Thursday, March 31, 2011

Donuts for Dads

Luke's preschool had a little program for the dads this morning. Along with having donuts together and singing some songs, the children gave their dad a card. The inside was a questionnaire that the teacher helped them fill out. Here's Luke's card for Mat.

My daddy is "22" years old.

He weighs "90" pounds and is "9" feet tall.

His hair is "yellow, like mine" and his eyes are "blue."

My dad loves to relax by "sitting in chairs and lying down."

He loves to cook... "my dad doesn't know how to cook."

His favorite household chore is "helping us wash the car."

His favorite TV show is "he doesn't watch TV but he likes family movie night" and his favorite song is "Genesis songs."

Daddy always tells me "behave when we're taking pictures."

It makes him happy when "he plays with us."

When my dad shops, he loves to buy "spaghetti to eat with sauce and meat."

If he could go on a trip, he would go to... and he would take... "I don't know."

I really love it when my dad "plays rough with me and tackles me and boxes with me because I can beat my dad. I'm the best Wii boxer in the world!"

Best laugh I've had in a long time. He relaxes by "sitting in chairs" was my favorite.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Disney World Do's and Don'ts

I wanted to make a quick list of some of my observations about our Disney World vacation before I forget them. If we ever go again this is the kind of info that I think will be helpful. I'm including a few pictures that Mat took with his phone since I'm not sure when I'll get around to downloading the camera.

1. DO plan your trip in advance. If you're thinking of going to Disney World there are tons of resources out there to help you plan the trip. This is not something that you can really do spontaneously. I read the website of course, posted questions to the mom's panel, read books at the bookstore and even bought one, borrowed books, read reviews, downloaded the apps. One friend (Tanya) even told me that she listens to Disney podcasts while she works. The best thing is to ask other people what they like to do but also be open to having your own unique experiences. Thank you to Jenny Frame who wasted tons of time at work writing me long emails with all her Disney tips and tricks.

2. DON'T underestimate the magic of Mickey! I was so surprised how our kids were taken in by the magic. I guess I expected them to be cynical like me since they are around me all the time. But they were IN-TO-IT! The first time we watched the big show they do in front of Cinderella's castle was such a great memory for me. Luke was talking the ENTIRE time. "Are they real princesses? Like not just here at Disney World but on Earth too?" (I wondered if he maybe thought we were on another planet.) "Is that the REAL Peter Pan/Captain Hook/Wendy/Snow White/Cinderella/etc?" "How can Mickey talk? If he's a mouse, how can he talk that good? Can he talk like that when he's not here?" There's one part where Mickey asks the audience to chant "dreams can come true" a few times and then some fireworks go off. Luke: "When the dreams came true, how did that magic happen?" It was all just too cute for words. He was like that on literally every ride too. Talking and asking questions the whole time. Jackson was not as chatty, but still enthralled. He even wanted to wait in line to meet Mickey and Donald and get their autographs. They are both asking to watch Mickey Mouse Clubhouse again which hasn't been seen in our house in probably 3 years.

M-I-C ~ K-E-Y ~ M-O-U-S-E!

3. DO as much as you can, but don't worry if you don't do everything. "We can always come back." That's what I kept telling myself. We loved Animal Kingdom so much more than I expected, and I would've liked a few extra hours there. I was thinking this would just be a half-day for us because my kids aren't big on zoos. But it's so, so much more than a zoo. There are tons of exotic animals that you see on the Safari ride and nature trails, but there are also roller coasters, playgrounds, characters everywhere, cool international food, and the art direction of the scenery is superb. Loved it! So Animal Kingdom and a few other things that we missed will be at the top of my list if we ever go back.

4. DON'T go during spring break. We had a great time, but you can just not believe the masses of humanity that we experienced. If you're spending that kind of time and money, get more bang for your buck by taking your kids out of school for a few days and going during an off-season.

Speaking of spring break, we waited in line for an hour to ride Dumbo. I think the ride takes about 90 seconds? That's how much we all love Luke because he wanted to ride it SO bad!

5. DO go to the Hoop-Dee-Do dinner show. I think everyone in our family would say that this is one of the BEST things we did all week. My memories of Jackson in particular laughing his head off for two straight hours are priceless. I tried to take pictures of his big smile, but they don't do justice to how much fun this was. Good food, funny performances, lots of audience interaction, and old-timey music. It's pricey, but you just have to do it. A huge thank you to Angie and Paige for telling me about this.

6. DON'T go to EPCOT on the first day. All you smarties out there who told me EPCOT was your favorite park (David Foster) were LYING! It is cool (everything at DW is awesome - don't get me wrong), but it was definitely my 4th favorite out of the four theme parks. The kids need a big dose of roller coasters, tea cups, pirates, haunted mansions, splashing mountains, and Mickey Mouse magic on day one - so go to the Magic Kingdom first. Everybody sing along with me here: It's a Small, Small World!

7. DO take plenty of breaks. The meltdowns (both parents and children) are unavoidable when you're on a vacation like this. It's exhausting. We didn't want to take the time out of our day to come back to the hotel and nap like the early birds do (see #10), so occasionally we would just have to STOP and take a break. Go somewhere shady, get some food even if it's expensive (see #9), and recharge your batteries. We always felt so refreshed after taking a break and it made all the difference when we were in meltdown mode. Another thing that got us through the madness was that Mat would sneak out of line occasionally and come back with popcorn, ice cream, soft drinks, chips, or big salty pretzels. We enjoyed talking, playing, and entertaining each other all week while standing in lines, and when we had a little treat it made the time just that much more sweet.

We loved this roller coaster - Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. We road it 3 times!

8. DON'T expect your phone to work if you are an AT&T customer. Even if you have full bars! You will waste countless minutes (or maybe hours if you're there during spring break, see #4) trying to check the old Facebook whilst standing in line for rides.

9. DO buy the meal plan. The food is going to be way more expensive than you think, and if you have the meal plan you just won't have to worry about it as much. I thought I had estimated that even if we were paying a lot more for food than we would at home that the meal plan price was still too high. I haven't run the numbers, but I'm pretty sure I was wrong. The table service meals (sitting down with a waiter) were significantly higher than my wildest dreams. At least the ones we did which were all completely awesome and worth it, btw. Make your reservations in advance. There is no better feeling when you're hot, tired, hungry, and cranky than to walk up to a restaurant where you've made a reservation and get to go on in and sit down while other hot, tired, hungry, cranky people are getting turned away right and left. Seriously you HAVE to make the reservations. You can't even expect to get a table at the hotel where you're staying during normal mealtimes without one (at least at spring break, see #4 again).

10. DON'T forget who you are. We realized the first day that Disney World is made for morning people. If you want to avoid the lines, get fast passes, sign up for things - the early bird catches the worm. We have no early birds in our nest. So every night as we were going to bed at midnight, we would stress about how if we could just get up and get there "when it opens" then we could do this and that "before it gets crowded." Well, that was not meant to be. We were determined to have fun anyway, and we only missed out on one ride because we didn't get a fast pass and Mom and Dad refused to wait in line for 135 minutes. We were able to spend some time in the hot tub after all the early birds were in bed a few times, and we had a late dinner one night and watched the fireworks show from a near-empty beach. So even though we were still in bed "when it opens" we were able to make it work. (Losing a hour with the time zone change and then springing forward for daylight savings did not help this problem. Daily quote from Mat as we left the hotel to head to the parks: "Yes, but TO US it's really 8:30am.")

Waiting for the boat to Magic Kingdom

You can find these pictures and more by following Mat and me on Instagram. This is our favorite new app for sharing pictures. Search for our usernames: heckstorm and summerbee to join the Instagram fun.

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