Archive for April 2012

Theme Parks… The fun   1 comment

So previously I posted some of the nitty gritty of what worked for us at the parks.

Here is a ride run down of what LA loved and what the lines were like etc….

At Magic Kingdom

It’s a Small World– Be prepared to be singing it the rest of the day! I was so excited to take her on it… she pretty much sat rapt and unmoving through the whole thing. Occasionally she’d wave at a child or sign swing or bird or what not. I think she enjoyed it but I also think it was a lot to take in. But a definite one to do.  The line isn’t too bad and if you go by and it’s long just try again…. plus the line goes pretty quick.

Peter Pan LA reacted much the same way as It’s a Small World… she showed a bit more enthusiasm. This line is VERY long… possibly a good one to use a fast pass on. It’s also a slow line…

Prince Charming’s Carousel This very well may have been LA’s favorite of all…. we have tried to take her on other Carousels at the fair or parks. She screams and refuses to ride. However, for this carousel she points and laughs and can’t wait to ride! She signs pony over and over again…. I mean really, she loves it. And most of the time the line is both short and quick!

 Before her first ride… with the Magical Auntie C

I mean, really, look at the face! Totally worth the trip right here…

Dumbo  The classic… a pretty long line at times. LA really liked it… once it started moving. On our first trip there she was cranky and ready for lunch and was not happy until it started moving… then she was most happy.

 Can you see her screaming her head off here? 😦

They have now actually moved Dumbo and  made a new one. The classic is not open yet but the new one is awesome. Here is a tip… ride it once it gets dark… because it looks like this!

And she loved it…

The Rapunzel meet and greet- We really wanted to do this one because our LA LOVES Tangled…. but this is probably the longest, slowest line in the whole park. Really, really…. even Auntie C said we should either get there super early and get in line or just forget it. So if you want to do it head there first… otherwise just wait until your daughter is older and do a Princess breakfast, that is our plan 😉
The line also looks uber boring 😦

Winnie the Pooh- We did it the first trip but didn’t bother the second time. She liked it but wasn’t super excited. Maybe if your child is older or more into Pooh.  VERY long slow line, good to use for fast pass… but an interesting lines with things for the kids to do while they wait.

The Tea Cups We did this both times and LA loved it 🙂

That’s about it for Fantasy Land… we totally skipped Snow White… that thing scared me till I was like 10!

Frontier Land

We skipped Haunted mansion… it says you can bring your little ones on. I didn’t think it was worth the risk of scariness… we did it while she slept.

The other two big ones here are Splash and Thunder Mountain….. obviously not for kids.

Hucks island has some kid stuff… but a lot of it looked like stuff for older kids so we skipped it.

However we did do the Country Bear Jamborie…. And she LOVED it! She clapped and laughed and pointed and shouted Nay Nay (her word for cat) to the bear to tell him he had a raccoon on his head. She just loved it… and bonus no real line. Plus it’s nice and cool inside. We used it both times when we needed a break to slow down and relax a bit.

Adventure Land

We skipped Pirates of the Caribbean which made me sad… it’s one of my favorites. She was allowed to go on but I was nervous about the drop and the scary skeleton stuff in the beginning. Otherwise I think she would have liked the characters and singing. If you are brave enough to take your little one, tell me how they do.

We skipped the Jungle Ride, although I totally think she would have loved it.  REALLY long line.

But she adored the Tiki Birds in the Tiki Room. Steve has sworn he will never go back in there because the song and the singing drove him crazy but LA thought it was fantastic. I thought it was nice to sit and relax in the cool… the line wasn’t bad at all 🙂

Tomorrow Land

Monsters Laugh Floor This was more for us adults… didn’t seem to impress her too much. But we adults laughed and again… nice and sitting and cool and the line wasn’t too bad.

Just a note the first time we went she woke up from her nap and we were in Tomorrow Land… when she realized we were still there she laughed and clapped and was so excited. It was cute.

We were going to try her on the People Mover but we didn’t bother

Main Street

On Main street she liked the shops… we got her some illicit candy and we tried on silly hats. The shops are SO expensive… those adorable Disney dresses you see so many girls wear cost 79$…. WOW… I hope by the time she wants one I can make a really cool one.

Character meet and greet- I like how they have some set character meet and greets so if you really want to meet someone you know where they will be. Back in the day we had to hope we bumped into Cinderella or Mickey or whoever…the downside is that it makes for really long lines. We decided not to wait for Princesses because the line was like 45 minutes or an hour, I don’t remember. I figure in the future we will not have this option. We chose to go see Mickey and Minnie, their line was twenty minutes. I couldn’t help but think how times have changed…. Mickey and Minnie used to be the longest lines. LA wasn’t too impressed…. she’s not super familiar with Mickey Mouse because she’s only seen the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse a handful of times, because she has a wicked mother who limits her TV to an hour or so a day. She was wary… but I was glad we got pictures.

On our second day we started to wait to see Snow White, who was on the street, but it turned into a 30 minute line so we left. We thought about waiting for Goofy but LA was terrified of the statue of him so we skipped it.

At Animal Kingdom

We did the Safaari Ride… which I thought she’d like. But she was overly tired and in some sort of strange mood. She pointed at a few animals but otherwise didn’t seem to care. Daddy and I thought this was AWESOME! The animals are so close… this is definitely one that if you want to do you have to go early and get in line. The line gets REALLY long plus if you wait till later in the day the animals have all taken shelter from the heat and aren’t as active or close.

We went over to the kids area and the Petting Zoo…. which was nice. She liked seeing the animals in the walk through display.

We didn’t get to do anything else at Animal Kingdom…. it was so hot and crowded. Then baby had melt down so we cut our losses and took off. But I really want to go back now.

I will tell you that several parents told me not to do the Bugs Life show with little kids because it gets scary… so you’ve been warned.

Hollywood Studios

We enjoyed Hollywood Studios way more than expected.

As mentioned Mama and Daddy loved Rockin Roller Coaster… not for wee ones though.

We went on the Little Mermaid Live show…. really short line, not a bad wait if you catch the show just right. LA was absolutely enraptured. She sat on Steve’s lap in a trance. Bubbles come down from the ceiling, there were fish, and singing and music, the girl was in heaven. Steve is now suggesting we show her Little Mermaid but I’m a little worried Ursula is a bit intense.

We took her on the Hollywood Movie Ride.… she enjoyed the Wizard of Oz portion and the Fantasia clip… otherwise she didn’t care much. There is one alien part that I was worried about but conveniently she asked to nurse and as it was a dark seated area I took that as a perfect opportunity to distract her and let her finish. Oh and the line was nonexistent.

The Toy Story Ride was really cool…. LA liked it but didn’t really fully enjoy it. First of all she would not leave her 3D glasses on for very long. She enjoyed the occasional spin on the ride. But basically you get to use a “slingshot” and do arcade shooting…. we really liked it. It is a terribly long line without a fast pass… and get the fast pass early if you can!

See how impressed she was with the ride 😉

Ok here is I reveal some geekiness… I adore the movie Splash… and look, it’s the fountain from the movie!!!

And here is some more geekiness… I’m such a Star Wars Nerd…. so the fact that we put my daughter on a speeder and she immediately assumed the properly position, well, it just about stopped my nerdy little heart 😉

 (This will totally be on my wall btw… Yes I am that much of a nerd)

We got fast passes for Star Tours and then got lunch…. it was perfect by the time we were done eating lunch it was time to go on. I totally recommend Star Tours, it’s different nearly every time you ride it and even the line is awesome. However, you cannot take your child in the line nor can they go on the ride. But you can tell them at the front of the line your dilemma and they will let one adult go on and give the other a pass to come back and jump right in the line.

So one of you has to wait with child. At this point in the day I was trying to get LA to go to sleep… but next time we’ll just go around the corner to the Honey I Shrunk the Kids playground. When the other parent is done they can just come and switch so both can ride the awesomeness that is Star Tours 😉

Plus it was one of LA’s favorite things…. and to be honest, it is quite amazing.

Next time we’d like to see the Indiana Jones show or the Stunt show…. when LA is older they have the Muppets in 3D but we already knew she wouldn’t wear the glasses.

They have a Mickey Mouse Clubhouse show/experience that she might have liked but we didn’t do.

We really did love Hollywood Studios, which I still call MGM lol

Epcot

We didn’t do it but we knew there had some neat Living Sea exhibits and some hands on lights/technology things for little ones to play with.

So there is our little run down of what we did and what worked for us…. I hope it helped and if I didn’t answer a question let me know and I’ll do my best. I’m no expert but we had a good time and it was relaxed which equals success in my book!

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Theme Parks…Tips   1 comment

We had a lovely vacation recently involving two fantastic Disney days and one blissful do nothing hotel day. Because my husband is fabulous I spent over an hour just enjoying this….

And we both got to relax because LA knows how to properly enjoy a vacation and did this….

He’s great… and that’s why we were celebrating four years of marriage … see how cute we are?

But enough about the relaxing portion of our vacation… I’m writing about the nitty gritty of taking a wee one to the most Magical Place on Earth. Which will also help you if you are taking your child to a really fun place that charges an exorbitant amount of money to ride their rides, stand in line and over pay for glorified fair food 😉 (but dontcha love it!)

We are lucky enough to have a wonderful Auntie in the family (by adoption) who takes us to Disney… she is wonderful and we love her. LA is going to love her more than me someday because she is lovely and sweet and fun … oh, and did I mention she takes her to Disney 😉

So, after some inquiring questions from friends, I figured I’d offer up what worked for us and what didn’t…. I also have another post just a bit about the rides and lines and such here.

We went back in October when LA was 14 months old. I was terrified about her having a meltdown while we waited in line… that was my number one concern. So I packed our back pack with a ton of snacks and small distractible toys, several new junk things from dollar store. There was also our camcorder and camera. A change of clothes for her and all the diaper paraphanelia. Plus snacks for Daddy and me. I also brought our Ergo carrier, the plan being that when we had to hold her still I could try to back carry her if she got wiggly. She wasn’t yet at the stage where she wanted to walk all the time but if carried she prefers to be moving. However, at that stage she was very against the Ergo (now she loves it) but it did not get used a lot.

Both trips were a success but I think our second trip went even smoother because we learned more. Much more streamlined and prepared… and there was only 4 months really in her age so even though she’s grown up a bit I think it was because of how we prepared.

It seems the easiest way to tell you what worked for us is to make a list…. so here you!
1. Stroller- We had a brief debate on taking the quick little stroller vs the big snazzy stroller. We went with the big snazzy because really the only time it was a pain was getting on the tram at the beginning and end of the day…. otherwise it was nice to have the little shelf underneath and a stroller with a recline for nap time. I felt bad seeing some kids laying back in very uncomfortable positions in the Disney strollers that do not recline. Also, I don’t think LA would have slept as long in that type of stroller.
While she slept we took turns going on more adult rides 🙂
So for us big stroller was the way to go… better/longer nap, happy baby, and room to carry some of our junk.
So if you don’t mind a brief struggle on and off the tram the big stroller is the way to go!

2. Claim it– No matter what stroller you have identify it! I clipped a bright monkey toy thing to the handle of the stroller. This made it SO much easier to find when coming off a ride. The Disney associates move your strollers sometimes so you cannot guarantee that it will be where you left it.
I know it was a good idea because on the second trip to Disney we forgot the monkey toy and it was MUCH more annoying to find the stroller.

3. Bring a carrier!

Ok so for our first trip we hardly used it. LA was in a stage where she didn’t like it very much, so we definitely could have done without it for that trip.
And for our second trip we only used it a little bit…. but it was nice for me to know in the back of my mind that it was there as an option. We did use it a bit and I was glad we had it. If your child is happy in one you could even have them nap in it! (but then you can’t sneak on adult rides! )
There are probably even some children who could do the whole day just with a carrier and not a stroller. Personally I like having something to dump my stuff in and LA likes to have her on space on occasion so we needed the stroller. But I liked having the Ergo.

4. Leash them?  Personally, I’m pretty opposed to those leash-y things that you put toddler in so they can walk around but still be “attached” to you. Not judging anyone… I’m just not a fan (especially when I see parents use them at random locations and seem to use it as an excuse to ignore their child)… but that’s just me.

I wrote previously about how I broke down and bought one for our Texas trip because I had images of having to chase her through and airport and leaving my luggage behind, not good when you are on your own.

However, Disney would be another place I could see them being useful. The bonus is that if you have a super independent child it can let them walk a bit and wander in some areas. BUT Disney is so crowded they could still be run over or hurt…. so it’s a catch 22. But there are areas that it could be helpful.

LA is pretty good about holding our hands, she seems to understand it is the price she pays for walking on her own.

btw this is her adorable new little walk… she walks/runs like Phoebe from Friends (if you haven’t seen that episode check it out, it’s hysterical)

And walking with Daddy at 14 months 🙂

5.Bring some distractions but not too many! The first trip we were overflowing with distractions and we really only used a fraction of them. So for our second adventure I packed far less and was wise enough to pack smaller ones (stickers, beads, etc)…. Disney is so full of stimulation it’s really not too hard to distract them with what is around you. We mostly used them when we were trying to buy ourselves some extra time to eat in the restaurants.

And even in the restaurant there are things for distractions…. like straws… LA loves straws!

6. Bring snacks! The greatest toddler distraction of them all!

I tried to bring some that were healthy. I knew there would be very few veggies at Disney so I bought some of the pureed veggie pouch things. LA loves them and we don’t have them often so they are kind of a treat. She also loves apples and pears so we had those. Cheese was good. Crackers and goldfish, obviously. But we were on vacation so she got some illicit pleasures…. like cheese puffs and M&M’s. LA loves M&M’s…. this is her face when she first realized I had them…

And the relief on her face when she realized I was going to give her some….

M&M’s are our big guns…. if we need more time or a big distraction. I do not recommend this trick for all occasions but it works for Disney because it’s a. a matter of survival and b. it’s supposed to be the happiest place on Earth 🙂
So whatever your big guns are… bring them

7. Pack water… the night before I put a couple bottles of water and a sippy cup with water in it in the freezer. They slowly thaw out during the day time so you have cold water… for free! Not to mention it will keep your fruit and cheese cool in your bag.

8. Pack lunch/dinner!! I always forget that Disney lets you bring in food. We totally did not do this in October but we did this last time. Just some easy sandwiches and chips but it was worth it. It meant we only had to buy one meal at the park a day. That saved us like 30 bucks… worth it! Plus as you eat and snack your bag gets lighter!

9. Getting there- The first time we went we drove over in the morning and got there about an hour after opening. It worked fine for us… LA slept on the way over so she was fresh and ready to go. We were a bit tired.
The second time we went we stayed overnight at a hotel the night before. That was obviously nicer 🙂

10. Leaving- The first time we stayed all the way through the end. We watched the Electric Light parade and the fireworks afterwards. LA really liked both. I really think she would have liked them even more the second time we went but we didn’t stay until closing that time…. we were so tired.
But the other reason we didn’t stay was the horror that happens after the Electric Light Parade…. so BE WARNED! here is what happened.

We waited to the left of the castle about 45 minutes before the parade. We thought that would be enough time… it wasn’t really. It was an ok spot for us to watch from because we could see a straight shot down Main Street but we were not close and there were a ton of people. Immediately after the parade there was chaos. It seemed everyone was either trying to get out of the park down Main Street or to go to the other side of the park. It was bumper to bumper strollers and people were NOT nice. I struggled to keep up with Steve and LA in the stroller. I worried about LA getting smacked in the face with people’s swinging bags so I carried her. Then Steve was paranoid about someone knocking me over with her in my arms (and rightly so). It was awful… it took us over a half an hour for us to get from the castle to the opening of Main Street.

We stopped at the Baby Station to change her and leave… but we had taken so long the fireworks started so we watched those. I then nursed LA and we tried to leave the park. More stroller deadlock. Then a REALLY long wait to leave the park with a ton of very pushy, tired people.

I’m not saying the fireworks and parade are not worth it… they are awesome. But either be prepared to deal with what we dealt with (and we were there in the off season) or plan ahead.

Here is what our plan will be for next time (when we are definitely doing the parade and fireworks)…. We will stake out a good comfy spot on the curb at the head of Main Street. A good spot near the entrance to the park with a straight view towards the castle. We will stake it out about one and a half to two hours before the parade is scheduled to start.

Mommy is going to bring a book and take one for the team while Daddy takes LA on another fun ride. Mama will hold the spot for them. They will come back with food and we will sit and eat until it’s time to watch. If baby gets fussy we will take turns looking in shops with her while the other holds the good spot. This way we can all see the parade and we are in a good location to just duck out and avoid the chaos afterwards. Feel free to steal our plan!

11. When to go- From my personal experience and our inside Auntie information October, February and the first part of March is the least busy time to go. It is also, coincidentally, the nicest weather in Florida… it’s a win win!

12. Know when to leave- If you are park hopping time your visit for nap and lunch. On our October trip we just did one day. This last trip we did Hollywood Studios and Disney on Thursday and then Animal Kingdom and Disney on Saturday. We left our lunch in the car in a cooler. LA napped and we ate between parks. Less to carry, a good nap… a little break for us. A win win.

If you can afford to stay on site go to the hotel and take a nap, it’s worth it.

If we had season tickets or several days I would probably recommend going over in the morning and exhausting the kids. Bring them back to the hotel for a nap and go back after dinner…. if you go back at all. All depends on what you can do.

13. Put your baby to bed! I made this mistake… on our between day we rested at the hotel. I should have put LA to bed at her normal time. But it’s vacation I stupidly reasoned and let her take another swim in our giant jaccuzzi tub in our room. The next day we paid for it. On our first day God was with us and we had a perfect day. Our second day, when we did Animal Kingdom/Disney it was the opposite. LA had meltdown after meltdown, the crowds were awful (it was a Saturday vs a school day), and it was so hot…. oh, until it rained. I really wish I’d just put her to bed.

Steve and I both feel like doing two days in a row would be suicide. He is sure that just doing two park days over a three day vacation is a bad idea…. I think it’s doable if you make sure to rest on the between day and put the baby to bed early the night before! Don’t make my mistakes!

14. Use those fast passes! They are amazing…. do some research when you go and don’t waste them. You can only have one at a time on your tickets. So don’t get one for something like Small World, which moves quickly and during certain times of the day has little to no line at all. Use it for the big scary lines.

15. Strategize!– Take some time and look things up. Apple has an iPhone ap that tells you what each ride is and who it’s aimed at. You can get an idea of which have longest lines because it posts wait times.

For example- When we went to Hollywood Studios Auntie C told us that Rockin Roller Coaster and Toy Story have the longest lines in the park. We arrived shortly after the park opened. Auntie C took LA to get fast passes for us all while Steve and I went and rode Rockin Roller Coaster. When we went in the line was 20 minutes long… by the time we came out it was over an hour.

Auntie C got us fast passes for between 11 and 12:30… we walked past the ride about a half an hour later and the fast passes were already being given out for 7 n the evening! So just be aware of which rides have the longest lines and will need fast passes and plan accordingly.

If you don’t want to do the research yourself I can be bribed for some nice cookies or a large Coca Cola to tell you all of my secrets 🙂

16. If you can… get a hotel- I really loved having the hotel… it made it feel more like a vacation rather than a really exhausting, fun day that still ends up back at home. Also, we live about 90 minutes from the park so it’s easy to drive over there and back in a day… in all probability the baby will sleep on the way there and back. So not much difference for them… but huge difference for the adults.

There are a TON of cheap hotel deals. We stayed at a nice one called Mystic Dunes Golf Resort… we had a one bedroom villa with a full kitchen, a hot tub in the bedroom, leather furniture, 4 pools, giant sandbox, free use of putt put golf, ping pong and bicycles for 85 a night.

If you keep an eye on groupon you can get some other amazing deals if you are willing to give some of your time.

There are websites for Time Share deals (search Time Share Disney deals or something)… I’ve seen ones that are two nights in the hotel and two Disney passes for 150 dollars… which is great. You juts have to commit to hear their 2 hour spiel or what not. You can usually only do this once a year, but that works for us. My husband, however, hates going to the spiel… I don’t love it but if you want to give me cash, tickets and a snazzy hotel so you can talk to me about something I cannot afford all while I munch on your free breakfast/lunch… by all means go ahead.

For example our hotel had a deal of they would give you 50$ cash, two tickets to their expensive golf course, and two more nights at their hotel for listening to their pitch. To me, that is worth 2 hours of my time….

If you don’t stay overnight before or after or both… bring PJ’s in the car for your children. Make sure they have a fresh diaper (if necessary) and are cuddled up with whatever they like to sleep with in PJ’s and head home. If you are lucky they will transfer to bed and you can pass out yourself!

17. Remember it’s supposed to be fun… I can’t tell you how many parents we saw shouting at their child or looking annoyed or run down or unhappy. I think there is pressure to get your money’s worth (and with good reason) and to make it this amazing time that it can get to you. You are trying so hard to make things perfect that you snap. Just make a short list of things in your mind that you’d like to do and everything else is extra… and relax. I know, easier said than done… but just remember you can always come back.

So…. those are the best tips I can think of…

This is a really long post and I actually wanted to tell you about the rides and lines and what not… I will put that in another post 😉

If I remember more tips I’ll post them… if you have more I’d love to see them.

Writing the novel- April update   Leave a comment

To sum up… I suck.

I have been terrible at meeting my goal and it is just generally because of life.  No excuses.

I did make quite a bit of headway with editing and was just going to send the 50-70 pages I have or so to the friends who asked/offered to read it when class hit last night.

For some reason I was terribly nervous about class. While editing I had begun to notice all sorts of style issues that stem from the fact that I wrote it nearly 15 years ago… and I know a lot more now than I did then. I’ve changed a lot as a writer.  So I was nervous about what would be said. I was nervous about how my teacher would act in class and would he give me a fair critique….

It went well… the critique that I expected was there. There were a lot of redundancies and some pronoun issues that were called out, rightfully so. A few things were called to my attention that were very helpful. But overall it was really liked. One gentleman said that he found it humorous and could relate to the characters. Another man said he was sure he’d dated Sadira or a co-worker several times. They pointed out several lines that they liked or places they found fascinating. One of the best things I learned was that I have a wider market than I thought. I originally thought I was writing for females 18-35 mostly. But everyone in the class said they would pick up this novel and read it…. that puts my market much wider and includes men. That was exciting.

My teacher said this was very marketable… I believe his quite was “you really have something here”….

And as far as my teacher hating me… he seemed fine last night. Laughed at some of my jokes and was generally normal like he was the first night of class. One of the men called him out on the fact that he wrote a whole new short story and we (myself and the other woman) went ahead with our novel. Teacher said that he just wasn’t clear… but she explained that we had decided to go with our novel anyway. This time the assignment is to send in 5 pages of whatever we want… anything at all. I’m not sure now what I want to send in… the next five pages of my story move things along but may not be really reflective of what I want to show next. If I can edit up to some other more challenging parts of the story that might be best.

That is the good news!

The bad news is that with the errors I found and the errors pointed out to me I now realize I really need to go back and practically rewrite everything I have. It’s full of the same sort of old writing… and would not fit with the rest of the book if I continued writing.

I hate rewriting… so this fills me with dread. Not excited about this at all… although I am eager to start. Yes I’m contradictory and weird.

So there you go! I’m excited and bummed out all at the same time!
Those who wanted pages… I’m not sure. Maybe I can send you the crappy copy if you want… but it might be best to wait for the new improved pages 😉

Posted April 21, 2012 by etainl in Writing