Disney Extravaganza!!

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A dream is a wish your heart makes…

 

This BLT Mom blog post is very different. It is my trip report from Disney World to share what I learned and our experience with my fellow Disney addicts. I will say–we picked a great week to go crowd wise. We had our moments–this was our first major trip as a sandwich generation family and so we learned a lot about traveling together. I felt my Dad a lot throughout this trip. In fact, right after a character meet and greet in Animal Kingdom Munchkin and I were walking up a tropical path alone and a single white feather floated down in front of us. Feathers have always been my sign and I just smiled and teared up. Always close at heart…

I am thankful that we were able to take this trip. It was everything I’d hoped and more!

Trip Report 12/10/15—12/15/2015

Travelers: On this trip it was me (36), hubby (35), my mother (58) and our daughter (5). This was the first big trip for our new sandwich generation family and Mom’s first trip using a scooter due to mobility issues. Hubby, Mom and I have been to Disney several times. Most recently hubby and I took a trip in 2013. This was our daughter’s first trip. I spent months creating touring plans through http://www.touringplans.com. I had it down to a military science. And then we arrived.

Method of Travel: drove 12 hours from Kentucky in a rented van and then used Disney transportation for the rest of the trip. From our resort (All Star Movies) we did not wait any more than 10 minutes for a bus. Our longest wait was an evening wait for a Disney Springs bus. For our return trips from the park we tended to wait in the parks shopping while the bus lines went down. This was a great way to do a little shopping and avoid a long line. I don’t know that we will drive again from Kentucky. The trip down was just fine. The 12 hours back was pure torture. I didn’t think too hard on how tired we would be after 5 days at Disney.

Accommodations: We stayed at the All Star Movies. On previous trips I’ve always stayed at either moderate or deluxe resorts. However, because on this trip we would need 2 rooms we decided to stay at a value resort. The rooms are fairly basic (think Holiday Inn Express but smaller). They have a refrigerator. We paid for preferred rooms and were in the Toy Story section. This was a quick 2-3 minute walk to the pool, transportation and front desk area including cafeteria. The outside of the hotel is very neat. Our daughter loved walked to the different sections and seeing the huge characters in the courtyards. I used the touring plans fax room request option. I intentionally selected rooms on the backside of the resort to hopefully have a quiet room. We got the exact rooms I’d requested and they were very quiet. We ate in the food court one evening. The food was ok—nothing spectacular, but filled the void. They had kid’s activities going on and our daughter had a blast watching movies and playing video games with the other kids. It gave me a chance to kick back and enjoy a hot cup of tea and talk to the other parents.

Magic Kingdom: We did MK 2 days. One regular park day (5/10 crowd level) and 1 Christmas party (sold out). For the Christmas party we focused on rides and not the special meet and greets. We walked onto several of the big rides but for others had no more than a 10 minute wait. We also did Be Our Guest for dinner before the party started. It really is about the experience. I ordered the Shrimp and Scallops as did my Mom. The food was overall pretty good just really small portion sizes. Hubby ordered the braised pork and said it was seasoned well. Our daughter had the steak and it was a little on the dry side and over cooked. BUT, our daughter was just so happy to be in Belle and Beast’s castle that it made everything seem insignificant. We watched Wishes from what is typically the Fast Pass spot for Wishes. It was a really great spot. We then moved to main street for the parade. As expected, fireworks and parade area were very, very crowded. But the fireworks were the best we’ve ever seen at Disney and the parade was a lot of fun. I do it again.

On day two we had a 10:35 Boutique appointment for our daughter. My plan was to be in the park by 9:00 a.m. and do a FP at Peter Pan. She was so exhausted from the party the night before that my plan went out the window not only on this day but every other day too. She and I went on our own as a special mommy/daughter date. We arrived at 10:30 and by 10:35 she was in her chair. Our attendant was FANTASTIC. Her name was Kelsey. She was so much fun and Abigail just adored her. They had the photo pass photographers so I just got to enjoy and not worry about taking pictures. We finished within 40 minutes and then met the rest of our group. We did Fantasyland and then had lunch at Cinderella’s Table.

Abigail loved meeting all the princesses. This was our main reason for doing it. The food was nothing to write home about. Mom & hubby had the special which was salmon and I had the chicken. Abigail had steak once again. She ended up eating my chicken and I her dried out steak. Salmon was tasty. But, again you are paying for the princesses and the experience not the food on this one. But, honestly, I felt rushed at CRT. Snow White was by so quick I barely had time to snap pictures. Aurora and Jasmine stayed a little longer and Ariel was great—she stuck around a good bit.

The rest of our day we did Frontierland and Tomorrowland. Abigail is big on rides so we did all the must do big coasters. I had FP for Mine Train, and splash. Everything else standby and waited no more than 15-20 minutes. I was really impressed that there were very few rides where Mom couldn’t ride her scooter right into the attraction. That really helped her. We finished out MK by eating at Cosmic Ray’s—typical fast food. We met a few characters, but the Tremaines were the BEST! Really try to meet them. We were back at the hotel by 7:30 p.m.

EPCOT (7/10 crowd level): This day was a bust for us. Abigail did not like this park at all. She normally likes science, but just wasn’t feeling it. She did Test Track, Mission Space and Spaceship Earth. We convinced her to wait to meet Belle—line was too long for Mulan. We canceled our ADR at Teppen Edo (thankfully they waived the fee) and my Mom took her back to the hotel pool while hubby and I enjoyed an evening at the World Showcase. It was packed, but we still enjoyed eating our way around the pavilions. Definitely try Tangereine Café in Morocco. VERY good counter service place. I got our spot for Illiuminations about an hour before and had a great view beside the Mexican pavilion. I think this is a toss up park for young kids. I thought she’d like the KidCot stations, but again she just wasn’t interested. Her most fun was the fountain in Morocco. I finished her KidCot Duffy bear with stamps and signatures. It was fun! And traveling with Nana had its perks–a date night at Disney. WHAT?!

Animal Kingdom (5/10 crowd level): We arrived in the park about 10 a.m. and Kilimanjaro Safari was down. I took a chance on Conservation Station because Abigail loves animals and science. It was a GREAT idea! She loved every minute of collecting her badges and learning. She got to pet a snake. She also got 5 meet and greets on the island—Miss Bunny, Thumper, Chip, Dale and Rafiki. She got so much time with them since there was no one around. By far the best character interactions of the trip. We spent nearly 2 hours over there and then hit Festival of the Lion King. If you can get near the front your child has a chance to participate. Abigail got selected and she was thrilled. We did lunch at Tusker House. Once again, fantastic character interaction. We didn’t feel rushed at all and I was glad for that. Each character took their time. The buffet was pretty good. Lots of selection. I enjoyed trying the specialty dishes. We did Expedition Everest twice—1 fast pass and a 30 minute stand by. We ended the day by meeting Pochahontas who, again, just spent a lot of time with each child.

I felt like we packed in a lot that day (even though we didn’t remotely see everything), but didn’t feel the rush I felt at Magic Kingdom. I think that disappointed me. Everything from character meet and greets to rides to meals just felt like we were in a constant race. I know they are trying to get a lot of people in, but it really all seemed like a blur. After our day at Animal Kingdom I really noticed it.

Hollywood Studios (6/10 crowd level): I’ve heard people say this is now a ½ park. I don’t see how. We really enjoyed our day here. We did Star Wars, Toy Story, Rockin Coaster (standby—1 hour but I didn’t get FP because I wasn’t sure Abigail would make the cut height wise), Launch Bay, Frozen Sing along, Tower of Terror, Osborne Lights, Fantasmic, Honey I shrunk the kids playground and I know I am leaving out some other things. I think we did the most actual shows/activities this day and it didn’t feel rushed at all. Maybe we were getting into the groove? Our wait times were pretty low even on a 6/10 crowd level. We waited 20 minutes for Chewy and 30 for Darth Vader. But, I didn’t think anything was outrageous. We wouldn’t have waited so long on the Aerosmith coaster, but it broke down for about 20 minutes making our wait an hour instead of 40 minutes as posted. The dance party is a really fun thing for the kids. I’m so glad we got to see the Osborne lights before they are taken down. Though **rumor alert** a CM told me lots of people were murmuring that they may be relocated to Disney Springs. Take that for what it’s worth—haha. We did Minnie’s Holiday Dinner. The food was good—very similar to Tusker House. Abigail had a great time meeting Mickey, Minnie, Donald and Daisy. We saw them all twice. I didn’t feel rushed in the least bit.

Disney Dining Plan: We did the plan this trip. We did 3 character meals and knew we wanted to snack our way around EPCOT. We didn’t leave behind a single credit and even used our resort mugs quite a bit. In the end it was worth it to us. Next time we go we likely will not do as many character meals so I will probably not purchase it. So, just do the math for your family. I will say this—for my price conscious hubby it was great because when the $200 bill for a buffet came to the table I could say it was paid for. This mattered to his attitude and my happiness a lot. 🙂

Scooter: We rented from Buena Vista Scooters. The scooter was waiting on us. We never had a problem out of it. It took her some time to get used to it. It made the trip possible for her and she got to enjoy every minute with her granddaughter. So, when someone accidentally cuts in front of you in a scooter or you get behind one who is going a little slower just remember they are trying to have some magic too.

My last thoughts:

1. Remember to bring allergy meds that work best for your family. I didn’t even think about the weather change and Abigail was miserable the first full day.

2. Plan an extra day just to hang out at the resort. Other than the EPCOT meltdown we didn’t see much of a really neat resort not to mention all the other great Christmas decorations.

3. Plan! Plan! Plan! What!? I thought you threw out your touring plan! I did. But, because of all that planning I still had lots of ideas of how to handle the changes and didn’t just feel lost.

4. Touringplans.com—I used this website obsessively in the months before our trip. I learned so much from the chatboard. I don’t think our days would have been near as successful without the time I spent with the people on this website. I was thankful one of my Facebook friends turned me onto it. After checking out the statistical models they use to predict crowd levels, etc. I was hooked.

5. Expectations: This is Disney World. People expect them to hang the moon, rotate it and then put it in their room at night. Disney is a special place. It is magical. But, there are also jerky people, melting down kids, grumpy CM’s, rides break, etc. You have to temper your expectations that everything will be perfect. We had so many imperfections on this perfect trip. It was perfect because we spent 5 days together not worrying about work, the outside world, etc.

6. I bought Memory Maker. I LOVED this product. I simply wish they had the photographers in the character meals as well. It is a pricey product and the meals are pricey. We should have access to the photographers. I came home with 369 photos where I completely enjoyed the experience and not worrying about capturing it. For that—it was worth the money.

7. I’m a foodie. I like good, quality food. I think I’ve changed in my definition of quality food because my 20 year old self thought the food was fantastic at Disney. My 36 year old self not so much. I ate some really good things (bakeries in EPCOT, Tangeriene Café), but they were the unexpected places and not the places that herd through 500 people in a seating.

8. I’d stay at a value resort again. Without reservation.

9. Weather: in December pack for it all. It was 80 during the day and 60 at night and we needed a light jacket.

10. I think my biggest mistake in Magic Kingdom is I let the CMs rush me. I can think back now to times that I should have spoken up and just taken a few more moments. Don’t be afraid to speak up and take the time you need.

Well, hopefully something I said is useful to you. Enjoy your trip. We loved ours and Abigail is still humming Disney tunes. I have my Mickey ornament on the tree and I smile every time I look over to it. Eight months of planning for 5 days of pure joy. It was well worth it!!

The Sum of Our Mistakes

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The sun rises on a new day allowing for a new chance every time it comes up and sets.

I have a lot that I want to say under that title, but am having a hard time really organizing my thoughts.  In the last month I’ve had several experiences that lead me back to the phrase, “the sum of our mistakes.”  It’s been reading the work of my students and them sharing pieces of their past.  Pieces of their past with stories of pain, poor decisions and triumph.  It’s been observing people I love overcome their past.  Seeing them take positive steps forward everyday.  Knowing that everyday it both a struggle and success.  It’s been me reflecting on my own shortcomings and thinking how I can be a better person.  How can I look toward the best in people and situations and not be tempted to only remember the bad.

Why are the mistakes the easiest to remember?  I know for me I can beat myself up over mistakes for years.  I can replay the “what I wish I would have done” over and over.  Why is it that you can see someone you haven’t had any contact with for YEARS and yet the only thing that comes to mind is what you may have known about them 20 years ago?  Why is it we can so easily believe someone is only the sum of their mistakes and not see the totality of what they have overcome?

Some might argue that is having rose colored glasses or rewriting history.  I disagree.  To acknowledge the past is one thing.  To understand the mistakes made.  To acknowledge the hurt and pain they may have caused.  This is necessary in the path to healing.   To make people continually relive their past by our actions and our judgement is unacceptable.

I fall short everyday.  I allow past prejudices and hurt enter my mind as I deal with people.  I fail to acknowledge my own mistakes.  I recognize this.  I also recognize that The Creator never intended for us to be the sum of our mistakes.  It is this that allows me to cherish the beautiful times I’ve had with people that haven’t always been perfect.  It is this that allows me to put into perspective the hurt they may have caused.  It is this that allows me to forgive myself for my own shortcomings.

For me, the Thanksgiving and Christmas season are always time of deep thought.  And, whether we are the sum of our mistakes has been heavy on my heart. I don’t believe we are no matter how people may treat us.

As I finish this blog, while sitting in my office on a Saturday grading papers, I almost feel like I want to go back and add it onto the papers of some of my dearest students.  I want them to know that they are not the sum of their mistakes.  I want them to know that just being in the classroom and succeeding is proof they are not the sum of their past–no matter how hard it may have been.  I want them to know they are valued and that their progress is recognized.  Who can you help to recognize this today?  Who can you encourage that has walked a hard path?  How can you better forgive yourself for the mistakes?  It’s a season of thanks, love and giving.  How can we be more giving to those around us and ourselves when it comes to forgiveness?