for the boys for Tigger's birthday in August. They love that movie, so we thought that it would be fun for them to see the It's Tough to be a Bug 3D movie at Animal Kingdom.

We got to Animal Kingdom around 9:00. We didn't see the rope drop ceremony, but we were there right after it. I hadn't printed out Tour Guide Mike's intenerary for this park, but I knew which rides have the longest lines, so we headed straight back for Kilimanjaro Safaris. There was a 20 minute wait, so we got FastPasses and then went on the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail. It's a trail that takes about 15-20 minutes to walk. Along it, you can see several different types of animals native to Africa. They all seemed to be wide awake in the cooler morning hours, so we got see them being pretty active. We all enjoyed the meerkat exhibit, and then we were amazed by how many gorillas we saw walking around. Usually you have to try really hard to see gorillas because they hide and spend most of their time lying low, but we saw a lot of them up close and moving around right next to the glass wall.

Once we were done, it was time to use our FastPasses, so we went back to Kilimanjaro Safaris. This is a really great ride. You get into a really big vehicle that looks like a Jeep but holds about 20-30 people. It's open on both sides, and you drive through what's supposed to look like one of the wildlife preserves in Africa. We saw a lot of animals right up close to our vehicle. The giraffes were eating leaves right alongside the road, and we saw a lot of hippos, rhinos, and elephants, too.

Next we went to Kali River Rapids. It's one of those raft rides where you bounce around on a big raft that seats about 10 people. I rode with the big boys because Roo isn't tall enough. We got a little wet, but some boys sitting on the opposite side of the raft got soaked. Tigger had been a little hesitant about riding this ride, but he ended up loving it. When we got off, he was telling me, "That was so cool! That ride was awesome!" (Where does he learn that stuff?)

By this time, we were starving. I could have had a half chicken at Flame Tree BBQ, but I decided to branch out and have pizza instead. We ate at Pizzafari. We didn't have any more meal credits left from our Dining Plan, so this was the first meal we paid for out of pocket since checking into the Wilderness Lodge on Sunday morning. (I didn't mention it in the posts, but we ate breakfast with food that we brought from home each morning.) Since we were paying with our own money, Piglet got to order pizza. I had pizza, too. Tigger had spaghetti and meatballs from the kids' menu. Chris had breadsticks. He'd eaten an egg roll while he waited for us to ride Kali River Rapids.

The only other thing we really wanted to do at Animal Kingdom was to see It's Tough to be a Bug, so we did that next. That's a really funny 3D movie. You smell a stink bug, get stung in the back by hornets, and feel roaches running under your seat. Piglet didn't put his 3D glasses on the whole time. I guess the movie was intense enough for him without them. Tigger loves 3D effects, though. I love watching him trying to grab the stuff in front of his face each time we watch a 3D movie.

We were done at this point. There were a few other things we could have done at Animal Kingdom, but we were tired and hot, and we decided just to leave before someone had a meltdown. We rode the bus back to the Wilderness Lodge and then got in the minivan and drove back to the Doubletree.

Our room at the Doubletree wasn't ready yet, so we went to Downtown Disney to do a little shopping. I got a call after we'd been there a few minutes saying our room was ready, but we decided that we might as well finish up before we got back in the car and went back to the hotel because we didn't want to go out again. We looked around a bit, took a few pictures, and ate at Wolfgang Puck Express again before we left. I know that Piglet and I had cheese pizzas. I think Tigger had macaroni and cheese again. I don't know what Chris had. This restaurant costs a bit more than the other counter service restaurants, so it would have been wise to have paid cash earlier in the week at a cheap meal and then saved a credit for this restaurant, but we didn't. Any time you do that, you take a chance that you won't need as many meals as you're planning on and can end up not being able to use all of your credits, so it's a gamble. It was only about 3:00 when we ate, but we just wanted to eat so that we wouldn't have to go out again later. We still had some food that we had packed, so we gave the boys some fruit and crackers in the room later.

We still had snack coupons from exchanging a full service meal for a counter service meal, so we finished up using those. Chris got some yummy baked goods for that evening and the drive home at Goofy's candy store. The boys and I didn't go in there because it's nut-covered allergy nightmare, but it's a really neat place for families without food allergies. They have pretzel rods you can dip into chocolate and all kinds of nuts and sprinkles to make your own creations. Chris just spent a few minutes in there and came out reporting that it was a candy dream. Right as we were leaving, we used the rest of our snack coupons to get an Itzakadoozie for each of the big boys and a frozen raspberry lemonade for me. We had a mini fridge with a freezer in our room, so we saved them for later that evening.

We also took a few fun pictures with the figurines at Downtown Disney.

Once back at the Doubletree, we went down to the pool and let the boys splash around a bit. The pool wasn't nearly as themed as the one at the Wilderness Lodge, but the kiddie pool was cute and empty, so they had fun.

You can see Baby Roo's feet in his stroller in the background. He slept through the time at the pool, which was fine. Pools make him break out in hives anyway, and I would have had to get wet if he had gotten in.

I don't really remember what we did the rest of the evening. I must have been really tired. I think the boys took a late nap and still ended up sleeping well that night. We were all pretty exhausted. It was a lot of fun, but we were worn out.

Our Disney World Vacation--Day 4, Part 2

Naptime seemed to get longer and longer each successive day. I was afraid before we left that the boys would be too excited to take their much-needed naps, or that they'd fall asleep on the bus on the way back to the hotel and then not fall back asleep again, but we never had any problems other than occassionally having to drag them out of bed in the evenings. Next time, we'll need to stay longer and plan a down day halfway through the trip.

We got up and going around 6:00 this evening and headed back out to the Magic Kingdom. The fireworks there are really fantastic, and we were pretty sure that we could do them better than we had the first time. The weather man was predicting clear skies, so that was a definate advantage.

The boys said that the ride they really wanted to ride again was Pooh, so we got FastPasses for it first thing. Jacob had been wanting to ride the Indy Speedway the whole time we were there. It's one of those rides that has cars that stay on a track and go really slowly. The line is always really long, so we hadn't ridden it at this point, but we walked past there and the sign said the wait was 10 minutes, so Chris decided to take the older boys on it. They ended up waiting less time than that, and they spent most of their time driving really slowly along the long track and then waiting forever to get off of the car. Piglet loved it, though, so it was worth it. I managed to get one shot of them as they drove past me.

Next it was time for me to have half a chicken, so we went back to Cosmic Ray's. This is when the disaster happened. We were walking to the restaurant, and a young boy went running past us. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see that another boy was trailing behind him. I pulled my stroller back, but it was too late. The boy got his foot tangled up in one of the front wheels and fell hard on the ground.

Chris and I stood there for a few seconds to see if anyone was around to help him, but his mother and a Disney employee were at his side right away, so we kept going. We were almost into the restaurant when the little boy's mother started yelling at me. I'm sure he did hurt his knee quite badly because he fell on concrete while running really fast, but there was absolutely nothing I could have done to have prevented it. You're not supposed to run in crowded public places. I'm sure she knows that, but it's hard to blame yourself when your child is hurt. I still felt really bad about it and would have done anything to have prevented it if I could have.

I had a half chicken, mashed potatoes, and green beans for supper again. Chris and the boys all had chicken nuggests. I think Chris got cookies for the desert options again. Most of the deserts, including the cookies, come in sealed plastic packages, so you can take them with you if you're not hungry enough to eat them, so that part is nice. Of course, most of the year chocolate melts fast at Disney World.

Baby Roo wasn't liking his high chair much, so I took him out of the restaurant as soon as I finished while Chris stayed behind with the older boys. When they came out, I saw Chris nudge Piglet who then asked me, "So did you run over any more kids?" You've got to love having a supportive family.

Next we used our FastPasses for Pooh and then found a place to watch the fireworks. This time we went to the front of the castle. We found a spot in front of Cassie's and the Baby Care Center that wasn't too crowded. It was a little crowded when we got there, but then I moved to Roo from his stroller to his front pack which made him throw a temper tantrum for some reason, and everyone in the area left. We were only alone for a few minutes, though. Eventually Roo stopped crying, and new unsuspecting people came and stood beside us.

The fireworks were really, really good. I know it seems like you can't do much with fireworks, but Disney can. They set them to music, and with the castle in the background, it's just amazing. Even the boys were impressed. After they were over, we joined the throngs of people leaving and rode the bus back to the hotel. Since Roo was in the front pack, we were able to put Tigger in the stroller. I never regretted not having a stroller available for the older ones during the day, but it was nice to be able to have it in the evenings when we left the parks at closing. Otherwise it would have been a challenge to keep us all together.

This was our last night at the Wilderness Lodge, so we got packed up and ready to go before we settled down to bed.

Our Disney World Vacation--Day 4, Part 1

Wednesday, September 17
Hollywood Studios in the morning, Magic Kingdom and running over small children in the evening

This was our Hollywood Studios day. (It may have been called MGM the last time you went to Disney World.) There aren't a lot of rides and shows that we wanted to see at Hollywood Studios, but there were a few things that we wanted to be sure to do.

We got there at 8:40 for the 9:00 opening. For some reason, it took them a long time to start scanning tickets and letting people in the park. I think they started around 8:50. By the time we got through the gate, they had already started the rope drop ceremony.

Our first priority was Toy Story Mania. It's a new ride that had only been open a few weeks, and it's incredibly popular. If you don't get there at the park opening or get FastPasses, the line is at least 90 minutes long throughout the day. FastPasses run out by noon. It's worth it, though.

The ride is an interactive ride, like Buzz Lightyear at the Magic Kingdom. Why they decided to use the Toy Story theme on another interactive ride I don't really know, but it is fun. This ride is 3D. Your ride vehicle stops in various rooms, and you play a different carnival game in each of the rooms. You have a gun with a string that you pull, and you use it for each of the various games. There's a ring toss in one room, pie throwing in another, one where you throw darts at balloons, and a few others. The screen interacts with your gun. So when you use the gun to fire in the dart throw room, you see your dart on the screen, and if you aim correctly, you see your balloon pop. A screen in your ride vehicle keeps score. We rode it twice, once with FastPass and once just standing in line right when the park opened. We would have gotten another FastPass and ridden it again if we had planned on staying at Hollywood Studios all day.
Tigger and Piglet waiting in line for Toy Story Midway Mania.

We watched the Muppets 3D movie. Chris and I both love this movie. Mickey's Philharmagic at Magic Kingdom and It's Tough to be a Bug at Animal Kingdom are both newer and have more amazing special effects, but the Muppets movie is so much fun. It has the two old men making jokes in the balcony, just like on the old Muppets shows. At the end of the movie, all of the characters break out into a fight, and someone starts firing a cannon. The theater walls end up full of holes, but if you watch after it's over and you're leaving the theater, the walls go back to normal so that it's all nice looking for the next group.

We saw the Playhouse Disney stage show. That was okay. If you have kids who watch the shows on Playhouse Disney, they'll like it. Tigger and Pooh thought it was good. You sit on the floor, and I ended up leaving early with Roo because he just wanted to walk around.

Chris took Tigger and Pooh to Star Tours. That's one of those flight simulator rides. You watch a screen that looks like you're flying, and the theater moves along with the screen to make it feel like you're really going somewhere, but you don't go anywhere at all. I thought the boys would be scared, but they both had fun. It turns out that they thought it was a Lego ride. Chris has a Star Wars game that he plays on the Wii where the characters are made out of Legos. It's less violent than most video games because when you hit someone with a light saber, their body parts just pop off because they were built out of Legos. Anyway, it turns out the boys associate Star Wars with Legos, since they've never seen the movies, and I guess Legos can't be scary.

Chris and Tigger went on the Hollywood Tower of Terror. This is a ride that I've never done because I'm scared to. It's a Twilight Zone-themed ride where you go into an elevator in an old, haunted hotel, and the elevator free falls several times through out the ride. You don't even know how many times you'll fall because the computer that runs the ride changes it every time. They rode it with FastPass, and they could have ridden it twice because I got 4 FastPasses with our 4 tickets, but Tigger wasn't up to a second ride. He said that he wasn't scared but that he just didn't have much fun.

One of the things that we had really wanted to see when we started planning our vacation was Lights, Motors, Action! It's a car stunt show. Race car-obsessed Piglet would have loved it. Unfortunately, it was closed for refurbishing the whole time we were there. We'll have to catch it next time.

Our lunch at Hollywood Studios was a buffet with Playhouse Disney characters at Hollywood and Vine. It was fine. The chef was much better than the one we had the day before at the Crystal Palace. I felt comfortable eating everything he said I could eat. I asked him specifically about the corn spoonbread on his buffet, and he said it didn't have any eggs. That made me upset that I skipped the spoonbread the day before. The only things I had felt comfortable eating at the Crystal Palace were rotisserie chicken, mashed potatoes, pizza, and ice cream. This time, I got to eat a wider variety of foods because I believed that the chef was being thorough when he told me which foods I couldn't eat.

Here are some pictures of the boys at this buffet.

June noticing that there's a picture of her on Tigger's shirt.

When we were ready to leave Hollywood Studios, Roo was asleep in the stroller. I didn't want to get him out and wake him up, and I had some shopping to do, so Chris and I split up at this point. Chris took the big boys back to the hotel where they swam and then napped. I rode the boat to the Yacht Club resort because I could roll the stroller on without getting the baby out. I shopped a bit there, and then when Roo woke up, we got on a bus to the Magic Kingdom. I went into the Magic Kingdom and did some shopping at the Main Street Emporium. I thought about going further into the park and shopping at the cute shops in Adventureland and Liberty Square, but I was ready to sit. I've mentioned that it was really hot, right? I got on the bus and rode back to the Wilderness Lodge, and then I went out to the minivan to clean it up from our trip down to Florida because it was almost time to drive home, and I wanted to get organized before we left.

Later I'll tell you about our evening trip to the Magic Kingdom in which I wounded a young child.

Our Disney World Vacation--Day 3, Part 3

Everyone was extra tired this day and napped a long time. We hadn't really gone with a set plan for what we were going to do in the evenings. We had tentatively planned on going to the parks and just riding rides, more than watching the evening shows, so that we'd get to ride everything we wanted to ride, but I didn't realize how much we'd get done with Tour Guide Mike. We simply didn't need extra time for rides.

This evening, we decided that we'd watch Fantasmic! at Hollywood Studios. It was a show that we'd only been planning to see if we had extra time to kill. We wanted to ride a few rides, too, but the boys were slow getting going, and by the time we got there, we really needed to get into the ampitheater where the show is performed really soon.

But first, we needed to eat. Fortunately, there's an area with several varied counter service stands right outside the ampitheater. Chris got food for himself and Tigger. I think that Chris got a BBQ sandwich for himself and chicken nuggets for Tigger. I stood in line at Catalina Eddie's for pizza for Tigger and me. (Don't worry--I had half a chicken at the buffet with Pooh characters at lunch.) This is one of the few restaurants that doesn't have a kids' menu. They allow the kids on the Dining Plan to order off the regular menu when there is no kids' menu, so this was a great place to get pizza for Piglet.

Chris and Tigger ate, but we needed to get in the Fantasmic! theater by the time I got the pizza for Piglet and me, so we carried it into the theater. It's a good thing we decided to do that because we got seated in the last available row. Any later and we would have been in the standing-room-only overflow area. We sat down at 7:30 and waited for the 8:00 show to start. Piglet and I ate, and Tigger played with a light spinner.

Have I mentioned that it was really hot this day? I had been wearing Roo in the front pack since we'd left the hotel this evening. I'm normally fine with him in there, but I got really hot this time. We'd brought a mister with us, and I squirted myself and the baby for the first part of the show, but I was still melting. I unstrapped him to give myself some air, but before the show was over, I just had to get out of there so I wouldn't overheat. I went to the air conditioned bathroom to just cool off. When the show was over, Chris called me on my cell phone so we could meet up.

Fantasmic! is a really neat show. There are characters that perform in the middle of the stage, and there's a moat surrounding the stage where boats with more characters sail across during the show. They also spray up walls of water during the show and project images onto them. It's supposed to depict Mickey Mouse having a dream that's overtaken by (in)famous Disney villains, but then Mickey takes control of it, conquers the villains, and then sees a lot of good Disney characters. It's pretty intense at points. During the show when there was a brief quiet spot, Piglet yelled out, "Mommy, I'm really brave of all this scary stuff!"

The one really good thing about Fantasmic! is that they put a bunch of the Disney rental strollers at the entrance to the ampitheater during the show. When it's over, they encourage you to grab one and use it to get to the park exit. It's quite a hike to the exit from the ammpitheater, so Chris grabbed a double stroller and put both of the big boys in it. I had the baby in our stroller, so we didn't have to worry about losing anyone in the crowds. We went through the stores to look around a bit and cool off on our way out, then we boarded a bus and got back to the hotel.

Once back at the hotel, I threw the boys in the tub, washed them off, and got them into their pajamas as fast as I could. There's a cute little parade called the Electric Water Pagent that floats past all of the Magic Kingdom-area resorts every night on Bay Lake and Seven Seas Lagoon. We went out to the beach at our resort and watched it go past. It's just some barges with lights that look like a sea serpent and other water creatures, and they play loud music that you can hear from the beach. It's nothing special, but it's cute and worth seeing if everything falls into place.

After that, we went back to the room and got in bed. Overall, this was our least favorite day. It was hot and poorly planned. It was the only day we had gone into without much of a plan, and it didn't work out. We'll definitely have a better plan next time.

Our Disney World Vacation--Day 3, Part 2

When we got back from our very hot morning at the Magic Kingdom, the housekeeping cart was outside our room. We went in and found that the room had not been cleaned yet. We really wanted the room cleaned, so Chris decided to take the older boys to the pool so that they wouldn't be in the room when housekeeping came. I needed to wash laundry, so I took Roo and a big bag of laundry to the laundry room. I didn't want to have piles of laundry all over the place when it was time to be cleaned, so I just dragged everything we'd worn to the laundry room and then separated and decided which clothes to wash once I was in the laundry room.

Once I had three washing machines going, I took the laundry I didn't need to wash back to the room, fully expecting to find it being cleaned when I got there. I was disappointed to find that having a housekeeping cart outside your room doesn't mean that someone is about to clean your room. The cart was still there, but nothing in the room was changed. I called housekeeping to ask to have our room cleaned right away, and then walked around a little while I waited for the washing machines to finish.

After I got the clothes in the dryer and walked around a bit more, I went back to the room and saw that it had already been cleaned. I went out to the pool to tell Chris that they could go back to the room when they were ready. It was at that point that I looked down at Baby Roo and saw that he was only wearing one shoe.

Now his shoes had already been an issue. While driving to Florida, I realized that his shoes were rubbing a sore spot on one of his toes. He'd only been walking about 4 weeks before the trip, so he hadn't had long to break them in. I noticed that he was whimpering every time I put his shoes on him, which isn't like him. He LOVES wearing shoes. He calls them his "ooze". I had to get the poor baby some new shoes so his feet wouldn't hurt.

Buying shoes at Disney World is not cheap, even if it is just for a baby. The only options they had for a baby boy were these Mickey Mouse Crocs. They were $36, but he could wear them in the water easily, and they wouldn't rub his sore, so I bought them. Now I had to find that missing shoe. I couldn't put his old shoes back on him, and I wasn't buying another pair of Crocs.

But first, it was nap time. For once, the baby hadn't napped at the park before our break, so he needed to nap now. I laid down with him for a few minutes to get him to sleep while Chris and the big boys came back from the pool and got down for their nap. By 2:30, all of the boys were sleeping, so I was free to finish the laundry and find the shoe.

I retraced all of my steps to find that shoe. I went everywhere. I had done a little exploring earlier, so I had a lot of places to check. Of course, I'd had the stroller the first time, so I kept taking the long route to the wheelchair ramp while passing up all the stairs and running off into the bushes everywhere that I'd let the baby look at rabbits. I'm sure people thought I was crazy.

Finally, I decided I'd go to the concierge desk and see if someone had turned it in. I did, and the lady told me that someone had turned it in just a few minutes ago. I was glad to have it back, but it would have been nice if I hadn't had to do all that walking first. Anyone who's been to Disney World knows that the last thing you need to do is extra walking. I consoled myself by telling myself that it wouldn't have been turned in yet if I had just gone and asked when I first realized it was missing.

Finally, I was able to go back to the room and rest my feet for a while before we headed out for the evening.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Our Disney World Vacation--Day 3, Part 1

Tuesday, September 16
Magic Kingdom in the morning, Fantasmic! at Hollywood Studios in the evening

This was our second Magic Kingdom morning. We decided to deviate from Tour Guide Mike's suggested second day plan because some of the rides he suggested riding again weren't all that important to us. This was a big mistake.

We didn't need to get there at rope drop, so we got to the bus stop around 9:00 and arrived at the Magic Kingdom at 9:20.

We wanted to start the day Frontierland, so instead of walking, we got on the train as soon as we entered the park. Here are some pictures on the train.

When we got off at the Frontierland station, we got FastPasses for Thunder Mountain and then went to Pirates of the Caribbean. It's been updated since we were there last to have Jack Sparrow from the movie trilogy in it. Chris and I didn't like the renovations much.

Next we rode the Magic Carpets of Aladdin. It's basically just like Dumbo, but you ride in magic carpets instead of flying elephants. It's not thrilling, but it was there and had no line.

Now I really wanted to get to Mickey's Toontown when it opened at 9:40 so that we could get in line at the Judge's Tent and get our picture taken with Mickey with no line. We had seen Mickey at the Garden Grill already, but we didn't have a picture of the whole family with him. Tour Guide Mike would have suggested that we spend the morning near Toontown until it opened. (I don't know why Toontown opens later than the rest of the park, but it does.) We didn't do it, and we lived to regret it. It was really, really hot this day. And the walk from Adventureland to Toontown is really, really far. It seemed like we'd never get there. We finally got there at 10:20. We went to the Judge's Tent right away, but the line was outrageous. We don't like Mickey Mouse that much. So despite the fact that had killed ourselves getting there, we decided not to meet with Mickey.

We looked through Mickey and Minnie's houses. They're walk-through exhibits, but they were crowded, and I've never seen them crowded. There's a little roller coaster just for young kids in Toontown, and we tried to ride that next, but it was broken. The one bright spot was Donald's boat. You can see Donald Duck's leaky boat in Toontown, and no one else was there for some reason. Every other inch of the land was packed, but we had this attraction to ourselves. And we were hot, so a leaky boat was just what we needed. It's really very cute. There's water shooting out from holes in the boat, and if you plug them all up, water starts shooting out from different holes. The guys had a lot of fun getting wet.

We then went back to Thunder Mountain to use our FastPasses, getting new FastPasses for Peter Pan on the way. I rode with the big boys, and then we went to Crystal Palace for a 11:35 reservation for lunch with Pooh and the gang. There were a lot of people waiting outside the restaurant because they were changing the buffet from breakfast to lunch when we got there, but it was only about 10 minutes before our beeper went off. They had dispensers of ice water out there, which was really nice. We drank some and poured some over our heads. (Have I mentioned that it was hot?)

The chef at this restaurant walked me along the buffet to show me which foods were okay for Tigger and which were okay for me, but she didn't inspire confidence. For example, at one point she pointed to a section of the buffet and told me that everything in that section was safe for egg allergies. Unfortunately, there was fritatta on that section, which is basically like an omelet. I avoided several foods that she hadn't said I had to avoid because they can be made with egg sometimes. There was some yummy-looking corn spoonbread that I avoided because I assumed it had eggs even though she hadn't said I couldn't have it. Chris, Tigger, and Piglet all said it was delicious.

Here are some pictures with the characters.

The restaurant is right next to the Magic Kingdom's Baby Care Center, which is a nice building with changing tables, rocking chairs for nursing, high chairs, and everything else you might need to take care of a baby. Roo needed to nurse, and I was getting a little tired of doing it on dark rides, so I went to the Baby Care Center while Chris and the older boys went to use the FastPasses for Peter Pan.

Next we left to go back to the resort. We decided to take the boat back, and it was just finishing loading up as we approached the dock. We signaled to the captain that we were coming, and he very willingly opened the gates back up and waited for us to get there. He was very nice about it, and we thanked him profusely. We really needed to rest. Have I mentioned that we were hot? The nice breeze as we drove over the water felt wonderful, and we were soon back at our resort.

Our Disney World Vacation--Day 2, Part 3

We went to the Magic Kingdom for the evening parade and fireworks this evening.

I didn't write down what time everyone woke up and when we got going, but it must have been relatively early because we got a lot done this evening.

Our first stop was for supper at Pinocchio's Village Haus. There are tables there that overlook the Small World ride, so that's a lot of fun. Now one of the annoying things about Disney World is their kids' menus. You'd think that a place with so many kids would have good kids' menus, right? Well, that's wrong. There are only 2 or 3 choices on each of the kids' menus at counter service restaurants, and they're never the same thing that's on the adults' menus. So if the park map says that a restaurant is a pizza restaurant, it has pizza for the adults, but not for the kids. Likewise for hamburger joints. Apparently it's cheaper for them if all of their pizzas at one restaurant are the same size so their employees don't get confused. The park patrons get very confused with their system, though.

So anyway, on the Dining Plan, you have to order kids' meals for the kids under 10. No exceptions. Well this restaurant is a pizza restaurant, meaning adults were going to be eating lots of pizza here. Piglet loves pizza. You can't take him into a pizza restaurant and not give him pizza. So I did what every other mother would do at this restaurant--I ate a kids' meal so he could eat pizza. I've read on the Internet that the pizza here is horrible, and according to Chris, that's right. He said it was hideous. But Piglet wolfed his down, so I guess he was fine with it. He got a combo meal with a salad, so I ate his salad. Tigger and I both had kids' meals with turkey and cheese rollups. They were good, but each one was just 3 one-inch slices from a tortilla rollup. He got his with applesauce and grapes; I got mine with grapes and carrot sticks. I was still hungry when we were done. Chris was getting two deserts at each of these counter service places, since they were included in the Free Dining. I couldn't ever eat the deserts because I can't eat nuts, cinnamon, or eggs. That only leaves ice cream in the desert category, and the counter service restaurants don't usually have that.

Our next mission was to get FastPasses for Buzz Lightyear. We love that ride. We got them, and then we noticed that the sign said that the wait time for waiting in the regular line was 5 minutes, and we could tell by looking at the line that it was an overestimate, so we just got in line and rode it. I got 397,400 points! Chris and I were in different ride vehicles, and he was certain he had beat me, but he had under 100,000 points and couldn't believe it when I told him my score. I did a silly thing, though, and told him my secret, and I don't think I won again for the rest of the trip. Here's a picture of the stuff you shoot at on that ride.

Now it really, really looked like it was going to rain this evening. In fact, when I parked Roo's stroller so we could go on Buzz, a Disney employee started moving it right away, telling me she was putting it under an awning because it would be raining before we got out. It didn't start raining then, though.

Next we rode Carousel of Progress, which is a great old ride that Walt himself worked on. It never has a line. In fact, it isn't always open, but we make a point to ride it when it is.

We got on Tomorrowland Transit Authority next. This was another ride that we had ridden already our first day and another family favorite. It's a slow ride on an elevated track that goes all around Tomorrowland. There's really no point to it, but it's a relaxing ride, and you can see lots of stuff from it. It's another ride that's always a walk on.

By this time, it was time that we could use our FastPasses for Buzz, so we got on it again. Despite all of the tips that I know, I only got 24,000 points this time. I didn't write down Chris's score, but he used my tips and did much better than I did.

Now it was getting time to find a spot for the parade. We walked to Frontierland and got a spot by the Diamond Horseshoe Saloon. It was 7:40. While we were waiting, Chris went to the Enchanted Grove snack stand and got us all something cold and yummy to snack on while we waited (using our snack credits on the Dining Plan). He got a Coke float, I got a frozen raspberry lemonade, Piglet got frozen orange juice, and Tigger got vanilla ice cream (he's not crazy about berries or fruit with much flavor).

We also got out some fun things that I had bought ahead of time for the trip. As soon as it gets dark, vendors start coming out at Disney World selling all kinds of glow-in-the-dark jewelry and light spinners at outrageous prices. I bought a package of 25 glow necklaces for $1 at Dollar Tree, and I got some light spinners for about $5 each at Party City. I also got these cute bunny ears (which I told the boys were Mickey ears) at Dollar Tree for $1 each.

Finally, the parade started. It starts at 8:00, but it starts on Main Street, so if you view it toward the end of the route like we did, it takes about another 10 minutes before it gets there. They alternate the parades at Disney World every few years. Right now, it's Spectromagic. It's a great parade with light-up floats and lots of characters. The characters all wave to the people, and some of them waved right to our boys. Piglet and Tigger were sure it was because they liked our light spinners. Here are some of the pictures.

Our next goal was to see the fireworks that start at 9:00. The main place people like to watch the fireworks is on Main Street, with the castle in the background. If you watch them there, you stand shoulder to shoulder with strangers, many of whom don't use deoderant. Another option is watching them behind the castle in Fantasyland. We took that choice. The fireworks show was changed a few years ago, and now they shoot them off from two different places, but I'd read that if you stand in just the right spot in Fantasyland, they look almost as good as they do from Main Street. It's a spot right by Dumbo, so we walked over there.

When we got to Dumbo, there was no line. We hadn't ridden it because it's one of those rides where you have to get to the Magic Kingdom at least 45 minutes before it opens so you can be first at rope drop, and then you have to run over any grandmothers and toddlers who get in your way. Otherwise, you stand in a long line that's out in the sun. It's a really slow-moving line, and since the ride is in every Disney commercial, every kid wants to ride it. We weren't willing to fight for the right to ride it, but Chris did take the older boys on it then since it was easy while I held our spot.

We had our first snag in our plans when Chris called me from the line right before they got on and said that Piglet needed to use the restroom. I walked to the exit, and Piglet was supposed to go straight to the exit when they loaded the ride, rather than getting on the ride vehicle, so I could take him to the restroom while Chris and Tigger rode. Well, he took one look at that flying elephant up close and decided that he didn't have to go to the restroom that badly. He got on the ride. By this time, I'd lost our perfect fireworks viewing spot.

The fireworks started while Chris and the boys were flying through the sky. Because of the way the fireworks are set off, I had to keep turning from one side to the other to see them all. It wasn't perfect, but we were at Disney World. What did I have to complain about?

Well, maybe the rain. You know that rainstorm that the Disney employee told me was immenent a few hours ago? Well, it finally started while the guys were on Dumbo. It got pretty hard fast, too. Dumbo soon ended, and we all ran to the awning by the carousel, despite the fact that we could only see half of the fireworks from there.

Then Piglet realized that he really did need to go to the restroom, and he couldn't wait. By this time it's pouring, but Chris has done all of the bathroom trips until now, so I volunteer to do this one. The first bathroom we went to was closed for renovations, so we sludged through puddles now 3" deep and found another one.

We made it back to the others before the fireworks was done and finished watching them. They were okay, but not spectacular.

Next we had to join the throngs of people leaving. The park closes right after the fireworks, so everyone was headed out. We put Roo in the front pack on me so that we could put Tigger in the stroller, and then Piglet was the only one we had to hang onto. It wasn't too bad, though, and a bus got there almost as soon as we got to the bus stop, so we were at the hotel and in the bathtub very quickly, and then we settled down for a good night's sleep.

Our Disney World Vacation--Day 2, Resort Photos

Again, I had to walk around the resort while Chris and the big boys rested due to Baby Roo having already rested, so this day I took my camera and took pictures of the baby all around the resort. I don't have many pictures of the big boys at the hotel, and that's why.

The Wilderness Lodge is themed to look like one of the resorts in the National Parks in the northwest. We're not really outdoorsy people, but it's a beautiful resort with great theming.

You can view larger images of these pictures if you click them.

I grabbed some grapes on my way out of the hotel room and enjoyed a nice snack on the balcony outside the resort first. Roo enjoyed drinking his water and eating grapes with me.

Next we went out back and looked at some ducks. There was a lot of wildlife at our resort. We saw ducks, countless lizards, lots of rabbits, and one snake. We didn't see any aligators on this trip, but that's only because we didn't look very hard for them.

There's a geyser that goes off every hour at the resort, so we looked at that next.

Here are some random pictures from around the resort.

I never took pictures of our room. If you want to see pictures of the rooms and other things in the resort, you can see some great ones on the All Ears website.

We went to the Magic Kindom for the parade and fireworks that evening. I'll tell you about those in the next post.