About once or twice a week for the last few weeks, Sam wakes up from his nap missing a sock. I realized a couple weeks ago that a sock wasn't missing but instead two socks had been placed on the same foot. I thought, "that's a funny mistake."
After multiple incidents, I'm thinking it isn't a mistake, so today I said, "Sam, why do you do that?"
He looked right at me and said, "because it is so funny!"
Our final park day was another repeat day that could be used anywhere. Since Jack had expressed such a love for the Indiana Jones stunt show (without even realizing he'd only seen a small fraction of it), we decided to return to Hollywood Studios. We started our morning at the Legend of Jack Sparrow, which we skipped during our Tuesday visit.
While we were waiting to enter the pirate ride, Jack spotted the face painting tent. I don't know if you've ever seen these face painting tents, but it's not your average girl scout painting rainbows and hearts to raise a few bucks. These are full-face designs. My sweet five-year-old angel had his heart set on becoming Darth Maul (something like this). Thankfully, we were able to talk him into the superhero half mask, which turned out so adorable, I mean brave and cool. Seriously, I want to paint his face like that again...just because it was so darn cute heroic!
Since we had hit all the big rides our first visit, we were able to enjoy more shows this visit. One of the highlights was the Disney Junior, LIVE. Jack loved seeing Jake & the Neverland Pirates, and both boys loved seeing it "snow" during the show and chasing gold doubloons that fell from the sky. Of course, we enjoyed Toy Story Mania and Star Tours again.
Just before noon, we headed over for the 12:30 Indiana Jones stunt show. As we headed into the show, a castmember stopped us at the gate and asked if we would like to be part of the show. He said he was still looking for a pair of Junior Directors. He told us the boys would have to start the show by saying, "Lights, Camera, Action," and we'd get reserved seats down front. Jack was so excited! Josh and I were pretty tickled too. We couldn't help but think this was all part of our returning to HS on our last day.
Annie, the casting director, came over and introduced herself to the boys. She talked to them about what she'd need them to do and gave them a great dose of encouragement. At this point, we were still thinking they'd both go down there, but that Jack would do all the talking. Once she called for them to come out and start the show, Sam would not stand idly by. That boy loves the microphone, and Annie wouldn't deny him the chance. It was a precious memory!
After the show, Annie returned to tell the boys what a great job they had done and to see if we'd like to meet the two stars of the stunt show. We hung around for a while and were able to share the sweet story of how much Jack had enjoyed the show on Tuesday, all five minutes of it! Even they agreed it had been nothing short of Disney magic that had brought us back that day.
Of course, nothing could top being junior directors at the stunt show, but Sam kept mentioning the haunted hotel (aka the Tower of Terror.) He said many times, "I'll be okay in the haunted hotel." Josh assured him we were not going to make them ride it again. Finally he said, "No, I want to!" Jack thought his brother was crazy! I opted to wait with big brother while Josh took Sam for another ride on the Tower of Terror. He was great.
We called a day a little early, and it wasn't a moment too soon. The rain hit just as we reached the bus stop. As we headed back to the resort, Sam fell asleep on the bus. We relaxed in the lobby and then had dinner at one of the hotel restaurants, which Sam slept right through. Later, the boys played happily with a couple of their trip treasures while Josh and I packed up our room from eight days of sheer fun! We paused to take in the Water Parade from one of the resort docks. The lighted water parade seems to be one of those under appreciated treasures, and I enjoyed getting to share it with the boys. We finished our day by munching on Josh's leftover birthday cake.
The next morning we were up bright and early to catch our bus to the airport. We had a flight to catch and a brand new nephew/cousin to meet!
Jack: "Seeing the whole Indiana Jones show and getting my face painted."
Sam: "the haunted hotel with Daddy."
Josh: "the boys being picked as junior directors."
Laura: "watching Sam & Jack start the stunt show."
Thursday was our day to explore the wildlife and activity at Disney's Animal Kingdom park. We started bright and early with breakfast with Donald and the whole crew in their best safari gear at the Tusker House. Hands down, it was our favorite character meal. The food was fantastic, and it wasn't as loud and chaotic as the other two we had done. Another advantage to character meal breakfasts is you can score early park admission if you're willing to schedule them early enough. We did both our character breakfasts at 8 a.m. at parks that didn't open until 9. We were out roaming the park getting in position for the rides that fill up fastest before others had even gained admission. At Disney, it really is true: "the early bird gets the worm!"
We headed to Kilamanjaro Safaris first. Despite the chill in the air, we were not disappointed with our ride. We were able to see so many incredible animals. Sam was delighted to see the giraffes, "they're my fav-wit!" We got glimpses of lions, elephants and many other exotic creatures. Later we took the trail to see the gorillas, and the train over to the petting zoo. Sam loved brushing the goats, and Jack really enjoyed seeing the pigs up close.
Closer to the Tree of Life, we spotted a kangaroo darting around and took a stroll to see the tigers. I talked Jack into braving Expedition Everest with me, but just like Space Mountain...he declined the opportunity to ride again with his daddy.
Both the boys really loved the Boneyard play area. There was tons of slides, climbing structures, nets, ladders and fun. It was challenging to keep up with them in the huge space, but we managed to escape with the same two boys we entered with. Since Sam was tall enough for the Dinosaur ride, we all did it together. Neither of the boys were very crazy about it, but I was interested to see Claire Huxtible posing as a paleontologist.
Sam, eventually gave up the good fight and hit for the series...falling asleep in the last of the four WDW parks. While he snoozed, Jack got a frozen coke and watched the Jungle Jam parade. We ate an early dinner at Yak & Yeti, and then headed back to the resort to swim. Again, I elected to watch as it was still not warm enough for this gal.
Funny side story: when we waited for our turn at the obligatory family photo in front of The Tree of
Life at AK, I noticed the couple posing in front of us looked really familiar. I was trying so hard to place them. Then, it hit me! It was a reality tv couple that had met on one of the seasons of Survivor, a show I used to watch faithfully! I couldn't remember their names, but Josh nailed it...Boston Rob and Amber. In case you were wondering they're still together and appear to have three little girls.
Jack & Josh shared their Thursday favorite in the Kilamanjaro Safari expedition. My favorite moment was riding Expedition Everest with Jack, despite that he was miserable. And, of course Sam's favorite would involve food..."the doughnut at breakfast!" I told you the breakfast at Tusker House was good.
With three busy, fun-filled park days with early starts and late finishes behind us, I had planned Wednesday to be a repeat day. I didn't have the day completely planned out (shocker, I know)! We had purchased a six-day park pass, so I knew we'd repeat two of the parks. My husband suggested we let everyone sleep in and catch up on their rest. Now, I'm a girl who appreciates her sleep, don't get me wrong. But, something about sleeping in at Disney goes against everything this gal stands for...namely squeezing every ounce of fun (and value) out of our time at the parks! I did agree, but by about 9 a.m., I was getting antsy, and Jack was working on his second hour of iPad activity. We finally woke Sam up just before 10. I suggested the Magic Kingdom for time's sake...it was the closest and most convenient and the crowd calendar suggested it would be a light day.
It was a cloudy day with thunderstorms threatening, but the rain held off until the evening. We went back to the rides we had skipped like Winnie the Pooh and the Barnstormer, and hit our favorites again. Of course that meant two more trips through the Haunted Mansion, Jack's favorite ride, and twice more on Thunder Mountain, Sam's favorite.
Jack had talked a big game about riding Space Mountain, but then chickened out on Sunday when he got a glimpse inside while aboard the People Mover. On our repeat trip to MK, he decided he'd give it a go after being assured it would not go upside down. So, Josh took him along. Of course, he survived, but he declined to accompany me a second go. So, I rode solo. I encouraged Jack by reminding him I did not enjoy Space Mountain when I was his age. The way my parents tell the story, the 4-year-old version of me (upon exiting Space Mountain) said, "who's idea was it to ride that?"
Later, before the rain rolled in we hopped a boat to the Wilderness Lodge for dinner at the Whispering Canyon. It was probably our favorite dinner. The meal is served family style, which any man would love. Not to mention the impromptu stick horse races that break out during mealtime. Just be careful if you ask for ketchup!
Jack's highlight was "the haunted house again!" And Sam was delighted to get to do the race cars at Tomorrowland Speedway again. Josh's favorite was dinner at Whispering Canyon and Space Mountain. My treasured memory from Wednesday was getting to ride Thunder Mountain twice, once with each of my boys!
And since I was determined to get a shot of the boys in front of the castle in their mouse ear shirts, we headed back to the MK for a quick photo shoot before bedtime. Such troopers!
On our third park day, we ventured to Hollywood Studios, which is the old MGM. In addition to a lot of the Pixar characters, there are Star Wars rides and of course the Tower of Terror. We began with the Disney Junior character breakfast at Hollywood & Vine. The food was tasty. The atmosphere was just okay. If it hadn't been for the fact that Jack's favorite character was here, this would have been a skip-able one. The boys did get to meet Jake of Jake & the Neverland Pirates, and they were thrilled. Handy Manny, Agent OSO and one of the Little Einsteins was also there, but the boys were not as interested in them.
I left breakfast a little early to get the boys signed up for the Jedi Training Academy. Once in line I realized the boys had to be present to sign up. They hustled over and we began quizzing Sam on his age. You had to be four to participate. If he wanted to do it, he was going to have to pretend to be four, rather than three. He was cool as a cucumber in line, saying, "I'm 4!" Then, once we got up front and the man asked him how old he was, sweet thing said, "I'm 3!" So, needless to say, he didn't get to participate. Maybe next time.
While I was in line with the boys, Josh scored fastpasses for Toy Story Mania. Once we got Jack's Jedi time assignment, we headed over to the Star Tours ride, which was a big hit with everyone. Sam loved it to, but that may have had something to do with the 3D glasses. He got to wear them again when we saw Muppet Vision 3D. The boys got to meet Phineas and Ferb, Lightning McQueen and Mater, and even Buzz and Woody.
Around noon it was time for Jack to report for his Jedi Training Academy. He received a robe and was instructed on his duties. Soon, the show began. A master Jedi carefully instructed the padwans. Suddenly, Darth Vader and two storm troopers emerged. Each padwan had the opportunity to show their new skills and fight Vader. It was quite thrilling, and Jack loved it.
The boys agreed to brave the Tower of Terror, especially since we called it a haunted hotel. Jack enjoyed the introduction which includes a Twilight Zone type retelling of how the hotel became haunted and why the elevator no longer functions properly. But, he didn't enjoy the drops. Afterwards, he said, "that wasn't fun." Sam added, "That was not a good idea." It may sound a little cruel, but any time the boys got a little whiny or complained we jokingly suggest we return to the haunted hotel. They'd straighten up immediately!
With sure action and excitement, we thought the boys might enjoy the Indiana Jones stunt show. It was a little late starting, and we learned it was because of some set difficulties. So, they were only able to show us the first scene (of 3), which is only about five minutes long. The boys didn't know any different, and didn't seem to mind. Later we got in place for the Pixar Pals parade. Somehow in all the loud excitement, Sam managed to drift off. After the parade, Jack noticed his brother, "Mom, look at Sam. He's asleep. He's pretty cute!"
We enjoyed some down time and then headed to a car stunt show. It included cars racing, jumping ramps, motorcycles and fire. In other words, the boys loved it! We had dinner at Mama Melrose's, which was good, but not great. Our service was not so good, but our bellies were full. We did a couple more rides and then headed to watch Fantasmic, the closing show.
I had heard Fantasmic was a bit scary for small children, so I was a bit worried the boys wouldn't like it. The hardest part was the wait. You have to arrive 30-45 minutes prior to showtime to get an okay seat. Keeping the boys entertained on the bleachers required all the goodies in my backpack. A coloring book worked for Jack and a set of stickers kept Sam occupied for a solid 20 minutes. I'm so glad I hauled that backpack around all week. Once the show began, all was good. The special effects were pretty spectacular. I could see why the show had a reputation. At one point there was an enormous evil dragon and the entire lake was on fire! I saw families with tots streaming up the aisles and out. Our boys didn't seemed too concerned, and the show ends on a much happier note.
Jack: Indiana Jones show, the parade & picking out a gift to bring back for our neighbor, Fin
Sam: The good guys at the end of Fantasmic (again, the most recent thing he had seen)
Mom: The Jedi Training Academy
Dad: The Star Tours ride and the Muppets Show
Monday began with a journey to Epcot. The boys were so excited about seeing the "Big Ball." Jack couldn't wait to go inside it. I used a website to help map out our plan for each park. The site requires an annual subscription fee, but I found it extremely helpful. I was able to come up with a plan to hit all our must-do rides at the least congested times. The site had a helpful app that allowed me to access our plan, revise it, optimize it and see the most up-to-date wait times on each attraction at any given time. If you are going to visit during an even moderately busy time, I'd suggest using something comparable.
Because of my research, I knew Soarin' was a popular ride that fills up fast, so we headed there first. It was quite an adventurous ride. The boys loved the sensation of flying over all the different locations. The smell of the orange grove and the pine trees was pretty neat. Of course, we had to head over to Mission: SPACE for our future astronaut. Sam didn't make the cut off, so we did a ride swap and Jack got to ride twice. I knew Epcot was much larger than Magic Kingdom, but you don't appreciate how spacious it is until you're walking around it.
The boys absolutely loved the Test Track. They had a great time zooming through the different tests and of course they loved bursting out into the daylight on the super fast track at 50+ m.p.h. Touring the World Showcase was fun, and the character topiaries were entertaining. We were especially entertained as we tried to get Sam to smile in front of the Woody topiary, his favorite character.
We enjoyed a late lunch at Le Celliar, the steakhouse in the Canada pavilion. It was incredible. The pretzel bread and cheddar cheese soup I had were a perfect appetizer to the steak. After lunch, we headed back to the hotel for rest time. Again, Sam fell asleep in the stroller before we even made it back. Once we returned to Epcot, we saw some more exhibits and had dinner at the Coral Reef restaurant, which overlooks a huge aquarium. While we were dining, I got the exciting news that my sweet nephew had arrived. It had been a hard, but fun, day with my mind on my sister and my body with my boys. I was relieved to learn how had gone smoothly. Now, we had such a great treasure to look forward to at the end of our trip...meeting Ian!
After dinner, we did Spaceship Earth, which took us inside the "Big Ball!" We also hit the Test Track again, which had been a hit with everyone. We finished our night with Illuminations, the light and fireworks display at Epcot. Jack's favorite part of the day was Spaceship Earth. My favorite was the Test Track. Josh's highlight was riding Mission: Space with his future astronaut, who did great. Some days, I asked the crew what their favorite things were multiple times during the day to see if it would change. I happen to ask during the bread service at our late lunch what everyone's favorite thing was so far. Sam loudly and delightfully shared, "butter!"
Sunday finally arrived and the boys were so excited to begin our adventures in the parks! Josh had a couple more hours of conference to put in. I decided to brave the park for the first few hours alone hoping we could get in some rides before things got too crowded. After a slight delay, the monorail broke down just before we got on, the boys and I made it to the Magic Kingdom. I had tried to read up on all the expert tips. I was prepared for the Rope Drop, but instead this was one of the mornings where you must wait outside the Main St, USA train station before being let in. I had envisioned the boys having a bit of roaming room while we waited, but instead we were just among a big clump of people. They were a bit giddy and wild, but we survived, and those around us didn't seem to mind. I met a nice family from Birmingham, who were seasoned Disney travelers. She gave me some great tips about using our FastPasses.
Once the gates opened we milled onto Main Street USA. There's a city hall a couple stories tall to the left as you walk in. Jack said, "hey, look, it's the castle!" I told him that was most definitely not the castle, so we rounded the circle and positioned ourselves dead center, and I pointed out the castle. His eyes were as big as saucers as he said, "Oh, WOW!"
After the obligatory photos of our first moments with the castle, which the boys were very sweet to comply with, we headed straight into the castle. Directly on the other side, the boys saw Prince Charming's Carousel and wanted to ride it first!
We spent most of our morning in FantasyLand, hitting the new Little Mermaid ride, Dumbo and the Mad Hatter's Tea Party. Then we headed to TomorrowLand and became Galactic Space Rangers on Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin. Not long after, Josh joined us and we repeated a few rides and hit the TomorrowLand Speedway. Sam could hardly wait to race those cars. In FrontierLand, Sam was so excited to ride the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and Jack couldn't help but love getting scared at the Haunted Mansion. We stopped in on Pirates of the Caribbean and the Magic Carpets before making our way back to the hotel. Somewhere in there, Sam fell asleep. Josh grabbed fastpasses for Peter Pan and we hopped back on the monorail.
When we got back to the resort, Sam just looked so comfy. We hated to disturb him, so we didn't. A little over an hour later, it was time to head back for our dinner reservation and Sam was still napping. After we re-entered the Magic Kingdom he finally woke up. Sweet thing never even knew we left the park. That's a boy who loves (and needs) his sleep.
Dinner was at Be Our Guest restaurant, which is in the Beast's castle and is a recent addition to FantasyLand having opened last fall. The interior was so much like the movie. Our table was right by a window, which simulated snow falling just outside. The food was great, and we had heard to ask for the grey stuff...it's delicious. Don't believe us? Ask the dishes! After we finished up, we had the opportunity to meet the Beast himself. He was quite friendly; thank goodness that Belle came into his life!
We hit several more rides and then looked for a position for the Electrical Parade. People line up well in advance, but that wasn't really our M.O. We were able to find a pretty good spot near the beginning of the route, which worked out nicely because we then followed the end of the parade all the way up Main Street to snag a spot for Wishes. While we waited for the castle illumination and fireworks to begin, Josh got ice cream for everyone. The boys were a sticky mess, but oh so happy.
Our favorite memories from Sunday were...
Jack: "the haunted house" (Haunted Mansion)
Sam: "the big train roller coaster" (Thunder Mountain)
Mom: Jack's reaction when he first saw the castle
Dad: When the boys and I came out of the Monsters, Inc. Laugh floor and he was waiting on us. The boys gave him a big hug! We were so happy he was joining us now!