At 7:00, Stitch calls us and Mickey apologizes, yet the birthday boy remains . One of these mornings he's going to answer it.
Sooooooo...Aaron turns three today. I remember exactly what happened three years ago. Sheri was asleep on the couch and I was on the computer downstairs when I hear her say "Honey?"
"I think my water broke"
"Are you sure? How do you know?"
Mistake. That didn't come out the way I meant it.
2 hours and 45 minutes later (not bad for a first kid...didn't even have time for any drugs), Aaron introduced himself to the world screaming bloody murder.
And here he is now 3 years later. I can't think of a much better way to celebrate it.
We give him his birthday card, and he opens it and feigns excitement. Our agenda today takes us to Animal Kingdom for the morning and MK in the evening with a meal at Liberty Tree Tavern and all its characters. We throw on our outfits and head out for the timing test with the busses. On our way we paused for a b-day pic:
YEEHAW! The AK bus is there as we are walking up. Everyone's on, and we're off to Animal Kingdom! A few minutes later, we're there...about 45 minutes before the place opens. No problem...we're eating breakfast at the Rainforest Cafe first. Aaron loves animals, and this place quickly became one of his favorites. As I mentioned earlier in a previous day's report, we occasionally use some of our Fairfield timeshare points to stay at the Fairfield Nashville resort, located less than a quarter mile away from the Gaylord Opryland resort (and the Grand Old Opry). There's also an Opry Mills Shopping Center located nearby, and in it is a Rainforest Cafe. The first time we went, Aaron was only 15 months old and fighting a cold, but he was mesmerized by the fish and the animals in there. We went again when Aaron was 2, and he just fell in love with it! We joined the Safari Club (their frequent diner thing) partially because it gave us the equivalent of priority seating at any of their restaurants.
It came in handy here! When I made the ADRs, they told me that they couldn't do it for the Rainforest Cafe. When we got there, we saw people checking in for their reservation time.
Okay...we were told that they didn't take them, and we were the first folks in the place to make sure we got a table using our Club card, and now we find out that we COULD have had reservations??!! Dude, WTH?!!
I talk with the receptionist, and she says the Disney dining dingbat had the AK one confused with the DTD one (which doesn't take reservations). I showed her my Safari Club card, and she said I'd be seated with those with reservations. Whew.
We started looking around the gift shop (Aaron actually growled back at the leopard in there) when I notice a line of about 75 forming, and I start panicking. If we get seated after them, we may be waiting for quite a while. So I head back up to the podium and am relieved to find out that they are part of a banquet that will not be sitting in the main area.
8:30 rolls around, and we get in line...we are seated by 8:35.
I love the elephants with Santa hats on! We all ordered the Tonga Toast, and, not even knowing that this is not the "real" Tonga Toast, I still loved it. Wow that was an awesome meal! We stay and eat and miss the park opening...oh well, we knew it would be close.
The server asks if they can bring out a birthday thing for Aaron. Giving ice cream to a 3 year-old at 9 am? SURE!!!! What could happen?!!
Psychedelic picture courtesy of the night-setting on the camera.
We pay for the meal and head out to enter the park. As we get in line for guest services to get Aaron a birthday pin, we notice a talking palm tree (Wes Palm, according to Allears). I had heard about how he works but was nonetheless amazed by it. Sheri and Aaron also loved it. Wes was brutal to a woman standing in one of the lines to get in:
Wes: Hey Lady...the one in the purple with the fur coat on. Yeah you! A FUR coat?! Don't you realize this is an ANIMAL park?! GEEZ!!
Sheri then realized that the palm tree was actually corresponding with the people. I wish I had the camera to get her expression. All Aaron wanted to do the rest of the day was find the talking palm tree again.
We put the pin on Aaron, and immediately the entire park starts telling him "Happy Birthday!!" Wow...they really notice! We make our way to Africa and to Kilimanjaro Safari. As we head that way, good ole Pal Mickey starts vibrating every 20 feet to tell us the entire history of the park. At one point, I actually told Mickey to "shut up" and Aaron told me not to say that because it wasn't very nice. Oooooops! Even though we missed the opening by about 20 minutes, the lines weren't bad at all...less than a 10 minute wait to get in. Now, our driver...if SyracuseWolvrine reads this, I'd like to know if he was driving on December 19th...although I've never met him, I think I may have seen a picture of him that he posted a long time ago, and I had an odd feeling that it may be him driving. I was a bit too chicken to ask, though, because with my luck, it wouldn't be him, and I'd get arrested for a string of stalking charges across WDW. Eric...if you were working on December 19th in the morning at the Safari, we almost said "HI" to you. (Mush's Note: After talking to Eric not long after I initially posted this, we were 95% sure it was him as he was working that morning and was wearing glasses)
Anyway, we're off, and I snap another blackmail photo of Aaron:
That one may come out around high school prom time.
Aaron really liked the safari. Sheri seemed enamoured by both rhinos and the baby elephant (according to the number of pictures taken). We exit Kilimanjaro and run into a fantastic drum group in Harambe:
After listening to the drums/whistles for about 10 minutes, we decide to head to Asia when Aaron spots Baloo and some ape. Everyone in line tells me that it's King Louie, and Sheri teases me for not knowing something that a kid knew (I was giving my wife the mental middle finger every time she said that). Right behind us lay several sets of drums. Aaron makes a beeline for them, with me close behind (I've always wanted to be a drummer).
We get to this big one that Aaron can't reach, so I hoist him up and he hits it, getting a "thud" out of it. I show him that it has to be hit harder, like ...THIS!...
OWWW MY HAND DADDY!
Sheri takes the picture right then, and Aaron is just starting to recoil. But man, that drum made a cool sound! Sheri jokingly makes mention that DCFS might find that picture interesting.
We consider heading over to Maharaja Jungle Trek but decide after a potty break (dry…yaaaaay) to head over to Camp Minnie-Mickey. We head around Asia, go by the entrance to Dinoland, and get a good view of the Tree of Life. Funny...the first time I was at AK back in '01, I didn't think much of the Tree...now, however, something just made me want to look at it more and more. I'd like to say it was because I am more mature now than I was back in '01, but I don't think I could get anyone to agree with that statement.
Anyway, we head towards the Camp and find Lilo and Stitch by the Island Mercantile. But we also see a line of about 40 people. Okay...we know we'll be back this way, so we'll skip them for the time being.
We get past Lilo and Stitch and find Chip and Dale! I start explaining the Chuck and Dave thing to Sheri but get a bored look back from her. As we talk to the character escort, she really plays up Aaron's birthday pin and make sure Chip and Dale know it's his birthday. They start dancing around get Aaron giggling:
We have a bit of time before the next showing of the Festival of the Lion King, so I steer us to the character greeting trails. No lines? Are there any characters here? YEP!!! We walk in and are third in line for Aaron's first encounter with the big cheese himself. He's quiet around Mickey, but we get the pics.
Wow...that was cool...no lines. Let's see who's down this trai...no..NO IT CAN'T BE!!!!!!
We're about 4th in line for him. I hoist Aaron up on my shoulders to let Aaron see who it is. "Hey Bud...who is that" I ask.
Aaron gets this big grin and shouts "Donald....CHICKEN!!"
Donald even paused to look at him on that one.
That got a good laugh from the folks in line. "That's not Donald Chicken
" I say (mostly laughing)..."Who is that?"
"Yep..Donald Chicken!" Okay, his ice cream breakfast snack must be kicking in, and he knows he's getting a rise out of me, so he keeps it up until he finally agrees that it's Donald Duck. He does the autograph thing and gets a pic taken. I then ask if it's okay if I got a pic with him too:
Too bad I didn't have time to really talk to him. Although I've finally met him, my life does not yet feel complete, and I have a feeling that this is not our last encounter. (To those who haven't caught on yet, this is known as "foreshadowing")
We also see Koda (who signed his name really cool...made the "o" in his name a bear print) and then decide to get in line for Lion King. We waited a few minutes and then head in. We end up sitting in the Lion part, and Aaron roars really well! The show starts, and Aaron is mesmerized by the show. About ten minutes into it, he is no longer mesmerized and falls asleep. I don't know how, but he slept through the rest of the show!!! Oh well...Sheri and I love the show again (this was one of our faves back in '01 back when we were clueless about the parks). We exit and head over to Tusker House to eat. We pass Lilo and Stitch again, but he's asleep, so we decide catch them the next time we pass by.
As we head over to Tusker House, we spot Flik and make a mental note to try to see him to when Aaron is conscious. As we get to Tusker House, the drum/whistle band is at it again, and Aaron rouses to listen. We make our way into the restaurant and decide on what everyone wants, and then we split up in our usual way. Aaron's a bit cranky (even though he slept over 40 minutes). We used 3 Counter Service meals on the Dining Plan, and I completely forgot that we all got drinks AND dessert along with the main course.
How in the Hell am I going to carry this?!!!! Never fear...a fantastic CM offers to take one of our trays to our table. We're all spread out with three desserts in front of us, so we graze on each others' meals. About half-way through, we have another family with a couple younger girls sit next to us (long table, so we sat next to each other). Aaron was flirting with the younger one, who was showing off by whistling like a bird to him.
Completely stuffed, we head out and almost walk into the drum/whistle show (wow they play a lot). We change directions just in the nick of time and head out the door we came in and make our way to Lilo and Stitch. Oh yeah...we almost forget about Flik. There was no line, so we hop right in and get the pic/autograph. Another birthday boy is in line right behind us, and we find out he was also celebrating his 3rd b-day, so Sheri and the other kid's mother share the times they were born and how many pounds they were and what color eyes the OB-GYN had and if they had an epidzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.
Finally, we're on our way to see Lilo and Stitch...Aaron's awake, and it looks like there's no line. Woohoo
Crap...not there. And, of course, Aaron notices..."Where's LiloStitch?" All I could muster between self-berating breaths was that they had to go rest for a few minutes.
We head over to Dinoland USA and let him into the Boneyard. This kid played really hard in there! Luckily there were 2 of us keeping track of him because he would run around everywhere and had the pick of 3 slides to go down (all of which ended in a different place). After about 15 minutes of energy-burning, I convince him to take the bridge over to the dig site. He didn't quite know what to think about what was going on, so it took him a few minutes to actually get in the "sand" to start digging. He finally joined in with a couple of other kids. One kid would dig around a bone, and Aaron would try putting the sand back . I head in there to show Aaron what to do when Sheri snaps:
Great...this pic got shown to all the relatives over Christmas..."Look at Chris digging with the kids"! Grrrrrrrrr. I don't think I've cursed anyone yet on today's trip, so I'll curse my wife for taking this pic.
We spend nearly an hour in the Boneyard, yet Aaron still screams when we drag him out of there. It was nearing 1 pm, so we decide to head back to the hotel to rest. Along the way we do one more Lilo check. Nope.
Did Aaron notice? Yep!
Was he happy? Nope!
We leave AK and see the last person getting on the bus to the All Star resorts. I look at Sheri and ask if she wants to run for it. Yep! We sprint to the bus stop, and Aaron is loving it! We get back to the hotel and look at our window.
Spikey is battling Mr. Incredible! We weren't thinking or we would have taken a picture of it. Regardless, we all knew that Spikey would have won that battle (he was about 3 times the size of Mr. Incredible, and we all thought the movie sucked, anyway).
We go through what is becoming a routine of not sleeping during nap time. I guess we all did get about 45 minutes before waking up. But those 45 minutes came after an hour of fighting with him to fall asleep.
Our next item on the agenda consists of our first experience with a character meal. We have 6:05 ressies at Liberty Tree Tavern. We decide to head to the busses at 5:00 and maybe tour around Main Street U.S.A a bit. We get to the bus stop and eat the exhaust of a departing bus to Magic Kingdom. No problem...we've got an hour.
And we wait.
17 minutes later, my Great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather drives a bus displaying MK on its sign, but he starts to pull into another space. He then takes 6 minutes to put a wheelchair passenger on and starts talking to them. The wheels on the bus finally start going rounnndd aaannnd rouunnnnnddzzzzzzzz.
We (finally) get to MK at 5:53...we have twelve minutes to get from the bus terminal, through the bag check, through the finger squeeze, through Main Street, over to Liberty Square, and to the Liberty Tree Tavern. We do a jog with the stroller and make it on to Main Street. Look...it's Goofy and MAXIE!!!!!
No time...wave to them...we gotta go! I actually start thinking of Commando Nikki (Robin's daughter…check out her 2003 trip report)and the airhorn and secretly wish she were here to help us out to clear a path.
You know, it's impressive how the writings of one unassuming woman can creep into so many other peoples' thoughts. LY/MI Robin!
No time...we're still flying through Main Street and try to make our way to the left hand side of the road near Casey's Corner because Cinderellabration just finished and about 3,000 folks are trying to make their way out of the park. I've never used the stroller as a weapon, but I nearly consider it. Aaron is just going along for the ride of his life.
We make it to LTT, park Aaron outside, take the stroller in and make it sit down and behave, and check in....6:04!!!! We had about 25 seconds to spare! Aaron is pinging off the walls, and one of the male CMs there gives him a sticker. He plays with it for a second until he sees the characters and goes from pinging to Tasmanian-Devil-in-tornado mode. We get to our table (sprinkled in pixie dust), and within a couple of minutes, Dale stops by. I love the look on Aaron's face on this one.
Goofy comes by and plays with him for a few minutes. The food comes out, and it's awesome, as expected. Then Pluto came by and slurped my wife and kid. While we were waiting for the cake that we ordered, I snapped this one of Sheri and Aaron:
Chip comes by, and Dale passes by again, this time playing peek-a-boo with Aaron:
I think they're buds, now.
The cake comes...
...and Aaron tries to eat it without a fork.
We are only able to eat about 1/4 of the cake, so we look around and find a family of 4 that had just finished their meal. I go to them and tell them about our situation. The kids give their parents doe eyes, and they accept our cake. I leave them my request that they "pay it forward" and give the extra to the next table and so on. They seem almost in shock and tickled that we just gave them our cake with no strings.
Out to the park we go! We basically have a free evening because we saw most everything already! We head to Pirates of the Caribbean, and I'm a little concerned about Aaron being scared. No worries...he absolutely loves it! Pal Mickey talks as we depart the ride and enter the gift shop, and he freaks me out! I have a basic idea of how he works, and I wasn't expecting him to talk when surrounded by 4 walls and a ceiling. He's lucky I haven't drowned him yet with all his talking. As if on cue, he giggles as we leave the gift shop and tells what has to be one of the worst jokes in recorded history...something about what white fluffy dessert flies around in the jungle on vines (a: a meringutang) BOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.
Wishes is starting soon, so we start heading back towards Main Street. Spectromagic was still going, so we had a little time. We notice that Aladdin's Carpets have no line so we walk on. Aaron again loves it (Daddy let him keep the carpet up as high as he wanted...not like the evil Mommy). As we get off, Aaron looks directly over to where Aladdin and Jasmine where and asks where they were.
Damn, kid, you've got a steel trap for a mind!
We get to Main Street (not the bridge like last time...my arm's getting sore from the barrage of punches I'm getting from my wife) and set up camp on on Main Street right by the hub (not too far from the Crystal Palace). We still had about 25 minutes before Wishes so we sit back and people-watch a bit. I am surprised at the exodus of people who aren't staying for Wishes, but that means a quieter park afterwards!!! we strike up a conversation with a few of the folks around us (one family was from Puerto Rico and freezing their asses off...another from Peoria, IL...close to home).
Then Wishes starts. WOW!!! It's amazing how different a fireworks show can be when you can actually see the fireworks. We all were mesmerized by it and can't wait to see it again! After Wishes, everyone heads for the exits. We look at Aaron, and he's rearing to go, so we start our way over to Fantasyland.
We can't get in. I guess it makes sense with all the pyrotechnics going off overhead that they probably want to clean it up, hose it down, and make sure everything's okay. I mess around with the CM holding the rope for a while until she gets sick of me and lets us (and everyone else) in. We know Aaron loved Philharmagic, so we decide to let him see it again on his birthday. While waiting we talk to a family...they live in Galesburg, and the Dad works as an engineer. Among my many obsessions is trains, so we talk a little about that. We go in and see Philharmagic again...still magical, but now we are expecting a couple of the surprises. We did see some items that we didn't catch last time. It's still up there as one of our faves.
It's now about 15 minutes before the park closes, so we decide to start heading out to hopefully avoid some of the insanity. There's another Spectromagic starting at park closing, so I heed the advice of the Unofficial Guide and make our way to the left side of Main Street. Along the way, Sheri lets out a "CUT IT OUT!" I wonder what I did (I was just walking...honest...I wasn't checking any girls out, singing at the table, or anything this time). I look at her with this look, and she tells me that it's not me (whew). She just got rammed for the third time from behind with a stroller, and the woman piloting the stroller gave a "Come On" on the third ram.
Oh no you didn!!! I turn around, and the expression on my face must have put the fear of God into her because she got very apologetic very fast and told me it was an accident. Sheri lets out a under her breath, and as she passed us, I could definitely see that there were no accidents to the ramming.
While on line for the bus, we talk to a really nice family from Mexico who was also staying at Movies. We get home and put Aaron to bed (he crashed on the bus). Sheri and I get to thinking...we're not working and we have guaranteed transportation to/from wherever we want here, yet we still have barely had a drink. I ask Sheri what she wants and head to the food court. I get a Mich Ultra for me and a Smirnoff Ice for Sheri. I get to the cashier, and he asks if there is another adult with me.
Really??? I need another adult?! Wow...didn't expect that. He even said he couldn't help out because his manager was sitting right behind him.
Hmmm...what to do. I briefly contemplated just putting Sheri's drink back and sticking with mine, but the repercussions of that action just would not be good at all for me. So I put Sheri's bottle of Smirnoff in my front pants pocket and walk up to the pool bar. I purchase my beer and head back to the room with the smuggled drink. We always have a tradition to toast and clink glasses whenever we have a drink. As I get ready to hit her Smirnoff with my Ultra, I look at her and ask her if she thought Aaron had a good birthday. We both look at Aaron, who's sleeping peacefully and smile.
I couldn't stop laughing from the "clinking" of our plastic bottles together.
We both hop in bed, and, as I drift off, I realize that the vacation is more than half-over already :-( . Ahh the joys of being a pessimist.