Sunday, February 26, 2012

Go Pigpens!

Hunter is playing his first team sport this spring.  We did a sports camp last year, and one day on the way home, he said, "Mommy, sports are hard.  I think I want to do music instead."  We finished up the 12 weeks of camp, and then I looked into music, but he seemed to be too young for any music lessons.  So this winter I asked him if he wanted to try sports again, and he picked soccer.  I'm sure it drove him crazy because I asked like 5 different times over serveral days to make extra sure he really wanted to do this because we have a no quitting policy in our house, and I didn't want to have to live through an entire spring of him begging not to go to soccer.

The first pigpens (don't ask) practice was while we were in Disney World, so Hunter went to his first practice this past Thursday.  And y'all.  He did GREAT!  He walked right up to the coach and was even fine when I walked over to the playground to play with Charlotte pretty quickly after we got there.  After James arrived, I was able to get some pictures...
He looks so tall to me!


Love this face...


Look how long his legs are...
It's really shocking to me that he's almost five.  I feel like I blinked and 5 years went by.

Toward the end of practice, the coach wanted to have the kids actually play a game and asked for parent volunteers to "stand there". So I volunteered, and then found out that "standing there" involved actually playing against the 4 kids that had been assigned to my side of the park. I felt like raising my hand and saying, ummmm, excuse me, but even though I spent 4 years of my life going to soccer games back in high school, I don't really do sports.  But I was a good mom and just played along...and promptly rolled my ankle. My normal response would be a dramatic screech and falling to the ground so that my ankle could be examined, but out of fear of embarrassing my son, I just kept walking and prayed no one noticed how clumsy I was.

After surviving our first practice, we headed to the first game of the season this Saturday.  The Pigpens played the Monsters, and both teams did great!  It was actually pretty hilarious to watch.  Several times Hunter and one of his teammates would kick the ball past the goal and just keep trying to play even though they were way off of the field; we had a kid from each team score in the wrong goal;  and this sweet little boy on the Monsters kept wanting to use his hands, so at one point when he was surrounded by kids while he was trying to kick the ball, he just picked it up and walked over to where he had a straight shot of the goal.  It was so fun to watch them!

Here are the Pigpens warming up...


When it was time for the game to start, Hunter volunteered to play in the first quarter...

Here he is with the ball...

Doing the kick in (I know that's not what it's called, but whatever...you get the point)...


During one of the times he wasn't playing, he looked at James and said, "That other team is the mean team."  So we said they're not mean, and he replied, "But they keep taking the ball away from us!!"  Hysterical.  We spent much of his time off of the field explaining the rules of the game to him:)

We were so proud of how willing he was and how well he played.  Can't wait for our next game!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Disney Day 5 - Animal Kingdom

We tried to get as much as possible packed on Wednesday night when we got back from Epcot because we were checking out of our hotel Thursday morning before we went to the park.  We still ended up running late Thursday morning, though, because I wasn't feeling well and kept needing to lie down on the bed while we were all getting ready.  And then the process of checking our bags (Disney will check your bags for you so you don't have to deal with it at the airport) and storing our carry ons with bell services took longer than we anticipated.

We rushed over to the Animal Kingdom bus queue and waited for our bus when all of our bags were taken care of.  Finally the bus was loaded and we were off!  And then the bus driver missed a turn and somehow it ended up taking more than double the time to get there.  Our bus driver on the way back to the hotel that afternoon also got lost and drove in circles, so it was a comical travel day.

When we finally arrived at Animal Kingdom, the park had already been open for about 45 minutes, so it was more crowded than we were used to upon entering because we were so late.  This also messed up our itinerary so we had to make some changes to the original plan.  And if you know me well, you know I can be really rigid about certain things, but after a moment of gathering myself, I think I did a pretty good job of being flexible:)

First we fought through the crowds walking back to Africa to get a fast pass for Kilimanjaro Safaris.  Then we headed all the way to the other side of the park to Dinoland USA to ride TriceraTop Spin.  We were able to walk on this ride with no wait!

TriceraTop Spin is like Dumbo and Magic Carpets of Aladdin. We had become really skilled at controlling the up/down and rocking movements of our dinosaurs by this day...all of those rides have that same function where the rider can control how high and low you go and whether you want to rock back and forth.

Then we walked over to Camp Minnie-Mickey to see Festival of the Lion King.  This was such a good show!  The singers and acrobats are really talented...I definitely got chills during the finale.  Charlotte had so much fun dancing in her seat...even during the slow songs where she'd move her arms up and down really slowly to the rhythm like she was doing a lyrical dance.  You know those moments where you watch your child doing something and you just love them so much you get giddy?  Definitely one of those moments.  I tried to get video of her, but it was so dark in there that it didn't turn out. 

The four of us attempted a self portrait before the show started, but weren't very successful...

Because of the way we were seated, Hunter was the one that had to push the button, and he kept cutting himself out!

Then we headed over to Flame Tree Barbecue for an early lunch.  This was the best quick service meal we had.  And if you have the dining plan, it's the best value.  James and I both got ribs and barbecue chicken that were really good.  Fun Animal Kingdom fact:  they don't have lids for the drinks and the straws are made of paper to protect the animals.

After lunch we headed all the way back to Africa to use our fast pass for Kilimanjaro Safaris.  (We did a TON of walking back and forth at this park...a good way to burn all of those calories we'd consumed the last couple of days!)  After a short wait, we boarded our safari vehicle...

The ride is pretty bumpy, so be sure to hold on to your seat (and any little ones!) when you go.  It was an interesting adventure...We got to see lots of animals and learned lots of fun facts, like the giraffe eats for up to 18 hours per day, but only sleepfs for 5-30 MINUTES.  I could never be a giraffe...

And when a wildebeest is born, it is on it's feet within 5 minutes, and if it can't keep up with the pack after 30 minutes of birth, it will be left behind...
Harsh.

We saw lots of elephants...

Even baby ones!...

And flamingos...

And even babier baby elephants...

Rhinos...

And lazy cheetahs...

All four of us definitely loved the safari, and it made me realize I'd never want to go on a real safari because it just seems way too dangerous.  Not that I'd ever have the urge to do that anyway...y'all know how I feel about sleeping outside...and touching animals.

After our safari, we trekked back over to Dinoland USA to see Finding Nemo - The Musical.  I thought it was really entertaining, but I think it was a little too long for the kids.  It's 40 minutes, and Hunter was asking if it was over after about 5 minutes...the heat was starting to get to him.  And probably the 5 days of racing around different theme parks didn't help either.

After the show we walked over to The Boneyard to play.  I can't remember why, but Hunter was upset about something, so after we were done talking it out, we walked up to the attendant to go inside and she said, "It looks like someone's having a rough day, I think you could use a surprise."  Then she pulled this out and handed it to him...
It really cheered him up, so he ran in and tackled the slides.  This play area was similar to the Honey I Shrunk the Kids playset from our first day at Hollywood Studios, and after a while started giving me anxiety that we'd lose one of our children again.  So we didn't stay long, but instead headed out to find some characters.

Almost immediately we saw Flik and his handler walking toward his meet and greet area, so we followed after him and got in line.  Hunter wasn't in the mood for characters, so Charlotte went up to meet Flik by herself.  The handler and photopass photographer thought Charlotte was so cute.  We all laughed at her, because she posed herself beside him as he was signing her autograph book and then slowly inched toward him...

She finally made her way all the way over to him so we could get the picture...

Then we headed over to the Camp Minnie-Mickey Greeting Trails for more character meets at Charlotte's request.  Hunter was not thrilled about this idea, so we got him a drink so he could relax in the stroller while he waited.  First Char requested Minnie...



It was getting close to time to head back to our hotel to board the Magical Express, but Charlotte was desperate to meet one more character...she definitely threw a 2 year old fit.  And I did exactly the opposite of what you are supposed to do and gave in.  I told her one more character, and she picked Goofy...


After Goofy, she begged for another character, and when I said no, the screaming started once more.  Of course she did.  She's just doing what I'd taught her to do.  This time I stuck to my word and told her we had to leave. 

So we headed to the bus to go back to Pop Century, and after a short detour, we were waiting out front for our ride to the airport.  It seemed like we had just been in that same spot getting off the bus.  It was so sad to be on the other end of it.

Animal Kingdom was our least favorite park.  It just didn't feel the same as the other parks.  I know this is totally cheesy, but it just didn't seem magical...it didn't seem like Disney.  We've decided the next time we go to Disney World, we'll skip Animal Kingdom and have a rest day or spend more time at another park.

We are definitely glad that we went once though, and we did enjoy parts of it.  Our favorites of the day were...

Charlotte - TriceraTop Spin

We had such a fun time in Disney World that I'm going to have to force myself not to start planning another trip right away.  Luckily Hunter's birthday is soon, so I have something to distract me for now!  But I'm sure on March 18th, I'll pull out the RISD school calendar for next school year so we can pick a date to go back:)

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Disney Day 4 - Epcot (part 2)

Each country in World Showcase has either a band or character meet and greet (the characters are in their home countries...Mary Poppins in the UK, Mulan in China, Aladdin and Jasmine in Morocco, etc) or some other sort of special entertainment.  But most of the entertainment is only there at specific times, so on the bus ride back to Epcot, I was examining the Times Guide that I had picked up that morning.  (Each park has a park map and times guide right at the entrance, so I would definitely pick them up right when you walk in to help with making the most of your time.  Or if you want to be a real over-achiever, you can go to www.easywdw.com before your trip.  He publishes scanned copies of times guides from every park each week.) 

We decided to walk through Canada and go to the UK to meet Mary Poppins right when we got there.  World Showcase was my favorite place to meet characters because the lines weren't bad at all, and I thought it was so fun that they were in their "home" country.  When we were standing in the (short) line to meet Mary Poppins, Hunter said, "Is she going to be mean to me?" in this timid, scared little voice.  The man in front of us joined along with James and I and had a little laugh at that.  I assured him that she wouldn't be mean to him, and he responded with "But she was mean to the kids in the movie!" So we had a little lesson on stern vs mean...but thinking back, I totally thought Mary Poppins was mean to the kids in the movie, too when I was that age.

She wasn't mean to them at all, though...or even stern really.  But she was one of the best characters that we met in terms of acting the most like the real character...



Then we headed back to Canada to listen to the Celtic rock band, Off Kilter.  The kids had SO. MUCH. FUN. dancing around to them. We had tons of onlookers laughing and making comments about how our kids rocked it at dancing.  Yeah they do! 

video



Then we headed back through the UK and into France to meet some characters.  Sleeping Beauty, Belle and Beast and Marie from The Aristocats are all in France.  I was totally bummed that we missed Beast:(  But we were able to line up and meet Marie...just barely.  They closed the line right after us...


Since we'd already met Sleeping Beauty we walked on to Morocco and jammed out some more with Mo'Rockin.  Charlotte wanted to meet Jasmine and Aladdin so James and Hunter stayed with the band while Char and I headed over to their line, but sadly it was closed.  We made sure to make note of their next appearance so we could come back to meet them, and then went back to meet James and H.

By then it was time to go line up in France for Belle and Beast, so Char and I went to do that while James and Hunter went to get a crepe around the corner.  Unfortunately when we got to the line, we found out that Beast wasn't coming back today, but Char was happy to see just Belle.  And she was in a different dress than she had been in that morning...


All of the princesses gave Charlotte hugs before we left, but I had always turned my camera off and didn't get a picture.  This time I remembered to keep it on...

Then the four of us enjoyed our crepe and headed through Morocco and into Japan where we got to meet Miyuki the candy making lady! I had read that she would pass out the candy for free after she was done sculpting, but it turns out that since she handles it with her bare hands, she doesn't do that. Hopefully that will save you from the mistake that I made in telling Hunter he was getting free candy. Luckily, he handled it really well...I think the fact that we had just finished a crepe helped a little, too.

Anyway.   Miyuki makes animals out of the candy, and it is really amazing to watch. If you click on this link, you can kind of see one of the animals she is sculpting.

Charlotte and I had to leave in the middle of her little show to go line up for Jasmine and Aladdin, so we headed back to Morocco.  Hunter and James made it back to us just in time...
Aladdin and Jasmine made our kids feel really special.  They spent a good amount of time with them, and I think the kids really enjoyed it!

The kids were getting a little antsy, so we left Morocco and just walked through Japan, America, Italy, Germany (where we saw Snow White and Dopey and Charlotte begged to stay and meet them...but we didn't because we had already promised Hunter a ride), China and into Norway to ride Maelstrom.  After we walked all the way down through the queue, I got a little nervous that this ride would freak the kids out, but they did well...

There are freaky troll creatures and one semi-steep (for small children) drop in this boat ride...are you noticing a theme with the boat rides?  Disney loves them!

Then we headed to Mexico to ride Gran Fiesta Tour (which is okay, but nothing special...another boat ride, but it has Donald, which is fun for the kids)

We still hadn't eaten dinner and it was after 8 pm, so we walked all the way back through Mexico, Norway, China, Germany, Italy, the USA, Japan, Morocco, France and the UK looking for a counter service place to grab some food.  We finally found a fish and chips stand in the UK and grabbed some dinner.  We got a spot on the bridge between the UK and France to watch Illuminations and ate our dinner.  



I loved walking around World Showcase. There was sooooo much more we could have done in all of the countries, but I don't think our kids have the stamina for it. I think maybe when they get older we can do more there. I also think that would be a great date night, to just walk through the countries. So, maybe James will fly me to Orlando for a date night in World Showcase...hint, hint;)

We didn't have to wait that long at all after eating for Illuminations: Reflections of the Earth to start.  I thought it was a really cool show, but it was kind of long.  Here's a short video that doesn't do it justice at all...
video

It was CRAZY trying to leave Epcot.  Since we were towards the back of World Showcase, we had to fight major crowds to get out of the park...and there were these South American cheerleaders chanting so loud the entire walk out to the bus.  It definitely made for an interesting exit!

We were really sad that night because we knew the next day would be our last:(  But definitely thankful for all of the fun memories we'd made!

Favorites of the day:

James - Soarin'
Carole - walking through World Showcase - I just loved this so much, I couldn't pick one thing!
Hunter - dancing to Off Kilter
Charlotte - princess processional at Akershus...specifically the one with sleeping beauty because she was in front:)

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Disney Day 4 - Epcot (part 1)

We started off day 4 with the princess storybook dining breakfast at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall in Norway in Epcot's World Showcase.  We were running late this day, so we literally ran all the way back to Norway to check in.  We passed several other families with little girls dressed in princess dresses headed to the same breakfast (the park doesn't open until 9, but our reservation was at 810...they let you in early if you have a dining reservation).  I'm sure those other families thought we were crazy running through the park with our 2 kids holding on for dear life in the double stroller.  But whatever.  I'm trying to get over that whole caring what other people think about me thing, so we'll just say I was embracing that. 

After we checked in, we had to wait several minutes before they were ready for us, so we took advantage of the mini waterfall for a photo opp...

Pretty soon after that we heard a male voice (with a Norwegian accent!) say, "Now calling the royal Brooks family..."  One fun fact about World Showcase in Epcot is that they have a program where they hire citizens from the different countries that make up World Showcase to come over to America for a year and work in their home country's portion of Epcot.  So all of the workers at the breakfast were really from Norway.  Our waitress didn't have an accent at all...I never would've known she wasn't American if she hadn't told us about the program...but a lot of the other staff definitely had accents.

Right when you walk in, you get into a line to have a picture with Belle, who talked so sweetly to Charlotte and Hunter about how much she loved books and reading.  Since she hosted the event, she wasn't involved in any of the other portions except for this greeting.  All of the character dinings take a picture like this before the meal, but they usually come around during the meal, show you the photo, and ask if you want to purchase it for like $30.  This was the only one we went to where the photo is part of the price of the meal...granted, it was also our most expensive character dining, so it all seems to even out in the end. 

We sat down and were served a platter of savory breakfast foods (meats, hashbrown casserole, eggs) and were told to go to the buffet for sweet treats (fruit, sweet breads, yogurt).  Here's our pretty princess waiting to meet the other princesses...
Charlotte was totally in her element at this breakfast!  It was her favorite of all the character dinings we did...and a close second favorite for me!

Pretty soon after we got our food, they announced that they were having a princess processional so all of the children should find the closest princess and line up with her.  Luckily, Cinderella (Char's favorite princess) was close by our table...


Charlotte is out of view (behind Cinderella) in most of this video, but wait for the end and you'll see such a precious moment between Char and Cinderella!
video

They had another processional later in the meal and Charlotte lined up with Sleeping Beauty. She said that was her favorite part (she got to be in front of the line that time...holding Sleeping Beauty's hand the whole time!).

After the processional, the princesses started to come by.  First we met Aurora/Briar Rose/Sleeping Beauty...I never know which name to call her:)...


Then Snow White...

And Ariel (in human form)...

And finally, Cinderella...


Here are some pictures from the second princess processional that Charlotte got to lead...


Epcot is huge, y'all.  I think I read somewhere that it was double the size of Magic Kingdom (although it didn't feel like that to me), so we decided to tackle the front portion (Future World) in the morning and then head to the back portion (World Showcase) when we returned after naptime.

So after breakfast we all headed to Future World, and then split up so that James and Hunter could go to Soarin' and Charlotte and I could go to the character spot to meet Mickey and friends.  (Char didn't meet the height requirement for Soarin'.)  James called my cell after we had been in line for about 5 minutes and said that they just got fastpasses to Soarin' because the line was so long.  So we left to go meet the boys at Living with the Land.

Once we got to The Land Pavillion and parked our stroller, Charlotte started freaking out that she wasn't going to meet Minnie Mouse...not really sure what she thought we were doing when we left the line and walked all the way across Future World, but I'm thankful because it would've been much more stressful to deal with my limp, screaming 2 year old in the character meet line. 

She actually calmed down pretty quickly after I told her we were going to ride a ride with James and Hunter.  Now y'all, I really wouldn't recommend riding Living with the Land the next time you're in Epcot.  It was pretty boring for all of us.  You basically ride in a boat and move along through different tunnels and greenhouses holding plants and sealife.  Here are James and Hunter right after we boarded our boat...

And Charlotte and I in the greenhouse...

Next we headed to The Seas with Nemo and Friends...
It was kind of cute, but again, not that exciting.  You basically ride in those seashells and watch a story of Nemo and all of the other characters on the different screens that you move in front of.

It ends right by the entrance of Turtle Talk with Crush, which is an interactive movie-type show (kind of like Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor).  It was pretty entertaining, but when you walk in, they direct the kids to sit on the floor up front and the parents sit back behind on benches.  If you can get over the trauma of not being able to see if your kids are freaking out because they are afraid you have abandoned them, then I think you'll enjoy it.

Then we went back to Soarin' so James and Hunter could ride, and I picked up a rider swap pass so that as soon as the boys got out of the ride, Hunter and I could ride it again immediately.  This is another awesome, family-friendly service of Disney's where the parent that stays behind with the young child gets a pass so that she can ride it with the rest of the party  (once they are done riding the first time) while the other parent stays with the child.  Unfortunately, even though we had a fastpass it seemed to take about 15 minutes before Hunter and James came out of the ride, and I didn't want Charlotte to have to sit there any longer.  So I never ended up using the rider swap pass, but I still am a big fan of it!

So far I had not been impressed with Future World, and it was kind of putting me in a bad mood.  I know that's annoying, but I'm human...and I'd been spoiled by the magic of Disney giving me all I could dream of for 3 days now.  So, we stopped for some Mickey ice cream to cheer everyone (me) up...

After the much needed re-charge, we headed over to "the big ball"...

Inside "the big ball" we rode Spaceship Earth...

It was probably my favorite part of Future World, but I was having a really hard time reconciling it with Christianity, which, you know, is like the foundation of my life and purpose here so I wasn't a huge fan.

I had really wanted to do Club Cool in Future World, but James and I were just kind of over it by this point, so we went back to the hotel for naptime.

Stay tuned for part 2, World Showcase (which I loved, loved, loved!!)