January 2010

Disney World: Day 11 - Magic Kingdom and Home

January 16, 2010

You can't stay on vacation forever.

Today was our last day of our 2010 Disney World vacation.

We woke up early today to finish our packing. And this is no small feat when you bring as much as we did, and then buy as much as we did, and then spread it all out into a three-bedrom condo like we did.

Through it all, we still made it to the Magic Kingdom right around opening time, just in time to miss Snow White one last time, which happened about five other times this vacation. She is one tough lady to meet! We were glad we had several character meals with her.

We only had about four hours to be in the park before heading to the airport to fly home.

Today was by far the hottest day of our vacation, hitting 76 degrees, and it sure felt hot!

The humidity had to also be near 100%, and it actually made it quite miserable at times.

During the frigid days we wanted nothing more than to have some hot ones, not realizing that we definitely prefer the cold days to the hot and humid ones. You can bundle up the kids for the cold, but there is no escaping the heat/humidity combo.

Despite the heat we still were able to have a great couple of hours here to end our vacation. After two consecutive years of 11-day vacations, this really does seem to be a great length. We weren't itching to get home by any means, but it just seemed about time to return to reality.

In the park today we tried to hit all of the old, familiar favorites in Fantasyland, Adventureland, and of course, a couple of rides on Big Thunder Mountain in Frontierland.

Before we could even blink, it was time to go, and it is always hard to leave for the very last time. We snapped a couple of pictures outside of the park before grabbing the monorail back to the TTC and the car.

Soon we were at the airport where Jamie dropped off the family and the full array of luggage and car seats in order to then go return the rental car.

Fortunately, this year did not have any of the "excitement" that last year's trip home had. No headaches on the plane. No leg cramps on the plane. No throwing up in the car. No throwing up after returning back home.

We arrived back home around 8:00pm, and we were happy to see Toby, and happy to be home.

No matter how far you go or how long you are gone, it is always good to be back home.

We feel very fortunate to have had the chance to take this vacation. Returning from Disney World last year, we had no idea when we would be back, and we never dreamed it would be one year later.

We have the same feeling today.

We want to go back as soon as we can. There is just something special about that place, and this year was so much fun and so different than last year.

We were glad that we had the chance to experience this vacation with the Osborns. They made this a wonderful and unique experience above and beyond all of the help that they were always happy to provide. The kids had a great and special time at Disney with them for sure.

It's even kind of hard to write this last blog entry about the end of our vacation. It has been fun taking a long time to re-live these days and remember all of these memories.

Of course, the fun of Disney World is the fun of watching our little ones experience it all. We sure do have three unique, amazing and fun kids, and they made this trip one to remember. We've been to Disney World without kids, which was a LOT of fun, but there's nothing like a boy holding on to your arm with all his might on Big Thunder Mountain, and there's nothing like hearing the squeal of your little girl as she sees Snow White coming her way, and there's nothing like watching your little Cinderella dance with Cinderella.

All of the money, all of the planning, all of the effort to make it all happen......we can't wait to do it all over again.

Our little kids in front of the big castle

Daddy and Brie waiting to board Snow White's ride

Mommy and her Boy leaving the Magic Kingdom for the last time in 2010

This is what Disney World vacations are all about

Taking it all in, one last time

Alexia and Brielle playing around the airport fountain waiting for Daddy to return the rental car

Drew taking pictures in the airport with Daddy's Marathon Weekend disposable camera

Watching TV near our gate at the Orlando airport, waiting to fly home

Disney World: Day 10 - Magic Kingdom

January 15, 2010

Today is our very last full day of our 2010 Disney World vacation.

It seems like it has gone by so quickly, even though the memories of our first days seem like so long ago.

The weather is definitely warming up (which really started yesterday with our first day of short-sleeved shirts).

Today was all about repeating all of our favorites. This included, of course, Drews #1 favorite in all of Disney World, Big Thunder Mountain. Many times.

We also were able to make our way over to Tom Sawyer's Island for the first time, and the kids all loved exploring. This place will really be neat when the kids are all at least seven or so. There are some places in the fort where they can escape, which is not good at their ages. We had to keep a very close eye on them to be sure they didn't go out the escape tunnel.

We spent a long day here today, leaving a bit after 4:00pm to take a boat from the Magic Kingdom over to the Fort Wilderness area for our Hoop Dee Doo reservations.

We had a lot of fun at this dinner show last year, and we questioned whether or not we should do it again this year. We decided to give it another go, and we were SO glad that we did!

Last year was great. This year was outstanding!

We ended up being seated at the exact same table as last year....front-row seats. This was the perfect place to sit to get a lot of interaction with the actors on stage, and there was a LOT of interaction this year, and Drew LOVED IT!

The show ended with the standard running of spoons over a washboard, and our kids really got into it. There is still nothing better than seeing your little kids working as hard as they can to make as much noise as possible on a washboard with their dessert spoons.

This show will probably remain a staple of our future Disney World vacations. We may also try the Luau, but this show is just too much fun to pass up. Yee haw.

We don't actually have any pictures of this experience, but we did take a lot of video. Life is full of tradeoffs.

On a whim, we decided to take the boat back to the Contemporary Resort instead of to the Magic Kingdom, where we came from. This turned out to be a great decision.

The timing was perfect to head back up to the fourth-floor area which has a perfect view of the Castle for the fireworks. What we didn't know was that the music is piped in to this area so we could enjoy it even more.

From this vantage point you realize that many of the fireworks are not behind the castle at all. It was a very neat experience to see Wishes from this location. It would definitely not replace seeing them from inside the Magic Kingdom, but we did that already and this was a really neat way to end our vacation with something unique.

Rather than battle our way back to the TTC on the Monorail with all of us, including the stroller, we decided that Jamie would go himself and pick up the rest of the family at the Contemporary. This worked perfect, and it gave Tracy one last chance to do some additional shopping, where she found another Pluto matchbox car. Score!

It was rather late by the time we got back, so it was straight to bed for the kids and straight to packing for the parents.

We were quite tired, however, so we turned in before we were completely done, hoping to finish as soon as possible in the morning.

It has been a very full, very fun, and quite unique vacation when compared to being here just one year ago. It is always a bit sad (more than a bit) to have to pack up your things, knowing that everything is about to come to an end.

Sure, there is a small part of us that is ready to go back home. This type of vacation is a lot of work, after all. But it sure would be nice if it could just go on forever.

Lexi at the Laughin' Place
(waiting for Mommy and Drew to ride Big Thunder Mountain)

Twin girls are so cute and so much fun

Brie is a head-first personality

Drew exploring the Fort on Tom Sawyer's Island

Mommy and her Brie at the Fort

Lexi doesn't want to leave the Fort

Isn't Jamie lucky?

Daddy and Andrew on Big Thunder Mountain
(Hard to see, but they are on there!)

On the path to the Contemporary Resort from the dock after the boat from Hoop Dee Doo

Disney World: Day 9 - Epcot

January 14, 2010

It was really, really, (really) weird to wake up this morning and not have Nona and PaPa John in the condo with us.

Lacking a lot of extra help, we were about 15 minutes later to Epcot today than when we were here the first time. It wasn't too big of a deal because we were not planning on riding Soarin' today, so the lines that grow there were not of concern to us.

Today we finally stuck with out plan to get into a park, enjoy it until just after lunch, then head back "home" for a short rest, returning later for nighttime entertainment.

We started our day as before with the Nemo ride along with Turtle Talk with Crush. Then, we headed across Future World to Mission: Space so that Drew could take Mommy on his favorite ride in this park.

While Drew and Mommy were riding Mission: Space, Daddy took the girls to the play area (which has tubes and bridges, etc. like a McDonalds PlayPlace), which sounded like a great idea. And, it was a great idea. At first.

What Jamie didn't realize is that Disney has a budget a bit bigger than your standard McDonalds.

What initially looks like a one-level, horseshoe-shaped tube with one entrance on each end is actually a four-level, 20-foot-high maze of really cool tubes and places to explore.....for a four-year-old. To a two-year-old this amazing, super-high and complex play area quickly turns into a place to get scared and cry while a helpless Daddy stands below trying to figure out how to get his crying girls out of the highest part of the complex.

Fortunately, it wasn't but a few minutes before Tracy and Drew arrived after their trip to Mars. Drew helped Brielle down, but Lexi is a bit stubborn when it comes to being scared, and fortunately Mommy could fit up there where Daddy could not. Daddy should have snapped a couple pictures of Mommy twisting herself up the tubes to save her little girl, but that thought didn't cross his mind.

And, thus ends this activity for Lexi and Brie for 2010. Drew, on the other hand, absolutely LOVED this place and worked up quite a sweat playing his heart out.

Before long we were headed up to Mexico where we could ride the Mexico boat ride. Next it was getting to be lunchtime, so we headed back to Future World for some burgers and fries.

By this time we had done all that we really wanted to do in Epcot (several times each), so we decided to try out the Monorail from Epcot to the Ticketing and Transportation Center, which we had heard was a nice trip.

We arrived at the TTC after a pretty long ride on the Monorail, and decided to switch over to the resort monorail to see the Polynesian resort.

Back in 2007 we had planned a Disney vacation with a then-very-young Drew and what turned out to be a pregnant Tracy. We had reservations for a Magic Kingdome View room at the Polynesian, and we thought it would be perfect to be that close to the Magic Kingdom with such a little boy.

Well, instead, we ended up finding out that Tracy was in fact double-pregnant, and it was not doctor-authorized to take such a vacation with a twin pregnancy.

So, we cancelled the vacation and bought the minivan. A double whammy for Jamie.

Anyway, we now return you to our regularly scheduled programming.

The first stop from the TTC on the resort monorail is the Polynesian. We got off in the Great Ceremonial House and headed to the elevator to take us to the main floor. There, we explored the pool and had a look around, grabbing a quick pressed quarter.

There was really not much to see at the Poly, so in not too much time, we were back on the monorail headed toward the Grand Floridian.

On a whim, at the last minute we decided to get off at the Grand Floridian. We had been here earlier for 1900 Park Fare, but Tracy was on a quest to find a Pluto Matchbox car for PaPa John. And wouldn't you know it, they had one! We were very excited, and this is always a very nice resort to visit.

Next it was back on the monorail, through the Contemporary without getting off and back to the TTC and then back to Epcot and our car.

We were able to make it back to our hotel for a short while to rest before heading back out.

Tonight is dinner at Tracy's favorite: Restaurant Marrakesh. This is the Morroccan restaurant in Epcot, and it is really, really good.

Our parking strategy worked out very well. We went to the Boardwalk Inn and gave the van to the valet. From there we walked to Epcot to have our dinner.

Marrakesh did not disappoint for sure. Jamie, out of habit, told the hostess we had seven in our party, which caused her to get a really funny look on her face. Tracy quickly reminded Jamie that we are only five now, and we were quickly seated. We opted for the Royal Feast, as we did last year, and filled up way before dessert. So, as last year, we took it all to-go. They have the best pastry desserts around. Similar to baklava. Crispy, flaky, dense and syrup-y all at the same time. Yum.

After dinner we decided to split up one last time so that Drew could ride Mission: Space one last time this trip. Tracy took the girls to Mexico to ride that ride again and then grabbed our spot to view Illuminations.

All that was left was to meet up to watch the great fireworks show.

After Illuminations, we leisurely strolled back to the Boardwalk, glancing briefly at the poor saps who decided to wait forever to take the boat transportation back to the Epcot-area resorts.

The Boardwalk is a really neat place, and it was warm enough today to actually have some activity. There was a magician and sundry buskers performing. And, we had to have Drew compete against Daddy in the water shooting game. Daddy always seems to lose, and Drew one a little stuffed animal which he quickly named Boardwalk.

Having had a very full day, we headed back to the front of the Boardwalk Inn to retrieve the car, and we were back to our hotel to get to sleep.

Picture Note: We wanted to get some pictures with the kids and Daddy with the kids in their Run Daddy Run shirts (from FamilyFanclub.net), and beyond that, we rarely pulled out the camera. So, the lions share of what you will see below are those posed shots.

Lexi out side of the Nemo ride

Tracy and her kids

Drew can't help but look good

Lexi is always laughing

Brie is as cute as can be

Let's go ride Spaceship Earth

Daddy and his fanclub

With these kids cheering him on, Daddy won the race before he even started it
(we have no idea what they are pointing at)

Drew ordered the Spaghetti at the Morroccan restaurant

Disney World: Day 8 - Downtown Disney

January 13, 2010

Today is a scheduled "rest day" and also the last day that Nona and PaPa John will be with us in Disney World.

What better way to spend the day than with a lot of shopping at Downtown Disney?

We spent some time shopping for Christmas ornaments, scrapbooking supplies, candy, Disney-themed Mr. Potato Head parts, princess dolls, and just about anything else you can think of.....or that Disney can think of.

We had a nice lunch at the Rainforest Cafe, shopped some more, and then headed over to the Wilderness Lodge for a fun dinner at the Whispering Canyon Cafe.

We got a bit more than we bargained for at dinner when they brought us the main course and Drew promptly threw up all over the floor. We have been fighting his gag reflex for a long time, and it reared its ugly head tonight.

Trying to clean up Drew as quickly as possible, the biggest concern was that he would not make it back in time for the Stampede which we had been building up and Drew was really excited for.

Well, we made it back in time, keeping Drew away from the food that caused the issues in the first place, and it ended up being a nice meal in the long run.

We couldn't get away without more shopping in the shops at the Wilderness Lodge, and then it was time to head back to the hotel for some packing.

It was really weird seeing Nona and PaPa John packing up when we still have a few more days in Florida. It was even more odd to say good night, knowing that was also goodbye because they are leaving super early the next morning. We are so glad they were able to join us this trip, and we were sad to see them go.

Arrrrr!

PaPa John walking with Brie in Downtown Disney

Watching the fountain in the Rainforest Cafe

Andrew and an elephant at the Rainforest Cafe

PaPa John and Drew making a purchase at the Disney Christmas shop

Having fun by the Fantasia broomsticks

Brie as a T-Shirt

Lexi really liked being a T-Shirt

Drew acting crazy as usual

Hanging out with Pooh and Friends

Daddy and Drew with Buzz Lightyear

Brie getting ready for the Stampede

Lexi in mid-Stampede

Andrew in some weird camera anomaly
(no photoshop for this effect)

Disney World: Day 7 - Magic Kingdom and a Castle Lunch

January 12, 2010

Today was our second day visiting the Magic Kingdom.

It is always fun to see the other parks, but there is nothing like this one for little ones like ours.

Today was all about getting to ride the "Slow Race Cars" which Drew has not stopped talking about for a whole year.

Being there first thing, we were able to ride it a few times without any waiting at all. We didn't ride as many times as last year, because I think this was a lot more thrilling for Drew before he knew what a thrill ride really is.

Our little boy is growing up and while he still had a lot of fun on the cars, he was much more excited about getting back to Big Thunder Mountain.

We spent some more time in Tomorrowland to ride Toy Story Space Ranger Spin a couple times, grabbing some Fastpasses for Space Mountain, which Mommy and Daddy rode later on.

Next we took a few minutes to ride the Teacups (you just have to!) and then we split up for a bit. Brie and Lexi took Mommy and Daddy to see Mickey and Miniie while Drew took Nona and PaPa John to experience Goofy's Barnstormer, where they got to ride a couple times without even getting off.

Next was a trek over to Adventureland and Frontierland where, you guessed it, Drew rode Big Thunder Mountain a couple more times. We also got to experience Pirates of the Carribean and catch Captain Jack Sparrow's Pirate Tutorial. Drew was asked by Captain Jack to join him on stage, but being his mother's son, he promptly refused and still had a really fun time just watching. (Although it would have been great video to have our little boy on stage yelling "Look! There's the Governor's daughter!"

It was about lunchtime by this point, and that is a VERY good thing. Today is our lunch with Cinderella and her princess friends in her castle!

This was our favorite meal last year, and it will likely retain that position this year.

We had very little wait because of the time Jamie scheduled this for, obtaining the reservations at about 3:00am exactly 90 days ago today.

The meal was great, the kids had a lot of fun meeting all of the princesses, and the location just can't be beat.

And, lunch was topped off by Cinderella personally walking our little Brie to the exit of her castle. Jamie snapped a quick picture from in between the first and second floors, but it doesn't do justice to how adorable this moment really was. Again, something that not everyone gets to experience because usually Cinderella is jam-packed with people taking pictures before they head upstairs to eat.

After lunch we decided to hit a few more rides, including Dumbo, and then some more rides, and one ride led to another and soon we were at the Laugh Floor just a bit before the fireworks.

We were here after a too-long day already, so we decided to just stay and see the fireworks, which ended up being a very good choice.

One more ride on Space Ranger Spin while Jamie took some towels to claim spots for the fireworks, and then we all met up again for Wishes to end the night.

We chose our spot so we could see the fireworks over the castle and still be one of the first ones out of the park. It is a great strategy and made for a relaxing end to a very long and fun day.

Andrew eating an ultra-healthy breakfast of pancakes with whipped cream

Brie is all dressed up and ready to eat with Blue One today

Drew walking Nona and PaPa John in from the parking lot

Tracy driven by Lexi

Brie driving PaPa John

Drew driving Mommy in the car

Brie taking Daddy for a drive

Drew got really fast by the end!

PaPa John, Nona and Brie on the Teacups

Mommy and Lexity in a Teacup

Drew was excited to ride his yellow Teacup

Sometimes you herd your children anyway you can

The Whole Gang with Cinderella in her Castle

Snow White with all the kids, including an always-cautious Lexi
(You can't say we didn't give her ample opportunities to meet Snow White!)

Jasmine and Andrew

Meeting Aurora again

Enjoying the chocolate crown for dessert

Mmmmmmmmmm.....

A private escort to the door

Lexi and a salute after Space Ranger Spin

Ready to ride Dumbo

Mommy and Lexity are having a great time

Walking through Fantasyland

The Castle at night from Fantasyland

Probably the last year for holding Drew while watching fireworks
(what a BIG, cute boy!)

A comfy, warm way to watch the fireworks

Disney World: Day 6 - Epcot

January 11, 2010

This is the first of a couple of days we have planned at Epcot.

This park really surprised us last year for being kid-friendly, and it turned out to still be true this year.

We arrived in time for the rope drop, which is nice in ths park because you can get in the turnstiles, get your stroller, park maps, etc. and then walk quite a way into the park before hitting the rope.

As soon as the park opened, Jamie headed to Soarin' to get some fastpasses while everyone else headed over to ride the Nemo ride.

Jamie returned very quickly and was able to ride Nemo a second time with everyone before heading into Turtle Talk with Crush.

Turtle Talk was a great show, and Drew got to ask a very good question to Crush. What was really neat was at the end of the show.

We, as a family, generally are slower than just about everyone else on Earth. This was no exception. We were the very last people to be packing up in the little theatre.

All of a sudden, Crush is back and he gives us a short, private show complete with a photo opportunity. The picture didn't turn out that great because it is a big movie screen, but this is a RARE opportunity to have a picture at all.

We split up at this point so that Jamie could get some more Fastpasses for Mission: Space while everyone else headed to the Imagination ride, with Figment. Drew loved this last year, but was having a mental hurdle with the Skunk Room this year to a point where it wasn't much fun for anybody. So, where we planned on riding this over and over, it was once and done.

It was almost time for lunch at this point, so we headed up to Norway in the World Showcase to ride the ride there and then the girls all went to a princes lunch at Akershus while the rest went to a counter service lunch and then Mission:Space, which Drew loved and wanted to ride over and over again. (About ten times total before all was said and done.)

We met back up for a couple of Parent-Swap rides on Soarin' before heading for a "quick" walk around the World Showcase.

It was turning dark (where did the time go?) by the time we headed back out to the car to head back to the hotel.

Nona and PaPa as Shark Food

The shark got Drew too

Playing around waiting for Turtle Talk to begin

Ready for Turtle Talk

Our own picture with Crush!

The Girls with Aurora

How cute is this one?

Brie never tires of Cinderella

The girls meet Snow White, Lexi is very cautious

Brie meets "Mermaid"

The whole gang with Spaceship Earth in the background

Lexi and Brie looking out on the World Showcase Lagoon
(Perhaps they have some idea of the extent of the journey we are about to embark apon)

Disney World: Day 5 - Hollywood Studios

January 10, 2010

Today was a cold day to visit Disney's Hollywood Studios, but we were quite prepared and it really didn't phase us at all.

The most difficult aspect of the cold was entering a heated show, having to remove everyone's coats (and gloves, and hats) and then putting them all back on again before exiting.

This is our only day at this theme park, so we had to fit in everything we wanted to see in this one day.

We arrived a bit after the park opened, and found ourselves having to literally sprint across the marathon runners who were cutting through the park.

Jamie and Drew made it across first, so they headed to Toy Story Mania to grab some fastpasses while the rest fought their way across to go to Plahouse Disney. Drew and Daddy ran to meet them for the first show, let in by a nice cast member after the show had begun.

After Playhouse Disney, we tried to go to the Mermaid show, but it was not running as scheduled, so we had about 40 minutes to go see some characters, which worked out very well.

After the characters and a visit to see the Little Mermaid show, we split off to have Drew, PaPa John and Daddy experience Star Tours (several times) while the girls learned how to animate some characters.

We met up for a nice lunch at ABC Commissary before heading over to Toy Story Mania for a couple of rides via the Parent Swap.

Our plan called for us to head back to the hotel for a short rest, which is exactly what we did. And, it gave time to get prepared for Fantasmic later tonight.

It was a very cold night, but we hit the 2nd Fantasmic show and it was great.

We took our time heading back to the car and we ended a very nice and fun day at Hollywood Studios.

Lexi, Brie and Nona watching the Playhouse Disney show

Andrew with Sorcerer Mickey

Brie and Drew with Daisy

Andrew meeting Eeyore

Drew loves Goofy

Even Lexi makes an exception for Minnie Mouse

Lexi loved the Snow White Animation room

Lexi in Snow White heaven
(All of the Snow White, none of the reality of real people)

About to enjoy Toy Story Mania
(for the second time)

Standing in front of Echo Lake

Can you spot ten differences between this picture and the one above it?

Matching Shoes
This picture was taken after returning to the hotel and we had all removed our shoes.
Drew loves matching his Daddy in everything, so when Jamie was attaching his timing tag on Friday, he attached the similar-looking instructions to Drew's shoes.
It will be a long time before these come off of either pair of shoes.

Disney World: Day 4 - Downtown Disney and 1900 Park Fare

January 9, 2010

Jamie returned from the half marathon about 11:00am and needed some time to rest.

Our plans for today were simple, as this was a planned "rest day" in the middle of the vacation.

After Jamie recovered a bit, took a shower and a short nap, we were packed in the car headed to Downtown Disney.

We spent a long time in the HUGE World of Disney store, finding all sorts of things to buy. We will be back here again, so we didn't explore too much, because it is still quite cold outside, and we don't want to be walking around too much.

Soon it was off to the Grand Floridian resort for dinner. We pulled up to the valet and quickly changed the girls into their princess dresses in the cold, trying to keep them as warm as possible.

Then it was inside the hotel to the 1900 Park Fare restaurant to see Cinderella, her Prince, Stepmother, and Stepsisters.

We loved this restaurant last year, and it was just as good if not better this year. Lexi still doesn't like meeting the characters, but we were able to sneak in a few shots without her knowledge.

One of our favorite moments of all was when Brie got to dance with Cinderella. Having some experience at this restaurant, Jamie quickly recognized when the moment was right to shove (quite literally) Brielle into the right place at the right time to dance with her Blue One.

There was dancing and twirling, ending with Cinderella giving a curtsey to Brielle, and that little girl giving one right back. The picture is cute, the video is adorable.

We had planned to see the SpectoMagic parade tonight by taking a quick Monorail to the Magic Kingdom, but it is frigid outside and we have one more chance to see this parade, so we decided to head back to the hotel. (Future Note: The other chance to see this parade was dashed when it was cancelled for that night...so we missed SpectoMagic this trip. A shame, but still this was probably the best decision to not take the kids out in that cold.)

Brie decided it was time to take a short rest on the couch

Brie with Cinderella at World of Disney

Pink One and our Brielle

Drew loved getting pressed pennies all over Disney World

Even Disney can't stop a two-year-old from crying

Waiting for the restaurant to open

Brie meeting Cinderella's Prince

Sneaking in a photo with Lexi and the Prince
(At this point, she has NO IDEA he is behind her)

Drew and Brie with Cinderella

Another sneaky photo with Cinderella and Lexi

Drew in his Run Daddy Run shirt

Lexity having a great meal

Drew with the Wicked Stepmother

Brie reluctantly taking a picture with the Stepmother
From Brie's perspective, she was the mean villain, and Brie did not like her.

Brie and Drew with a Stepsister

Sneaking in a photo with Lexi and a Stepsister

Brie and Drew meeting the other Stepsister
(Along with a random, hungry guy)
(Jamie played this role in some other people's photos)

Brie dancing with Cinderella

A curtsey with Cinderella
(One of our absolute favorite memories of the whole trip)
(Notice that Brie was so cute that the stranger in the background was taking pictures!)

We came into the kids room tonight to find that Drew had set up
all three of his Sorcerer Mickey's (two new from today and one from home)
on the bed along with WaWa (of course) his new Sorcerer Mickey pillow

Disney World: Day 4 - Jamie's Half Marathon

January 9, 2010

It was a very cold and very early morning for me today.

If there is going to be a cold and rainy day during our vacation, I am VERY glad that it is today. I would rather run in the cold and rain than try to vacation in it. Today we will not be outside too much, so it is the perfect day to be cold and wet.

My alarm was set for 3:30am so that I could get ready and be in the car heading to the starting line at Epcot at 4:00am.

The night before I had everything set up so I could just put on my running attire, drink some Gatorade, snack on a Clif bar, and be out the door.

What I did NOT count on was a small leak in the bathroom traveling along the grout lines to my poorly-placed clothes on the floor.

So, there I was at 3:30 in the morning, putting my clothes in the dryer, hoping to dry them fast enough. It is a cold day, and starting out with wet clothes is not a good idea.

I ended up leaving the hotel around 4:15am because of the wet clothes incident, but being a bit later than planned was not a big deal. I had worked in a LOT of leeway this morning.

It was a bit of an adventure trying to get to Epcot to park. Many of the standard roads into Disney World were closed for the race, so I had to divert to a different way. Then, there was a LOT of traffic for probably a half mile or even more.

I ended up in my parking space at about 5:00am, plenty of time to spare.

It was below freezing at this point, but no precipitation. Yet.

Where you park at Epcot, there are a lot of tents set up for the event. There are hundreds of port-a-potties lined up everywhere.

I headed through the racers-only checkpoint only to emerge into an area with even more port-a-potties.

Here I tried to choke down some ice-cold water, hoping to avoid another dehydration episode, which is another story altogether that may or may not be told at a later date.

Soon, we started our walk to the starting line. Even though I knew this was a long walk, I didn't realize how long it actually was. It took about 20 minutes of continuous walking just to get to the back of the starting corrals, which is where my corral was.

Along the way is when the snow started. Now, this is definitely NOT Colorado snow, but it was snow for a brief time. It was definitely the slow-floating stuff that doesn't come straight down. Before we made it to the starting line, it had turned to sleet, which made a sound as it hit your clothes. Then, by the start of the race, it had turned to genuine rain.

Then began the cold, wet wait. Being a bit early has its advantages with regard to parking and not having to rush, but it also means you stand in the cold and wetness for almost 90 minutes before the start of the race. Normally it takes a lot for me to get really cold, and this was definitely a lot.

The start of the race could not come soon enough. There was the standard Disney show with characters, etc. and each wave had its own countdown and fireworks shot off above the starting line.

There is an energy of anticipation that is hard to describe at this point. It is really a great moment.

It was kind of odd right after the start of the race how quiet it seemed. Before the start there was loud music, lots of cheering, etc., but almost immediately it was just the sound of thousands of shoes on the pavement.

The majority of the course is on roads that we have been driving on the past few days. It was an odd feeling to know you were heading to the Magic Kingdom on the same road we drive on to get there, and to know how long it takes in the car to get there.

It is dark at this point, so there is not too much to see. There are a few dedicated people along the road cheering on the runners, and some very cold high school bands, cheerleaders, etc. doing their best to be there but also stay warm.

The first real milestone is the entrance to the Magic Kingdom, which is really the Ticketing and Transportation Center. This was also around the three-mile mark, which was my whole race exactly one year ago today.

I think about this each time I am running and I reach a 5K distance. When I started out almost two years ago, it was almost unthinkable to me that I could run three miles. I would tell people that a 5K was my Marathon. I remember thinking how unreal it is that I still have ten miles to go at this point, when a year ago I was almost completely spent at the 5K finish line.

Passing the 5K distance, back at the hotel, Tracy receives a worrisome automated text message saying that it has taken me almost 90 minutes to reach 5K with an estimated finish time of five or six hours! We determined later that the times used for these calculations were the race time and not my net time, which was definitely faster than that.

Soon enough we were running by the Contemporary Resort and heading toward the Magic Kingdom. The sun is starting to come out a bit, but there are clouds keeping it from shining too brightly.

We enter the Magic Kingdom through a service entrance that leads to the back of Main Street USA. For now neat the buildings look on the public side, they sure are just plain old buildings on the back side.

We come out on Main Street USA by the Confectionary and head North toward the Castle, but first take a loop through Tomorrowland, then Fantasyland and through the Castle from the back.

A nice Disney touch was that they had all the rides running. The Teacups were spinning, and Dumbos were flying. It definitely added to the whole thing.

We headed West and were soon in some more back-stage areas that led us out of the Magic Kingdom.

There was something about running in that park. If the whole Marathon was running through Magic Kingdom, I could run two in a row.

It got really quiet again after exiting Magic Kingdom as we headed toward the Grand Floridian and Polynesian resorts.

By this time the rain had soaked my shoes and socks, and each step was a slosh. My running jacket kept me perfectly warm and dry, however, as did my running pants.

It was nothing but mile markers for the next few miles, running on the opposite side of the divided highways we came in on.

About mile eight my right leg started to cramp up for some reason, so I had to stop to stretch it periodically. This was surely disappointing, but it happens sometimes.

It is weird, but the miles at this point really seemed to fly by. Maybe because there were not too many notable things to look at, maybe I became dilusional, but before I knew it, we were taking the circular exit to Epcot.

You don't notice this too much in your car, but those circular exits are really, really banked to the inside. I felt like I was running on a 45-degree angle.

This last big stretch was up and down and up and down some highway overpasses, which was a neat experience. The final overpass had the ball in Epcot in the background, and I knew I was getting close. Only a mile and a half or so to go.

Entering Epcot was, again, through a service entrance that brought us to some back-stage areas. (Later we saw this same area from the Monorail in Epcot.)

The course in Epcot is a quick in and out. After you get into the public areas of the park, the course takes you up toward the entrance to the World Showcase, then turns around and heads back outside of the park. Technically, the race takes you into two theme parks, but not long at all in Epcot.

Next was running next to Spaceship Earth (the ball) and out of the park. I knew that the end was getting near, so I started to push it a little bit. I don't know why, I just wanted to finish strong, and at this point, I felt like I wasn't even tired at all.

And, finally, the Finish Line appeared in the distance, and this gave me the extra energy to really start running....for about 15 seconds. This is where, about 100 yards away from the finish line, I got the worst leg cramp of the whole race and had to stop yet again.

The end was in sight but I couldn't take another step. I tried, but the leg kept cramping worse. Argh.

After about a minute of stretching as hard as I could, I gave it one last go, and I was able to run across the finish line.

What an amazing feeling to have finished 13.1 miles!

I went over to grab one of the foil ponchos they were handing out. I thought about not getting one, because there was no way I was going to put it on, but I got it for Drew and then later I thought that Tracy could use it in her scrapbooking.

Then it was over to receive the finisher medal, take one last picture, and then back to the car.

It took about an hour just to get out of the Epcot parking lot, and then just about 15 minutes to get to the hotel, where I was greeted by three cute kids all wearing "Run Dady Run" t-shirts.

I feel very fortunate to have the chance to be here at all. Two years in a row at Disney World is not cheap, and running a 5K and then a Half Marathon at Disney World in two consecutive years have been some of the best experiences.

I have now run three races in my entire life. I started with the 5K through Animal Kingdom in January of 2009. Next was twice the distance at the BolderBoulder 10K in May of 2009. Today, I doubled that again with a Half Marathon.

Will it be doubled again with the Disney Marathon in January 2011? To tell you the truth, I hope so, but I seriously doubt it. It is simply too expensive, and it was a stretch to make it back here this year. I may just keep running as if I will be here for the Marathon next year and see if God decides to somehow get us back here. Regardless, I have already had the chance to do it twice, so I can't complain one bit.

I really don't know how it works, but I hope my Mom was able to see me cross that finish line one way or another. It was because of her that I started walking and then running in the first place, after taking the ability to simply move for granted for so long, and I still think of that each and every time I run.

Jamie trying to stay warm well before the race start

More and more runners are starting to pack the starting line

Jamie's wave is making its way to the starting line

Entering the Magic Kingdom (really the Ticketing and Transportation Center)
at about mile three or four (don't have to pay to get through here today)

Space Mountain still outside of Magic Kingdom
after running by the Contemporary Resort

Technically inside Magic Kingdom, looking at the
back side of Main Street USA

Running up Main Street USA

Entering Tomorrowland in Magic Kingdom

One last overpass with Epcot in sight

Inside Epcot about a quarter-mile from the finish!
Very tired at this point!

Disney World: Day 3 - Magic Kingdom and T-REX

January 8, 2010

The weather started to get a bit more wet today, but that didn't slow us down at all.

Today we arrived at the Magic Kingdom in time to see the opening show.

Today was all about Fantasyland, Princesses and Fairies and a boy who has grown up more than a year's worth in the past year.

First things were definitely first. We headed straight to Fantasyland to hit all of the kids favorites. Winnie the Pooh, Peter Pan, Snow White (of course), along with Small World and Mickey's Philharmagic.

We were able to cruise through all of these without waiting at all, some rides even more than once.

Next stop was Toontown.

We split off here so that Jamie and Drew could go ride Goofy's Barnstormer (a really great first roller coaster) while the rest went to see the Princesses and Fairies.

The only lines we ever saw the whole vacation were to see those Fairies. This allowed Jamie and Drew to ride the Barnstormer eight times in a row!

Now having a bit more courage, Jamie and Drew headed over to the other side of the park to get some fastpasses for Big Thunder Mountain, which Drew was VERY apprehensive about at first, but after riding it one time, it became his most favorite ride in all of Disney World. Side Note: By the time we left Florida, Drew had the chance to ride BTM at least ten, and probably closer to twenty times.

Back in Mickey's Toontown Fair, Brie was ready to meet all of the princesses, but Lexi was only interested in Pink One (Aurora/Sleeping Beauty). And when it came time to meet "Tinter Bell" and the other Fairies, Lexi really became shy. At one point, Brie seemed to have forgotten how to smile, so she used her fingers to help out her mouth. Seeing this, the Red Fairy did the same....how cute!

By this time it was lunchtime, and we found a great, nearly-private table on the top floor of the Columbia Harbour House restaurant.

Drew was ready to try out Big Thunder Mountain again, so we split up again, but not before Drew got a chance to skip the stretching room in the Haunted Mansion and go straight to the ride, which he loved.

It was starting to rain a bit, so we wrapped things up, as planned, soon after lunch, but not before catching a parade and riding BTM a few more times.

We then headed to Downtown Disney to have dinner at T-REX. We loved this place last year, and loved it in Kansas City when we were there in October. This was a great place to let everyone get their meal and allow Jamie to order light in preparation for the 13.1 miles he will run tomorrow!

We headed back to the hotel right after dinner....it is COLD outside tonight!

We had to stop to see Cinderella's Fairy Godmother

Brielle as cute as can be on Cinderella's Carousel

The girls were happy to meet Ariel, the Little Mermaid

Brie and her Blue One

Bell and Brie

Lexi and Brie meet Aurora

Eating a snack waiting to see the Fairies

Brie with Tinker Bell

Brie teaching the Red Fairy how to smile with your hands

Lexi and Brie in Minnie's kitchen

Nona and Lexi ready for Mickey's Philharmagic

PaPa John and Brie with their 3-D glasses

Drew will love this one someday

Nona and Drew in the spooky Haunted Mansion

Nona and PaPa John with two sleeping girls in front of Cinderella's Castle

The girls didn't sleep too much, but today was too much for them to resist

Mommy and her Brie watching the parade

Pluto came over to say hi to Brie

Nona and Brie staying as dry as possible in the slight drizzle

The Girls in the Rain

Enjoying a Prehistoric Dinner

Daddy and Lexi at T-REX

Disney World: Day 2 - Animal Kingdom and Chef Mickey's

January 7, 2010

Even though we were out fairly late last night for dinner, we were still able to get ourselves and the kids up early enough to be at the rope drop at Animal Kingdom.

Arriving a few minutes later than ideal, we got through security only to see a couple thousand people in front of us waiting at the turnstiles to get into the park.

With thanks to TourGuideMike, we used a "secret entrance" to the park that had about eight people in front of us, probably saving 20 minutes in line just to get into the park, and making the morning that much more relaxed.

As soon as we got into the park we headed over to the Dinoland area so that Nona and PaPa could ride the spinning triceratops ride with the kids while Mommy and Daddy went to ride Everest, which we saw being built in 2004 and could not ride in 2009 because we had the kids. This turned out to be one of our favorite rides in all of Disney, and we rode it another two times before the day was done.

Next we met back up with everyone and then split up again. Jamie and John took the girls up through Asia and into Africa to get some fastpasses while the rest went to It's Tough to be a Bug. Then it was off to Festival of the Lion King to round out a nice, relaxed morning.

The Lion King show was well timed to warm up little hands. After than we saw a bunch of characters and then got some lunch at Pizzafari.

After lunch we fit in everything else we wanted to do. We did the Safari, the kids played at the Boneyard, a ride or two more on Triceratops Spin, and Jamie and Tracy also got to experience Dinosaur and Primevil Whirl.

What a full day! But it was not over yet. Next stop was the Contemporary Resort for a nice meal at Chef Mickey's.

This was a much more busy meal than last night's character buffet. The kids all got to meet a lot of their favorite Disney characters, and the food was top-notch.

We explored the Contemporary a bit (read: shopping), including a great view of the Castle from an overlook off the 4th floor.

We headed back "home" at this point. Tomorrow is an early day too.

Drew with Nona and PaPa John by the Tree of Life

Jamie in front of Everest

The girls with Nona at Festival of the Lion King

Andrew with Baloo

Drew with Pilot Duck

Lexi was ok to see this cat as long as she was held by Mommy

Brie was pretty good about meeting just about any character

All of us with Brer Rabbit

Drew looking at an ostrich on the Safari

Mommy and Lexi on Triceratop Spin

Mitty meeting Donald Duck

WaWa gets introduced to Chef Mickey

Chef Mickey was really good with Lexity

Mickey and Mitty

Andrew and Brie pose with Minnie Mouse

Minnie gets a kiss from Brielle

Can you spot Goofy in this picture?
(It's like a Where's Waldo, isn't it?)

Pure Childhood

Our Brielle and Mickey Mouse

Brie and her Nona

Brie really loves Minnie

Mommy Lexity

Cinderella's Castle at night from the Contemporary Resort

Disney World: Day 1 - Getting There

January 6, 2010

Today was the final culmination of several almost continuous days of packing (for Tracy).

After almost no sleep for us parents, we woke up way before the crack of dawn to finish packing the car and get our family headed toward the airport.

Nona and PaPa showed up at our house a bit before 6am and we were on the road in our two vehicles about fifteen minutes later.

The kids woke up surprisingly well (much better than last year) and were all very excited.

The airport was a bit less of an adventure this year with two more adults and two fewer carseats through security.

We made it to the concourse with time enough for a relaxed breakfast.

Getting on the airplane was a breeze thanks to the Osborns paying the extra fee to get early boarding so they could save us seats. (Southwest has open seating)

The plane ride was also not too bad. There was a lot of passing of kids back and forth between the various adults, but the kids remained generally happy. By the time the flight was over, however, we were all ready to be done.

After landing and getting off the plane we got two rental cars and loaded up.

It takes about 30 minutes of driving to get from the airport to Disney World. We stayed at the Floridays Resort which is just outside of Disney World.

For our situation, the only thing that could have made this choice better is if it were located right in the middle of Disney World.

We had a three bedroom condo which had a full kitchen, dining table, a perfect place to set up the "office" and a living area with a big TV. All for an unbelievable price per night.

After moving in all of our stuff (we had a LOT of stuff), we quickly settled and needed a place to eat.

We had thrown around the idea of the character meal at the Swan (where we stayed last year) because it is very low-key and would be a good re-introduction to the characters. This is, in fact, what we did.

It was weird being back at the Swan again. Everything was just how we left it.

Drew immediately loved Pluto and Goofy, but Brie was a bit scared after she saw Pluto try to eat WaWa, and Lexi was terrified as we fully expected.

Next we had the grand idea to take a walk over to Disney's Boardwalk (just a couple minutes of walking from the back of the Swan) to see what was happening over there.

This quickly turned out to be a very BAD idea.

We happened to be visiting right in the middle of record low weather for central Florida, and it was COLD outside. We ended up making it to the Boardwalk, just so that we could see it, and then quickly returned to the Swan to get in the car and head back to the hotel.

Lexi playing in the airport seating

Brie is ready to fly!

Could that be our airplane?

Snow White in the Orlando airport

All three kids by the Swan fountain

WaWa being introduced to Pluto

Goofy and Goofy

Drew loves Pluto, especially after pretending to eat WaWa

Drew and PaPa John with Pluto

A Lazy Day

January 3, 2010

Today was somewhat of a down day for our family. We are getting ready to go to Disney World in just three days, so things like getting the kids dressed take a back seat to packing.

The kids have fun on days like today, as these pictures show.

Brie making herself at home on our Christmas couches

The kids really like our new couches and the "magic ottoman"

Jamie helped to build a giant brick tower