Friday, March 26, 2010
Around this time every year I expectantly await the return of my flowers to the garden. Yesterday I was walking around, taking pictures, and thinking about how they are kind of like old friends. They have been there through several seasons of my life (literally and figuratively). I know them, love them, and they bring me great joy and, even, comfort. Some I transplanted from my old house, some are transplanted from others' gardens and bring those people to mind each year when they flower. It's fun to walk around and see the little leaves poke through the soil, and both remember how beautiful they were in years past, and anticipate what they will look like in the months ahead.
Here is a fun quiz for you gardeners out there- can you guess what plants these are? Since they are in their "baby" stage, it isn't easy.
Answers are at the bottom.
D.E.* Extra Credit*F.
A. Iris B. Day Lilies C. Peonies D. Spiderwort E. Hydrangea
F. I am not sure what this is. I think it might be a corn flower, but I am not positive. Here is a picture of the flower- if you can give me a positive ID, that would be great!
Thursday, March 25, 2010
Last week K passed another milestone, of sorts. Her first visit to the dentist! Our oldest two went to the dentist at the same age, and still ended up with a mouthful of cavities at 5 (same as me). At first checkup, Dr. Lloyd was pleased with how K's teeth look, so we are crossing our fingers hoping that she inherited her daddy's teeth instead of mine. Ed has never had a cavity, whereas I have had more than I can count.
Dr. Lloyd is a very gentle, sweet man who has a really kid-friendly office. Toys in the waiting room as well as in the examination room. Lots of prizes at the end. The kids love going. K readily climbed into the chair, hands full with Mickey, Tinkerbell, and Elmo. She opened her mouth to get her teeth counted and checked out. No cleaning this time, just an introductory visit.
The biggest drawback to this practice is that they don't accept insurance cards, so you have to do the paperwork yourself and pay out of pocket at the end of a visit (no joke with 3 kids). Also, I fear he is going to retire any day now. For now, he is hanging in there- bringing happy smiles to many little faces.
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
I know this is a couple days late, but I still wanted to recognize the arrival of Spring. After a long, cold, snowy winter, it was so nice to soak in the sunshine and 70 degree weather last week. No matter that it is now cooler again, and rainy, we had a taste of spring, and it won't be long now before that weather is here to stay.
On Saturday morning I was able to clean out some flower beds and get them ready for planting. We also dragged our patio furniture out of the shed, cleaned it off, and then scrubbed down the grill so that we could have our first outdoor meal of the season. We had an added treat when some friends dropped off their girls in the afternoon. The kids happily played together for hours, before chowing down on hamburgers, hot dogs and s'mores.
Thursday, March 18, 2010
I have one last post that I wanted to share about our trip before I move on from all things Disney. Here are a few things I found helpful in planning and executing a successful trip.
1. Guide Book:I found The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World to be an invaluable resource. Its 850 pages look intimidating, but it really is the be-all and end-all of Disney knowledge. It has chapters on hotels, dining, and each of the parks, each ranked and rated. It has reader tips as well as the "unofficial" tips. It even has "touring guides" that will help you see the park more efficiently. If you are a planner, and want to be completely informed as you make decisions, this is the book for you!
2. The Dining Plan: Purchasing the "Magic Your Way" dining plan was a great choice for our family. We went with the Magic Your Way Plus dining plan. It included a full service meal (sit-down restaurant), counter service meal and snack for each night we stayed in the hotel. It was nice because we prepaid for all our meals, so we didn't feel the pocketbook pinch when the check came for each meal. Disney food is expensive, and it was nice knowing we didn't have to worry about how much we were spending, because it was already all paid for. Some meals use two table services, but it worked out fine for us. We planned each meal before we left, so we knew how many counter services or table services we were using each day, to make sure that no meals got left behind. We did have an excess of snacks, which we used up on our last day with some muffins and croissants for a last morning breakfast. It was also nice because we could let our kids have special treats that we usually by-pass when we are out on family outings, like that $4 ice cream Mickey Mouse treat. It made sense economically too, the price came to $40 per day for an adult, $11 per day for the two older kids (KK was free, so she split with the older kids, or got a "complimentary" plate of food at some restaurants). This is a bargain, considering that just for a table service meal (appetizer/main/dessert/beverage) it cost about $30/adult $15/child. Counter service meals (main, dessert, beverage) were about $15/adult and $6/child. Snack items (ice cream, water, fruit, popcorn, coffee, etc.) were about $4 each. It was plenty of food, you definitely won't feel deprived!
3. Groceries: We ordered some snack and breakfast items to be delivered to our room when we arrived. It was convenient because we could get the kids up in the morning, get them dressed and fed, and not have to worry about finding somewhere to eat while in the park. The snacks were individual bags of pretzels and some of those PB crackers and cheese crackers. We also had a case of water bottles delivered which Ed and I grabbed a couple each day so we didn't have to pay for water in the parks. We had ordered a styrofoam cooler with our groceries, which we ended up not really needing because our room already had a refrigerator (I had read somewhere that they usually charge $15 for fridges, so I figured we could buy the $6 cooler, fill it with ice each day and it would work fine). I brought along the kids' thermoses, which I filled with ice and water from a gallon jug each morning. I also had an insulated lunch bag from home that I put Ed's and my water bottles in to keep them cool throughout the day. I packed all the water bottles and snacks in a bag each morning that I put in the basket of our stroller once we got through security at the parks. We used Garden Grocer.
4. Stroller: I know you can rent a stroller daily at the parks ($15/day for single $30/day for double), and some people love this option, but I felt we could buy a new stroller and leave it there for that price. I brought our stroller that has a handy toddler bar in the back where N could ride if he grew tired. It was great having it in the airport to lug all the carry-on bags and backpacks to the gate. I also can't imagine renting a stroller and having to carry your bags and kids into and out of the park each morning and evening. Some of the shuttle stops were quite a hike, and N really needed to ride on the back by the end of the day, when we were leaving the parks at 9 pm.
5. Character Meals: We loved the character meals! It was really the only way to efficiently see all of the Disney characters. As we ate each character would come to our table for a picture and give the kids an autograph. The park lines to see the characters were usually 20 minutes to as much as an hour and a half long. There was no way that we would have been able to spend that much time in line to see each character. We did get lucky a few times in the parks, and were able to meet a character with little or no wait. But the bulk of our character meetings were at the meals we booked. We booked 4 meals, and met Cinderella, Snow White, Belle, Jasmine, Sleeping Beauty, Mickey (twice), Minnie, Donald, Goofy (twice), Pluto (twice), Chip, Dale, Pooh, Tigger, Piglet, and Eeyore. Some character meals are really hard to get into, such as Cinderella's Royal Table where you get to eat breakfast in the castle. Last time we went I called exactly 90 days out (the earliest you could make reservations at the time) at exactly 6:58 a.m. for 6 days in a row and never got through in time. All the reservations were filled. This time I was determined to get a table, so I used a...
6. Travel Agent: Our travel agent was great. She was able to get us into the highly sought after Cinderella breakfast our first morning in the park, an hour before the park opened so that we didn't miss any time for the rides, and we were done eating by opening time so that we were first in line for the rope drop in Adventure Land. She also booked our rooms and the dining plan and a couple of other meals. Best of all, she was free! We used Small World Vacations.
7. Schedule: Once I read through the guide book, I had an idea of where we should go each day, and where we wanted to eat. This is where my organization might be more than what you yourself might want or need. I wrote out rough times, confirmation numbers for meals, and attractions we should do at the park for each day of our stay. It was a rough guide, and we often deviated from it, but it was a good general plan and helped us to see where we should be, how many meal credits we were using each day and when we had to leave in the morning if we wanted to take advantage of early morning magic hours.
8. Magic Hours: These are extra hours the park is open, either in the morning or at night for the enjoyment of resort guests. Each park has a different day of the week. Some people try to avoid the parks with magic hours, but as much as possible, we utilized them. We figured that our kids are up anyway, and it was nice to get an early start to the day. We could go on rides with little to no wait before the rush of the general public filled the parks.
9. Resorts: I definitely recommend staying in a Disney resort. You get the advantage of Magic Hours, but the bigger advantage is the shuttle system. Each resort has a shuttle that picks you up and takes you to and from the park, near the front entrance, so you don't have to drive, pay $14/day for parking, or schlep your kids and bags through a parking lot. Another advantage is their "Magic Express" that picks you up at the airport, claims your checked bags and brings them to the hotel for you, and then on the return trip home checks your bags at the hotel and takes you back to the airport. Plus, on top of all this, it's just fun to stay at a Disney property with all the cute touches like the Disney themed rooms,Mickey Mouse soap, and of course the fun pools!
10. Kid's Guide to the Magic Book: We got this tip from Ed's brother's family. They found these books and used them when they went last year. They are great! They have a section for each park with a picture of each attraction, and a place to mark if the kids liked it as well as what they liked. It also had a place in the back for autographs, and the daily schedule. It was a neat way for the kids to remember the rides they went on, and what we did each day. It also was a nice way to pass the time if they were waiting for grownups to ride something they weren't interested in, or at meal times. You can only order the books online, they aren't in normal books stores.
That is all I can think of now. Do you have any tips of your own to add to my list?
Monday, March 15, 2010
Monday March 15
We thought that it was only right to go to the Magic Kingdom on our last day. We got out a little later than usual, so I didn't think too much of the crowds at the entrance when we arrived. We started off with the Tomorrowland Speedway, and then a couple of times on the Mad Hatter's Tea Cups. I then took K over to Ariel's Grotto to meet "the Little Tiny Mermaid", as K would say. Although I got there about 15 minutes before the official opening time, the line was already 40 minutes long. I decided to wait it out with K while Ed took the other kids in an equally long Dumbo line. It was then that I started to get an inkling of how crowded the park was. It turned out that many schools had started their Spring Break this week, so the park had double or triple the amount of people that the week before had. It was amazing to see the difference! At some points in the day we couldn't even walk from one attraction to another because the crowd was basically at a stand-still in a traffic jam. It just made me all the more thankful for our relatively empty parks from the week before.
Anyway, we waited to see Ariel, and although K was excited, you can't really tell in the pictures. She made another of her goofy faces for the camera, a new thing I just noticed recently (look back over the pictures from the past week- you'll see her pursing her lips or sticking out her tongue in a lot of the pictures!).
We went on a couple more rides- the kids really liked Goofy's Barnstormer roller coaster in Toontown fair (that is more their speed). Then we went on a circuit of the park on the train.
We ate lunch before hitting Big Thunder and Splash Mountains one more time. We got a great seat for the afternoon parade, and waved to Mickey, Minnie and all the princesses and characters as they passed by.
We then had an early dinner, rode Space Mountain, and the Transit Authority before heading home. It was clear that N was tired out from the day's activities, he couldn't stay awake on the ride home.
It was sad to say good-bye to Disneyworld, especially since we don't know when or if we will return. There are other trips we want to take before the kids are grown up, and we only do these big trips every few years (our last one was to CA four years ago). At any rate, it was a great trip, and hopefully all the kids will have some memory of it, even if they need to see the pictures to remind them.
Sunday, March 14, 2010
Sunday March 14
We decided to make up our Animal Kingdom day today, and so we went over for the 9 a.m. opening. The first thing we did was jump on the Kilimanjaro Safari. They put you in big "safari" trucks, and you ride through an African wild life safari. Disney uses invisible, natural-looking barriers to separate predators from prey, as well as to keep dangerous animals away from the trucks. The neat part is it looks like they are all roaming free, and in fact, last time we went down, giraffes came right up to our truck. We saw hippos, crocs, zebras, giraffes, rhinos, gazelles, impalas and even a male lion sunning himself on a rock.
After we got off, we walked the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail before Ed's parents took the kids on Rafiki's Planet Watch train ride to go to the petting zoo. Ed and I then rode Expedition Everest, after which I said, "I'm getting too old for roller coasters!". We also had fast passes for the Khali River Rapids, which we didn't need because there was no wait. Learning from Splash Mountain, we brought ponchos, tucked them around ourselves, and then barely got wet! No matter, it was a fun ride that N probably would have loved, had he not been gun-shy from his Tower of Terror experience.
We rejoined the rest of the family for lunch before going to see the Festival of the Lion King show. This was my favorite show that last time we came, and I felt the same this time. It takes place in a theater-in-the-round stage. It is part stage show and part circus with singing, dancing, and acrobatics. This time our kids were asked to be part of the parade at the end where they pick about 5 kids from each section to come down on the floor, shake an instrument, and dance around the stage. N declined, E and K went down, but then K got scared part way through and ran back up to us. E really showed growth in sticking it out and participating- she never would have done that a year ago!
Ed and I took the kids to the Dinoland Boneyard playground while Phil and Nancy went to the Flights of Wonder show. The kids had fun climbing and going on the slides and then we cooled off with some Mickey ice cream treats.
Although Ed and I had fast passes for the Dinosaur roller coaster, we couldn't use them because we had to get over to Hollywood Studios for a 3:30 dinner. Yes. 3:30. I don't know why they schedule them so early, but it was part of a special Fantasmic Dinner package.
After our dinner, we went into the Muppet 3-D show and then to the Playhouse Disney show (which both K and N really enjoyed!). We had about 30 minutes before we had to head over to the theater, so the kids played on the HISTK playground again, and this time it was a little less crowded. Because we had bought the dinner package, we were able to go in a special entrance and sit in a reserved section of seats, avoiding a long 30- 90 minute wait for the show in the regular line. Although I had prepped the kids on how it would be loud and scary at times, I had forgotten how long the scary part was. The kids were OK though, and KK made it through the show without crying at any point. We were able to get out, and to our hotel very quickly, and were back by 9:30.
Saturday, March 13, 2010
Saturday March 13 It was another early morning today with Hollywood Studios having "magic hours".
Once in the park, we made a beeline for Toy Story Mania, which we rode once without any wait, and then got fast passes for later. It was such a fun ride, a favorite for everyone!
After that, Ed and I wanted to go on The Tower of Terror. N said that he was interested too, so we explained to him that it was a ride where we are on an elevator that drops down really fast. He said he was ok with it, so we decided to go for it, knowing that he wouldn't fully understand what the ride was about until he went on it, but also thinking that there are kids who end up loving it. We wouldn't know if he was one of those kids unless he tried it. He was fine until the ride actually did its first drop, and then I could hear him yelling,"Mommy!" each time it fell. When it was over he said, "I don't want to go on that ride again!". You can see that he looks a little stunned in the pictures we took after.
We then went to see The Great Movie Ride, which the kids did not like, especially E- too much of the gun fight. After that, we went to The Little Mermaid show, hoping to have something K would enjoy since she loves the Little Mermaid, but it was a little too intense for her, and she hated being sprintzed by water. After that, the kids got to play in the Honey I Shrunk the Kids playground, which they all liked a lot, although it was a little too zoo-like for the adults!
We ate lunch at 50's Prime Time which is a fun restaurant that pretends you are part of the family-making you set the table, clean your plates, and handing out punishments for misbehaviors. One woman had to put her nose against the wall for having her elbows on the table, and Ed had to take the plates to the kitchen because he didn't eat all his veggies. At this point of the day K began to lose it, so I took her back for a nap while the others rode Star Tours.
We had an early dinner (4:10) at Epcot's Garden Grill, so Ed and the kids came back to the hotel and we met up with his parents. This was the last of the character meals, and the KK really loved meeting Chip and Dale. They both came by our table a couple of times to give her hugs and kisses, and she was super excited each time, coming out of her "I'm not eating, I'm whining" funk. Mickey got her to eat a bite of chicken, something we had been unable to coax her to do!
We had an extra feature of having our restaurant revolve so that we saw scenes from inside Living with the Land ride. It took the whole meal to make one revolution so we went past scenes of a desert, a rain forest and a farm, as well as a mural painted wall.
After dinner K played in a fountain spot, even though it was about 60 degrees. She really had fun, although I got lots of funny looks from passing grown-ups who were bundled up in sweatshirts and jeans. I just shook my head and agreed that I didn't know how she stood it!
We ended up our last day at Epcot with a complete tour around the lagoon past all the countries to get the rest of the stamps for the kids' books. E was pretty tired by the end, but she was a trooper and walked the whole way without complaining.