Sunday, March 17, 2013

The things I love (and hate) the most about living in the South

We'll start with the good, shall we? And then end with the three things that make me want to pack my bags and move to New Zealand.

In no particular order: The Good

1. Azaleas- I forget every year how much I love azaleas and then it is spring again and yards are covered with these beautiful and colorful flowers. You could also add Magnolia trees to this list. They remind me of Easter Sundays, Jasmine Hill gardens (where I grew up going to see plays) and beautiful Southern lawns. Love them.

2. The food- Boiled peanuts, sweet tea, cheese straws, cornbread patties, meat and three's, custard pie, grits, okra, fried green tomatoes, sugar cured ham, potato salad, and buttermilk biscuits. I could go on, but I have to stop typing now and head over to my fridge for a minute. Excuse me.

3. Mild winters-  I've lived in Northern Virginia, Kansas City, and East Tennessee. I've spent winters in New York City and in the mountains of Montana. I have seen a whole lot of snow. I have shoveled a whole lot of snow. I have hydroplaned on patches of ice. And I will be fine with 60 degrees in January for the rest of my life.

 4. Yes m'am and Yes sir-  I have been told that outside of the deep South, nobody says this anymore. I don't care. It's polite, it's respectful, and I like it.

5. Everyone knows your Mom and them- Lyrics from a Scotty McCreary song, but so true. I really think I might have 6 degrees of separation with most people in the state of Alabama. If you meet anyone and talk long enough, you will find a connection. And that's awesome.

6. Smocked dresses and applique- Not for everyone. Totally get that, but I love it and I am glad I live in a place again where it is the norm instead of the exception.

And now, in a very particular order: The Bad. I will end the worst. Possibly the worst thing of all time.

3. Pollen- I forgot how terrible it was. My car is covered, my patio is covered, and I have to clean my porch swing twice a week to get all the icky yellow stuff off. My outdoor rocking chairs don't like it and neither do my sinuses.

2. Fire Ants- The chiggers were bad in the midwest, but I might prefer them to these huge red mounds of terrible little bugs that populate every lawn in the South in the summertime.

1. Roaches- Surely Noah did not put two of these on the ark, right? He couldn't have. I really think that they were created in some test tube in a lab sometime in the 20th century with the sole intent of terrifying Southern females. That is the only reason possible I can think of for their existence.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Disney World Days 5 and 6- Animal Kingdom and a sad good-bye

The best thing about staying a whole week at Disney World is that you can take your time. By Day 5 we hadn't even been to Animal Kingdom yet and that was okay. We felt as if we didn't have to rush like crazy and pack everything in.

We started the day at one of the most amazing shows I have ever seen. I saw this 2 1/2 years ago so I wondered if I would think it was just as good now and it absolutely was! They don't just do a shortened version of The Lion King, but rather they do an extremely imaginative and creative re-telling of the story. There's no one running around in a Simba costume. This show has acrobats, fire eaters, and some of the most amazing talent around. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Afterwards we ran into Minnie Mouse! Hooray! She was the main character we hadn't seen yet so that kids were so excited to see her. She even kissed Lainey. And I need to note that Will's incredibly awesome party hat finally made a Disney World appearance. Everyone wanted one naturally. But Will told them it was just special for him. Party hats for the win!
Some kind of crazy lady dressed as a tree. Kind of freaked me out, but the kids liked it.
Rob captured this adorable video of Bennett checking on Lainey to make sure she was okay. Watch the end to see Lainey just smiling at her sister adoringly. These two are going to have an amazing bond. I can tell already.

  Will playing the drums in the Africa section which made me nostalgic.
Because this was him at 14 months which was one of my favorite pictures of him from that trip.
Sigh..... can someone please freeze time? My heart can't take it.

Anyway, we went next to Kilimanjaro safaris. We always love going on this except they changed it from the last time I was there. They cut the whole poacher storyline which I always liked, but it is still awesome. You get in these jeeps and go through an actual safari. It is unbelievable to be so close to these animals. And in true Disney fashion they make it about as close to being in Africa as possible without actually being there.
This was Lainey after the ride.
And 5 minutes later we found out why she had that look on her face. Poor sleepy baby.
We had lunch at one of my favorite counter service restaurants- Flame Tree Barbecue. It is delicious and you can hear people screaming from the nearby roller coasters. Awesome. Always a good way to freak out my kids.
Our family in front of the Tree of Life. Gotta get this picture when you go to Animal Kingdom.
So, we barely scratched the surface of the park, but the kids were so tired at this point and they were begging to go swimming. We took them briefly Monday night, but they passed the pool every day on our way to the buses and they just couldn't wait anymore. Let me just say that the pools in every Disney resort are fabulous. Of course they are. Do I even know any more adjectives at this point? Each pool is heated to 82 degrees year round and nearly every one has a theme and a water slide. If you stay on property you can go to any pool you want. My goodness, I love it there.
We then went over to Wilderness Lodge for dinner. I love it there. Wouldn't you?
And while we were there we looked for some Hidden Mickeys. For those of you that don't know, there are Mickey Mouse ears hidden all over the park. You can find them in rides, on statues, in signs, and everywhere. There are books devoted to this and people spend their whole vacations looking for hidden Mickeys. Bennett was dying to see one, so we found one hidden in the fireplace stones for her.
 We then headed back to our resort and went to bed for the last time together all in one little hotel room. I woke up the next morning in a serious state of denial and depression. We sadly trudged to breakfast and had Mickey Waffles for the last time. Sniff....sniff...
The restaurant at our resort had coloring pages and a box where you could leave your drawings for Mickey. Here was Bennett coloring her last picture for him.
Heading back to our room to pack up.
And then.... WAIT! Change of plans! We had planned on heading over to Downtown Disney, shopping for a little bit, and then going home right after lunch. But the more we thought about it we realized we had bought a 6 day park pass (it's cheaper that way) and if you stay on Disney property you can park for free at any of the parks. We also realized that we still had one day left on our week long double stroller rental. Should we... no that's crazy.... maybe? YES!! What the heck. Let's just go back to Animal Kingdom.

Here's Rob saying, "What are we doing? Are we nuts?"
But we did it. And we set off to do a lot of the things we hadn't done the day before because the kids wanted to go swimming. So we went straight to see the Finding Nemo show.
OH MY WORD! It was amazing! Maybe even better than The Lion King show. The voices in this were out of this world, the staging blew my mind, the puppetry was incredible....oh, wow! So worth coming back to the parks just for this show alone.
So, here's a random but funny shot. When you rent your stroller you get a card and you write your last name on it so you can find it. Normally you have to park your stroller outside of shows and rides so your card just helps you locate your stroller among the throngs. Rob told me just to write a random name on ours. He wanted me to write famous dictators every day, but I just randomly wrote Schultz.  Rob and I thought this was just a funny thing but no big deal. It upset Bennett SO much! She is a total rule follower. She just could not deal with our stroller not having the name Webster on it. She does not find her parents amusing.
But she got over it and we went over to the Dino-Land part of the park. Since I am over using every gushing adjective I will just say that it is typical Disney. That says it all.
Even Lainey was thrilled we had stayed another day.
Seeing as how we still had a 6 hour drive ahead of us, we sadly left the park early afternoon and blew kisses good-bye as we climbed into our swagger wagon. But we were not done yet. Oh, no. We still went to Downtown Disney to eat at our absolute favorite restaurant, Wolfgang Puck Express.
 So, I could write a whole other blog post about Downtown Disney. My first trip there was in college and I had a blast. It has Cirque du Soleil, amazing restaurants huge movie theatres, bowling, boat rides, street musicians, clubs, hot air balloon rides, a huge Lego store, live entertainment, and tons of Disney shopping naturally. I wanted to stay longer but since we really needed to go by this point we just let the kids do one little train ride.
Bennett wanted to pose with a princess one more time. And Will just didn't want us taking a picture without him.
I sadly said good-bye
And we finally drove home. At 4:30 in the afternoon. With a 6 hour drive ahead of us. Hey, at least we were going from eastern time zone to central time zone. We gained an hour, right? And Rob made it to church the next morning at 7 am so it was all good. No problemo.

Driving through the exit. Boo!

But we had an absolutely wonderful week. It couldn't have gone any better. The kids did really well, Lainey was an angel, we saw everything we wanted to, we relaxed, we played, we celebrated my baby's birthday, and we just had the best time being together as a family. We are already planning our next trip. Thank you Disney World for another wonderful vacation and for another wonderful week of lifelong memories that I will always cherish.

And to close out this crazy recap of our trip, here are some videos that I didn't post on the first day. These are of Bennett and Will right before we got dressed to go and then in the car on the way down. I really wrote all of this down as a scrapbook for my kids so if anyone took any time at all to watch a video or look at a picture, then you are awesome. My hope is that  Bennett, Will, and Lainey will look back on these posts one day and remember what a great family week we had. Zippity Doo Dah!

Hey, kids! Get in the car.

Getting closer!

We're here!

M-I-C- See you REAL soon. K-E-Y.    M-O-U-S-E.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Disney Day 4- Magic Kingdom Take 2

Y'all still with me? I'm sure it's not very interesting to read about someone else's vacation (unless you are my parents or my awesome friend, Jessie) so thanks for hanging in there. My normal blog posts will resume shortly. I want to get all of this down for my kids to look back on one day.

Day 4 we decided to head back to the Magic Kingdom and do the things we hadn't done on Tuesday. And yes, there was plenty we hadn't done and there is still plenty that we never got to. But we went  straight to Mickey's new home where he meets the guests. Since they redid the park, Mickey is no longer back in Mickey's Toontown Fair. You now meet him right when you enter the park in the Town Square Theatre. So convienent to have him waiting there immediately when you enter the park for the day. You can also get a fast pass to meet him which is just brilliant.
 There is nothing better than having your picture taken with Mickey Mouse.
 Turns me into a little kid every time.
You can try to have an agenda in Disney World but it is very hard to stick to it when you are trying to go down main street and there is a show going on! Try to resist stopping and watching. You just can't. it's just too much fun. Love the Main Street Singers.

And they love Lainey, of course. Who doesn't?
Okay, this was seriously one of my favorite moments from the whole trip. We were crossing the bridge into Adventure Land when we saw Peter Pan playing with some kids. He started calling kids to join him and he started singing, "We're Following the Leader" with kids marching behind him. Oh my goodness! I loved this!
Riding Aladin's magical carpets with B and W. It's a whole lot like Dumbo to me, but don't you dare let the kids hear you say that. Oh, no! They are way different.
This was a sweet moment we happened to capture. Sometimes after rides the kids would run over to check on Lainey and make sure that she was okay and they wanted to know if she missed them while they were on the ride. I don't think she did, but I could be wrong.
 Hooray for Rapunzel! Bennett had to tell her that she had worn her dress when she had breakfast with Cinderella.
Sleeping Beauty again. That wacky Princess Aurora was everywhere, I tell ya.
And we got to see Cinderella again! Bonus!
Okay, so this may be my favorite picture from the whole trip. I posted one a few posts ago of Lainey squealing in delight when she saw Cinderella at her castle. This was Lainey's face when she saw Cinderella this time. Oh my word. This picture kills me.
And this was her squealing in delight as Cinderella was holding her. Even Cindy couldn't look at the camera at the end. She was too distracted by the ecstatic baby in her lap.
More Disney snacks. If anyone reads this post and thinks they want to buy one of these Pluto shaped cookies for their kid, don't do it!!! That black icing got everywhere and was the bane of our existence for about half an hour there. There are plenty of other cookies to choose from and I would encourage you to do just that.
Hey, look! Another parade! Well, whadayaknow?

Even Mommies need treats too. No shame in that game.
We spent the next part of our day riding rides in Frontierland and Adventureland. We rode the one ride that scared Lainey, Pirates of the Caribbean. She decided that the darkness and the loud canon booms were not for her. I held her so tightly but she had the strongest grip ever on my arm. Poor little thing. But the older kids loved it. Here they are pretending to be scary pirates after the ride. Didn't work out so well for them.
Will found a Jake wig. Thankfully we talked him out of buying it, but he sure looked cute trying it on.
 And here is a clip from Rob's favorite ride, Jungle Cruise. The humor suits him well.

As we were heading to the back of the park we ran into that parade again! It followed us everywhere. But this time we parked our strollers and got up and boogied with the characters. One of my favorite memories from the trip. I had a blast dancing with Baloo the Bear.

Then it was back to ride Goofy's Barnstormer again. Hands down their favorite ride. I rode it with them last time so this time Rob got to do the honors. I don't know if you can see close enough or not, but Bennett was so scared of this ride. Even though she wanted to go on it again, it was with much trepidation.
Holding on for dear life.
 Some shots of the new Storybook Circus area. So cool!
Mad Hatter's Tea Party ride! Rob gladly stayed with Lainey for this one. How did I get stuck with all the spin rides?
How we were all feeling by this point in the day.
We headed over to Tomorrow Land. Our first time to make it to this section of the park. We rode this people mover ride which was pretty cool. I had never ridden this one in all of my times to the Magic Kingdom. It gave you great views of the park and even took you through the Space Mountain ride.
We went on the other Toy Story ride and then to the Monsters Inc Laugh Factory show. Two of my favorite things to do and then we were pretty beat so we decided to head out of the park and go on a fun monorail ride. Will had been asking to ride the monorail all week, so we thought this would be a good time to give it a go. One last beautiful shot before we headed out.
We took this video of the monorail as it went through Epcot. Will was so excited.

The best part of this night was having no plan whatsoever. We intentionally kept our trip that way and some of our best moments happened spontaneously. We decided just to get off the monorail at the Polynesian Resort. There happened to be a boat leaving for the Grand Floridian. So we just decided to hop on it.
 View of the castle from The Grand Floridian.
So we took the monorail back to the Magic Kingdom and were about to get on a bus back to our hotel when we thought.... nah.... let's go ride another ride.
Whoo-Hoo! We're back! We hopped on the train and rode it back to Fantasyland to ride It's a Small World again.
We watched the parade on our way out and saw the fireworks again as we were on the bus. Another wonderful and magical day.