Monday, September 1, 2008

Sweating our way through the House of Mouse

Okay, we've been back a little over 27 hours now, and it's starting to sink in that we're no longer on vacation at Walt Disney World. Le sigh. I've done a preliminary sort through the hundreds of pictures we took (haven't even gotten to the ones that the Disney photogs shot on our various photopass cards...) and am now ready to do a mini-photo review of the past week.

Before I get to the pictures, however, let me just share with you a few thoughts that went through my vacationing brain:

- When they say it isn't the heat, it's the humidity, they are right on (whoever "they" may be). Holy heck, was it humid! Heat indexes were over 100 for most of our stay thanks to the high humidity - all we had to do was step outside our hotel room and we'd begin sweating profusely. Breathing was in and of itself a way to work up a major sweat. This is also how I managed to acquire what is, for me, the deepest tan I've had in about two decades: despite faithfully and persistently slathering (and re-slathering) on the SPF 45 or 50, I'd sweat through it in a matter of minutes. Ew. At least I didn't burn at all, so the sunscreen helped in that regard.

- Whereas the "sweatproof" sunscreen proved to be no match for Heather in High Humidity, the Secret Clinical Strength anti-perspirant/deodorant I bought for the trip was phenomenal. My B never had any O to it whatsoever thanks to the mega-deodorant, something I sadly cannot say the same of for many of the other park/resort guests.

- I understand that some women want to look their best at all times. I get it that some women don't feel "done" and ready to face the world without a little cosmetic assistance in the mornings. That notwithstanding, why on Earth do some women feel the need to do full-on, Tammy Faye makeup applications before spending the day at an amusement park? In central Florida? In August? That may be why so many of said women looked like Tammy Faye; as there is no such thing as sweatproof sunscreen, neither is there truly sweatproof makeup. Well, if there is, these women weren't wearing it - more than once we passed someone who looked like an extra in that House of Wax episode of Fantasy Island my sister and I snuck into my grandparents' bedroom to watch one night (FI was totally forbidden viewing) and which gave us both nightmares for weeks...

- Speaking of fashion don'ts: I saw men wearing manpris. (Manpris: capri pants "for" men.) This is not attractive in any way. Either suck it up and wear actual pants or put on some shorts, but the "three to four inches of hairy calf-n-ankle" isn't a good look for ANY man, even George Clooney, I dare say. Seriously, Tim Gunn would so not approve. Also not really fashion dos for a theme park in the middle of the hottest month of summer: stiletto heels (more often than not worn by the women in full makeup), shorty overalls with nothing on underneath (believe me, we could tell she didn't even have a bra on under the bib part), mesh ANYTHING (especially the large-weave mesh on one particular gentleman's tank top) and of course, Speedos. Well, okay, I can avert my eyes when necessary for the banana-hammock suit in a proper locale (I have spent time in Italy at the beach in the summer, so I get that the Speedo is more popular in other countries than it thankfully is here in the States), but bathing suits in general and especially the Speedos should not, I repeat NOT, be worn anywhere other than the immediate vicinity of a pool/water park. This includes hopping on the bus back to the hotel in nothing but your dripping wet bathing suit and squeezing yourself into the seat next to me or mine. We don't want to be rubbing up against your moist, sweaty, bare flesh, thankyouverymuch.

Speaking of the bus, we used the Disney transportation for the entire week, and man, it saddened me over and over again to see how little courtesy there is in what is supposed to be the Happiest Place on Earth. The most egregious violation of common courtesy (other than the wet-bathing-suited riders who couldn't even be bothered to throw on a t-shirt) was the way people would take or keep a seat ahead of someone who obviously needed it more. You know, like a teenager or 20-something sprawling out on a crowded bus, thereby forcing the elderly person or person with a cane or walker to have to ride standing. Hubby, Kiddo and I gave up our seats repeatedly in such cases, and it seemed to me that most of the folks who would give up a seat were families who would either take a child onto the parent's lap or make their kid stand for the ride instead. Also, is it that hard to say "thank you" these days? Just because someone is a park employee, be they bus driver, "cast member" working at the rides and attractions, waiter or housekeeper (whoops, I mean mousekeeper), that certainly doesn't mean that the rules of common courtesy don't apply. I was quite proud of Kiddo for consistently saying "thank you" to the bus drivers every time we disembarked. Apparently some people think being on vacation means being on vacation from being polite as well... I was shocked at the number of adults who would shove past other people just to get to a ride first or to get into a better spot to see something, like the parades or characters. It was crowd mentality at its worst sometimes, I'm afraid, and it wasn't too heartening to see.

But enough griping from Crotchety McGrump! On to the good stuff (and by that I don't mean mesh tank tops and manpris)! We had such a great time from start to finish, aided in part by careful planning to accommodate the kiddo's SPD needs and to stay as cool as we could given the heat. (One of the best strategies we employed was to schedule some time each day for Kiddo to run around on the playgrounds at each of the parks. She loved the Honey, I Shrunk the Kids playground at Hollywood Studios and the Space Shuttle playground at Epcot the most. At the Space Shuttle playground, Kiddo befriended a little girl - as she does, since to Kiddo there are no strangers, only friends she hasn't yet met - and I busted out my rusty Spanish to chat with her new friend's mom and grandmother. They were from Argentina and spoke no English at all, but somehow Kiddo and the other girl managed to play just fine for over half an hour. Amazing the ease in international relations when one is a child... I was just glad that the mom and grandmother were gracious enough to not laugh at my half-remembered Spanish, but instead were extremely pleasant and friendly even as I butchered their language to their face.) Hubby, who is a planner extraordinaire, researched and planned and strategized to the nth degree and therefore we were so well prepared that we didn't have a single thing to worry about. Just about the only thing we didn't have with us that we could've used was some WD40 (or axle grease) for our Freecycled umbrella stroller, which disliked the humidity and horrendously squeaked accordingly. Other than that, Hubby had everything set up so well that we had nothing to do but enjoy ourselves. From the cases of bottled water he ordered and had shipped from the local Costco over to our hotel the day we arrived to the mini-cooler and ninety million Ziploc bags in all sizes from wee to ginormous, we were set. We enjoyed one park each day, plus time at the hotel's pool (delightful, and with a long, long waterslide that Kiddo particularly adored) and ate our meals in the various resort/park restaurants using the Disney Dining Plan. We ate SO much and SO well and still had some snack credits left over at the end of the trip. Apparently we'll have to eat more next year...

Best Rides/Attractions of this trip (there were some we didn't get to, like Space Mountain, the Tower of Terror and the Kalihari River Rapids - they'll be priority rides for next year):

- Expedition Everest (Animal Kingdom): Woo! What a ride! I was planning on chickening out of this one, but am SO glad I let Hubby talk me into it (after he went on it first). Totally the best ride I went on this time around, and gave me the courage to NOT chicken out on the Rockin' Roller Coaster (featuring my beloved Aerosmith) next year.
- Soarin' (Epcot): This is the hang gliding experience ride that they imported from Disneyland to significantly jazz up The Land portion of Epcot. It was spectacular, especially the first two times we rode it when we managed to sit in the first row. The third time (unfortunately also my MIL's first time, so she had less of a spectacular time) we were in the back row, so we had feet dangling in our peripheral vision from above and the edge of the screen in our peripheral vision from the sides and below. Let me tell you, even though I knew this was just a ride and that we weren't really miles and miles up in the air, I still had a minor panic attack the first time we rode it. It really feels like you are flying, and hoo nelly, did that freak out this "fear of falling from a great height" chick. It seriously was mind-over-matter to keep calm but I loved it nonetheless, weirdly enough.
- Mission Space (Epcot): This is the flight simulation of a shuttle trip to Mars. Another ride that Hubby went on first (Kiddo was too short) and then convinced me I would enjoy. Unfortunately, riding it in the later evening and by myself meant that I got stuck in the simulator (very close quarters) with a Drunken Yokel Couple. (No offense to any possible yokels out there who may be reading this, of course.) I'm talking beer breath (hello Germany Pavilion Oktoberfest), leathery skin (with rather red necks), misspelled tattoos (but did they even know it?), a NASCAR muscle t-shirt on him and one of those "body in a bikini" t-shirts on her, and maybe 30 to 35 yellowing teeth between the two of them. Did I mention they were drunk? I'm just saying, NASA would never have allowed them to fly in that condition, but Gary Sinise (via video feed from "Mission Control") apparently had no such concerns. Despite their drunken, yokelly antics, I still totally loved the ride, and feeling all that G-force was ka-razy!!
- Test Track (Epcot): We did this one twice, and it reminded me of riding in the back seat of the car with my dad driving, only I knew that this was a much safer ride. It only gets up to 65mph (Dad goes much faster than that on the highway), but the tipping of the turns made it seem a lot scarier and faster than that!
- Turtle Talk with Crush (Epcot): This was so cool, more from the "observing the kiddo" part than anything. It is some real Disney magic that enables the animated Crush the Sea Turtle to actually converse with people in the audience. Crush encourages kids to ask questions, and he called on Kiddo (her question: Is the ocean warm or cold?) and interacted with her for about 2 minutes. Way freaking cool.

Foodwise, we ate some spectacular meals. The best of the best were the lunch we had at Yak and Yeti (Animal Kingdom) which was perfection on a plate, the Kona Cafe (Polynesian resort) which had this honey-macadamia nut butter for the bread that came before our delicious steaks and which I could've eaten straight out of the ramekin and somewhat surprisingly, the lunch we had at the Norway pavilion at Epcot. We ate lunch at Norway because it was one of the character dining experience locations, specifically the Princess Lunch for Those Families Who Didn't Manage to Get a Reservation for the Princess Meal at Cinderella's Castle. Hubby and I were willing to suck it up and eat some lutefisk or whatever it took for Kiddo to get to meet a slew of princesses in one, fell swoop, but we were amazed and delighted that the lunch was terrific! I'm going to look up the recipe for the kjøttkaker we ate. Kjøttkaker is kind of a Norwegian meatloaf, and it was quite tasty!

The hotel was great, and sharing a room with Kiddo (her first time ever in a hotel) wasn't too bad. She wouldn't fall asleep with us in the room, so each night we'd shut off all the lights and step outside (our room opened directly to the outdoors, not a hallway). We'd give it a few minutes and head back in and she'd be out cold. As soon as she was asleep, we could turn the lights back on and even put the TV on and she wouldn't wake up. The only downside to sharing a room with her is that I wound up sleeping with her each night - she'd wake up and want to come get in our bed to snuggle, so I'd wind up crawling into hers instead. Hubby enjoyed having a queen bed all to himself, and I was just glad the room had two queen beds because Kiddo likes to go sideways in her sleep, thereby guaranteeing a foot in Mommy's ribcage or armpit or groin in the middle of the night.

Okay, enough about the food, the hotel and the fun rides. This is officially an epic length post, so on to the photo recap (and by the way, all the pictures were taken with the new, red Sony Cybershot camera I won from SITS)....

This is the walk from the main building at the Coronado Springs Resort to our room. We were a decent 10 minutes away from the main building, but just about a four minute walk to the pool and the bus stop, which was very convenient. The walk was quite scenic, too, going past the lagoon and beaches and through shaded pathways crawling with lizards and toads (quite exciting to Kiddo) and gorgeous flowers.

This was my highest score on the Toy Story Mania game/ride. Not too shabby, until you take into account that this:

was how well the kiddo (yellow) and I (green) did the first time we went through. I blame my low score in the first game on the fact that I was distracted by trying to help Kiddo out with the game. (You'll notice - or rather WON'T notice - that I neglected to photograph the shooting accuracy percentages, so you will not see that I had a measly 23% accuracy to Kiddo's 34%....) Oh, the reason these two pics are blurred is not shoddy photography but because they are part of a 3-D game and I didn't think to stick my 3-D glasses in front of the camera lens.

There are "living statues" around the various parks, and Kiddo quickly spotted this Army Dude at Hollywood Studios. She told him some secret and he high fived her in return, but she wouldn't tell me what she said to him.

We did three separate character dining experiences this time around. The first one was the Playhouse Disney lunch in Hollywood Studios, and Kiddo was way excited to greet Leo from the Little Einsteins (who wears glasses JUST LIKE HER! WOO!) - she hugged him so enthusiastically I was worried his gigantic head might tip right over backwards!

Hollywood Studios was doing a "block party" parade, featuring characters from the Toy Story movies, A Bug's Life, Monsters Inc and The Incredibles. At one point, the dancers invited the audience to dance along with the Twist, and Kiddo took them literally. She took off running, bolting through the crowd we were stuck behind (one of those times when adults decided to stand directly in front of the kid in the stroller, grrrr) and was half a block up by the time I wormed my way through the throng to get to her. She twisted right there in the middle of the parade and would've climbed aboard the float behind the Disney Dancing Dude if I hadn't stopped her!

The Magic Kingdom. Hubby snapped this from the Flying Dumbo in front of us, conveniently obscuring most of Kiddo's face with Dumbo's ruffle so that I could post the picture on my blog. Well, I don't think he actually obscured her on purpose, but it works!

Character Dining Experience #2: Pooh and Friends at the Crystal Palace. We did this one last November as well, but thought it would be fun to do again. Tigger was messing with Kiddo's hair in this shot; he swished her pigtails around until they were a disaster and then tried to smooth them back out. Tigger clearly has no clue how difficult and painful it is for Mommy to get Kiddo's hair into the two pigtails to begin with...

Kiddo really, really, REALLY wanted some mouse ears. On our second trip to Magic Kingdom, we acacquiesced (she also had money saved from her birthday to use however she saw fit on our vacation). We went to the shop where you can customize your own hat, and she chose pink and pink (or "blush" and "bashful" as Shelby in Steel Magnolias would say). She also had her name stitched on the back in hot pink script. The hat is a bit large, so it should be wearable for a good few years before it needs replacing.

Finally, the Mouse Himself up close and personal! We'd glimpsed him from a distance (at the Magic Kingdom opening, for example) but this was the first time Kiddo laid eyes on him - and he laid hands on her - and she was super excited about it! So excited, in fact, that she neglected to get his autograph. This was at Epcot on our first trip there.

Test Track! As you can see, the wind does go whipping through your hair as you head around the outdoor portion of the track. I'm impressed I caught this much of Kiddo and Hubby as I was photographing from the seat next to them whilst whipping around hairpin turns, perpendicular to the ground!

Here I am outside the Nemo rides (in The Living Seas pavilion at Epcot). Yes, I hopped up onto the wall to get my picture snapped with Dory, Marlin and crew (I cropped Kiddo out from the other side of Marlin and next to Nemo). Lots of other folks did it first, so I'm using the "peer pressure" rationalization here. (No, I wouldn't jump off the bridge too, don't worry...) Once again, I am just ridiculously sweaty here, I haven't just been doused by a fire hose or something.

While we had some really good princesses at the Norway lunch, Snow White wasn't one of them (neither was Sleeping Beauty - instead we had Alice of "in Wonderland" fame, and excuse me, but when exactly did she get promoted to princess, eh?) so we went back around the World Showcase to meet Snow White (and Dopey!) in Germany and Sleeping Beauty (with Prince Phillip - no, not of England, of Sleeping Beauty fame) in France. Snow White had a great voice that matched the movie character quite well (in other words, kinda squeaky and almost annoying) and she had a lovely chat with Kiddo despite the black storm clouds rolling in above her. We did have great weather for most of the week, with the exceptions being this particular afternoon and again almost all day Saturday, when Gustav sent some rain to Orlando. Both rainy spells occurred while we were at Epcot, strangely enough...

This is Animal Kingdom, and if you look closely you'll see that no, Kiddo isn't just waving at a tree, she's waving at DeVine, who is a performer (for lack of a better word) who wanders about the park, insinuating herself into the foliage and then moving again to surprise the passers-by. We'd been tipped off to her presence and were able to spot her for Kiddo, who was quite amazed, especially when DeVine held out a "branch" for Kiddo to shake.

They have these same types of "misters" around the Strip in Vegas, too. However, that dry Vegas heat helps the mist cool you then evaporate quickly, whereas here, this just looked like an animated version of the air we were in already. Kiddo enjoyed it though!

One of the highlights of the trip for Kiddo was going to see the Festival of the Lion King. You'll note we were right down in front, which was very cool. Kiddo loves this show, and when she got her Fairy Godmailer postcard "from Simba" a few weeks ago, he referenced the show which made her even more excited about it. She wore her trading-pin necklace to the show (we mostly kept it in the backpack unless she wanted to trade with somebody) and kept pointing out the Simba pin she'd acquired earlier in the week to all the various cast members as they danced and sang in front of her. Hee!

This is the safari ride, and if you look in front of our truck, yes, that is a giraffe holding us up. I mean, not like a "stick up" but holding up traffic. The giraffe meandered across the road and finally over to the other side where there was an adorable baby giraffe hanging out. I'm pretty sure this is the only time in my life I've ever been stopped in a vehicle because of a giraffe!

Back at Epcot for a rainy, rainy Saturday. Between the cloudbursts, we did the World Showcase to try to catch the characters we missed earlier in the week. This time around, Kiddo wanted to do the "Kidcot" activity where she could decorate her own mask and then get stamps and little paper symbols from each country to attach to it. We stopped at about half of the different countries before abandoning the plan due to the rain, when Hubby stuck the mask (along with everything else we were carrying) into some gigantic Ziploc bags to keep dry.

And home again, home again, jiggety jig. This is the pile o' luggage and Kiddo (plugged in to her Leapster as she was on the plane as well) waiting for Hubby to retrieve the car from the longterm parking lot. She is sitting next to her Baby Simba, which Hubby got for her from the hotel gift shop one night. She didn't really need another stuffed animal, but hey, he's cute and he comes with his own "leaf blanket" that Kiddo loves to wrap him up in.

So there you have it, our week at Disney World! Hubby is editing the video footage together and I'll be posting more pics (probably on Facebook) so if you want to see more, just let me know!


kwr221 said...

Welcome back!

You are dead=on about the fashion and manner faux-paxs. I was laughing at the visuals.

Love your photo recaps. We last were there at Thanksgiving almost 2 years ago - the weather was definitely more bearable.

Which side of Misison SPace did you ride? I wimped out and id the safe side.

We stayed at Coronoad Springs a few years ago - ggreat spot!

Excuse the sad typing.

Carrie said...

My favorite line, "My B never had any O..." I'm still cracking up over that one!

I'm so jealous! It will be quite a few years until the midget and the midget's future sibling will be old enough to go to Disney! Considering said future midget has yet to be conceived, it will be even longer...

Glad you had a blast!!

Heather said...

I was a very brave girl and did the Orange "More Intense" though I almost chickened out and went for the Green "Less Intense" .... I only stuck with the orange side because Hubby had sworn to me I'd be okay, so I figured either I *would* be okay or I'd barf all over and then never let him live it down - win win, right? :D

Now I just need to get my courage up for the Rockin' Roller Coaster...

Hot Tub Lizzy said...

Wow! What a great trip! My mom is taking Essie & Gert to DisneyWorld the week after Christmas (ACK!!) so I'll have to send her this blog for all the suggestions.

Veggie Mom said...

What a great travelogue! Glad you and yours made it back safe and sound. I like the balanced approach you took to your insights--it's always nice to learn of the bad along with the good! Sounds like you made memories that will last forever!

Ronnica said...

I went to Disney (finally - my younger brother was 22) with the family last year. My dad, brother, and I waited the longest for Soarin' and we didn't even know what it was. We had hoped it was an actual ride. We were SO disappointed as it wasn't at all worth the 90-minute wait. But we were on the bottom, so it was kinda like watching an IMAX movie with obstacles but not even that cool.

Ronnica said...

Oh, and DON'T chicken out of Rockin' Roller Coaster last time. It's probably my favorite of the Disney stuff (though I like the coasters at Islands of Adventure better). It's freaky because of the shooting start, but it's worth it.