Sunday, March 2, 2014

Disney World 2013

Let’s just get this out of the way—I LOVE Disney World. For some people, it’s not their cup of tea. But it’s mine. Every last drop. Love love love it. We were not planning on going to Disney World last year. We actually had a different family trip planned. However, my dad called one day and said that he had a conference to attend on Disney property in October. Were we interested in coming with them? Ummm…yes! It worked out amazingly well. We found a five-bedroom house that was cheaper than my dad’s hotel room, so the company agreed to pay for that instead. Free lodging for everyone! And because he’s super generous, my dad was able to help us out with plane tickets—flying six people anywhere is not cheap. So it was an incredible opportunity that we definitely were not going to pass up.
We decided not to tell the kids until my parents could be there. Since they were coming for the baptism, we decided to do the Disney reveal as a joint birthday present for all the kids. My dad came up with the idea of Camp Gottawanna—You gotta wanna have fun, you gotta wanna play hard, you gotta wanna follow the rules…He wants to have regular sessions of Camp Gottawanna with his grandkids. Basically, it’s just a fine time with Grandma and Grandpa. It’s a very my dad sort of thing. So first the kids received invitations for Camp Gottawanna from my parents. They were a little confused by that, but they knew something more was coming. Then Aaron and I gave them fake plane tickets to Orlando. They were excited, but apparently geography is not their thing because they didn’t realize why we were going to Orlando (still hung up on the Camp Gottawanna thing). Then we gave them a card saying they were going to Disney World. I have to say, I was quite underwhelmed by their reactions. Sure, they were excited, but I expected YouTube worthy reactions, or at least a few tears of joy. Nope. Surprise fail. Oh well. It won’t stop me from trying again.
Day 1: Magic Kingdom
We spent our first full day in Orlando at Magic Kingdom. I think you’re missing out on some of the magic if you don’t start your Disney trip there. Seeing the castle across the lake and entering on Main Street is just such an amazing feeling. Right off the bat we saw Mary Poppins with hardly anyone in line. When I was little, I was obsessed with Mary Poppins, so we had to stop and chat with her. Kiera was going to be dressing up that evening as Mary Poppins, so she was excited to see her too. She was delightful—practically perfect in every way!
Obligatory castle picture.
One of the very first things we did was head over to the Winnie-the-Pooh ride. That’s Bridget’s obsession, and it’s been going strong for half a year now. I knew that she would just eat it up. After the ride, Grandpa told her she could pick anything at the WTP gift shop. We kept steering her toward the bigger stuffed animals, but she wanted that little Pooh key ring. She loved it. Whenever she had an outfit with belt loops we would clip it on, and then we let her carry it around with her when she wasn’t. On our second day at the Magic Kingdom, Bridget lost that little keychain and was devastated. We immediately retraced our steps, but there was no sign of him. We went to guest services and asked if it had been turned in (fat chance, we knew), and it hadn’t. However, they gave us a gift certificate for any Winnie the Pooh item of our choosing. So incredibly generous! We knew that she wouldn’t want anything else, but we were still blown away by their generosity. That, my friends, is why Disney succeeds. They do everything they can to make the experience magical. Bridget still loves her little Pooh keychain and very frequently sleeps with it at night. Thank you, Grandpa and Disney!
We attended Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party that evening. The kids loved being able to dress up, and they had a blast finding the different stations to trick-or-treat at. I do wish we had seen more characters in costume. We only saw a small handful, and I was expecting a lot more. I guess we just weren’t at the right place at the right time. 
Day 2: Magic Kingdom
Aaron and I spent so much time at the little play area by Splash Mountain, playing with Bridget while the other one took the kids on Splash Mountain. Turns out that my kids love rollercoasters, and could not get enough of them. I was shocked by how much Averi loved the bigger rides. She’s quite the daredevil!
One afternoon Katie got a massive bloody nose and had to go to the first aid station. They took good care of her, and gave her a coupon for a free popsicle, since the bleed was heat-induced. When they realized how many siblings she had, they gave each of them coupons as well! Another fine example of Disney hospitality.
Eating her first Mickey ears. Awww!
Mom and Dad got Dole Whips while the kids had their free popsicle. We didn’t let on how delicious our treat was.
Day 3: Day of Rest!
We spent Sunday watching General Conference together (and, let’s be honest, sleeping, since we were so wiped out). I think we’ve figured out that our family does Disney best two days on, one day off. It’s exhausting for both parents and children. We like to be there as early as we can and stay as late as we can, so we get very, very tired.
Day 4: Epcot
Epcot was definitely the best place to see the big characters. The line was only 5 minutes long. We knew we had to see Mickey, because Bridget had fallen in love with him. She pointed him out everywhere she saw him (which, in Disney World, is a lot of places). She was THRILLED. She did not want to leave his side, even with the promise of Minnie and Goofy just around the corner. Eventually we convinced her that she had to move on. She was a bit afraid of Goofy, but loved Minnie too.
My mom took the two youngest girls home for an afternoon nap and left us with Katie, Paul and Kiera. We decided to spend the afternoon over at the World Showcase, sampling the food at the International Food and Wine Festival. In my opinion, Epcot is a bit of a letdown after the other parks. There are only two big rides, and the fastpasses go so quickly that you can only get them for Soarin’ or Test Track, not both. Once the passes are gone, the line skyrockets to two hours or more, even on less busy days. Just not worth it for either of those rides. The park is also a bit dated and has more of a 70’s feel. I think it’s time for a pretty big revamp over there. The Food and Wine Festival, however, was a blast. The food was not that expensive (for Disney food), so we stopped at all of the booths that looked interesting. We got one item from each booth and shared it, so everyone got a little taste. It was a fun way to get lunch and try lots of new things.
Day 5: Animal Kingdom
Animal Kingdom doesn’t get enough coverage, I think. I love this park. It’s small in scale, so you feel like you really can do everything in one day. But the theming is excellent and everything there is super high quality. We love Expedition Everest. It’s probably the most fun rollercoaster at Disney. Averi, who’s only 5, rode it twice and would have gone more times if we had time. We also love all the shows there. The bird show is fun, especially for the younger kids, and we LOVE the Lion King show. It’s incredibly well done.
Meeting the man of her dreams. She had been waiting five whole days to meet Winnie-the-Pooh. We tried to see him at Epcot, but she was just too tired and had to go home. We knew Animal Kingdom would be our last chance, so we made this a priority. (Anyone else starting to get the feeling that our lives revolve around this cutie pie? They do. We can’t help it.)
She loves Tigg-uh (in Bridget speak) as well.
The Kilimanjaro Safari is so much fun. We love seeing all of the animals wandering around. Some of them get quite close, as evidenced by this rhino. That metal is the picture is the side of our truck. He was only a few feet away. Just a few seconds after this picture, another rhino walked right in front of us and joined him. The kids were thrilled.
Grandma loves are the best.
The Festival of the Lion King. The kids got to participate this year as well. I think we’ve figured out where to sit to almost guarantee that they get picked. They had a blast dancing with the characters.
Day 6: Hollywood Studios
The kids loved Rockin’ Rollercoaster. I was sure it would be too much for them, but they proved me wrong. I definitely learned not to underestimate their thrill seeking tendencies on this trip. Katie even went on Tower of Terror. That ride makes me want to pee my pants, but she was completely unfazed.
Much handclapping was done to pass the time.
Seriously cannot get over how adorable this girl is. Do they come any cuter?
Okay, this is cuter.
Going through all these pictures makes me so happy. Gretchen Rubin, who wrote the Happiness Project, talked about the role of photos in contributing to our happiness. “One of the best ways to make yourself happy in the present is to recall happy times from the past. Photos are a great memory-prompt, and because we tend to take photos of happy occasions, they weight our memories to the good.” When I look through photos of my family, I realize that my memories are definitely weighted to the good, and I am glad. I love my family so much, and I know we are so blessed to be able to have experiences like this together. Sometimes I can’t believe how good my life is.