Tuesday, March 31, 2009

December 2005 Trip Report, Day 3: Disney’s Revenge

When we last left our heroes, they were fast asleep in room 720 of the All Star Movies resort. Not having their 11 month old (Eric) with them, Chris and Sheri were enjoying their second night of uninterrupted sleep in nearly a year. There was no wake-up call…no set time to be anywhere…nothing but relaxing and a little shopping.




Sheri's cell phone? I hop out of bed, noticing that it's still quite dark outside, fumble through her purse (never a good idea), and look to see who it is. Some number from back home that we don't know. I didn't answer it, for if I did, I would probably be welcomed back home with a restraining order against me from the idiot who called. As I head back to bed, I take a look at the time: 3:30.


Mush is not a happy camper.


I get back to sleep eventually in hopes of making it to 8 am...


...and we're up before 7.


I hit the bathroom and wonder why the military doesn't consider using the technology in these rocket toilets for warfare. You don't kill the enemy…you just launch sewage water at them from a mile away at 300 miles an hour and humiliate them until their will to fight is broken.


In the shower…then it's the kid's turn in the shower. While he plays in the water, I get dressed and look over the itinerary: Bus to AK, bus to AKL, eat at Mara, bus to DTD, shop, bus to ASMO, rest, play around at hotel, then eventually head over to WL for dinner at WCC. Great plan, right? We head out to the bus stops just as an AK bus pulls away. The timing check is foreboding disaster today.


We wait about 15 minutes and catch the bus to AK. While en route, Sheri's Mother calls to see how things are going. It was snowing in Illinois and had a temperature of 3 above 0. MUAHAHAHAHAAA. She also wanted to pass along the phone number of Sheri's first cousin. Brittany did the college thing at WDW for a while and, while she's back living in central Illinois, she had a boyfriend that worked at the AS Sports food court and was down to see him. We promised we'd try to call sometime today to see if we can meet up with her.


We hit AK and see the peak of Expedition Everest…it even looks awesome from the bus stop! About 8 minutes later, we're on another bus to the Animal Kingdom Lodge.


We get there in no time and enter the atrium. I've seen pictures before, but this place is cool! We take a couple of pictures and look around a bit before heading over to the Mara for breakfast. We find Mara, and it looks like the All Star Movies food court but with a little different theming. While we decide what to eat, Sheri and I both comment that the environment of the deluxe hotel we are currently standing in is vastly different from the environment of the All Stars Value hotel that we are staying at. While it is definitely more beautiful and aesthetic, a lot of the people don't seem as happy here at AKL. I heard a lot of grumbling about what I considered to be minute details...dare I say I felt there to be a snob factor here. It wasn't just the parents - some of the children were already mimicking the actions of their parents at a very early age. Not all gave off this feeling, mind you...but enough for both Sheri and me to notice.


I responded the only way I could...I started talking like Thurston Howell III from Gilligan's Island and describing the reunion I was to have that evening with my fellow Harvard Law alums as we dined on hasenpfeffer and sipped a fine double-malt scotch (in a somewhat quiet voice so only Sheri could really understand what I was saying).


We decided what we wanted to eat, and Sheri and Aaron headed outside to look for a table. I got in line and listened to some of the families attempting to converse with each other. I got the food and looked for Sheri and Aaron. Sheri kind of had a look on her face, and I immediately wondered what I did wrong this time. Apparently they found a table and Aaron was heading towards one of the seats when a young kid runs over and stakes the table out for his family. Sheri guessed that he kid didn't see them just about there, but she and Aaron had to settle to look for another table.


It wasn't my fault at least. That's all that's going through my mind.


Now, AKL doesn't use straws...I found out the hard way after looking for them for about 5 minutes in the condiments/napkins area. This did not bode well for Aaron, who had never drank out of a milk carton without a straw. At least we had almost finished eating when the milk spilled. I went back in for more napkins and fought off another family trying to get our table just so I could clean it up for them.


Breakfast taken care of, we walk outside around the pool (nearly lost Aaron...there is a place with several trails and shrubs near the pool). He sees the playground, and we commit our first crime and use the AKL playground without actually staying on it. I started talking a la Thurston Howell again in the hopes that everyone would think we were staying here (wifey nearly slapped me). We let him play with the other kids for a few minutes and then drag him away before the SS came to get us.


We then head back inside and look around some more. By the windows out back, there were three rocking chairs and three of us. I ask someone to take a photo of us in the chairs:


I have to show this one too...it was just too cute to omit:


Do another potty break before heading out to the bus stops for DTD. For those who haven't seen the layout to AKL the bus stops are quite a ways away from the main entrance. Keep this in mind.


Timing check. We are walking down to the busses when the DTD bus just leaves. 0 for 2 so far...oh well, right?


Aaron and I go play hide-and-seek and tag while we wait for the bus. Some of the parents there seemed surprised that I would actually be having fun with my kid on vacation. Aaron must have had too much fun, however, because he went behind the bench and got real quiet.


Many parents know that action as "I'm filling my drawers and don't want to be disturbed."


Crap (literally).


I grab the wipes and a new pull-up and assume that the bus will come about 20 seconds after we leave the area. Just in case, I sneak into an area of the AKL where nobody was and nobody could see unless they were really nosy and change him in about 30 seconds.


Proud of myself at the turnaround time, I head back to the bus-stop only to see the bus there and the driver talking to my wife. With Aaron in my arms, I to them at a pretty good clip. Aaron is giggling, and I feign a heart attack as I approach the bus. The driver said that she refused to get on without me.


All together now...AWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW


I said that was very sweet.


Then the driver followed up and said it was because I had all the credit cards.


<----Rim Shot


We're on our way to DTD, and the bus driver is one of those who gives a full tour as he goes. One of the best ones he said was that the Walt Disney World area actually has a mayor...it's a government within a government ... pause ... Disney tells Florida what to do, and Florida listens.



I'm going to be getting a lot of mileage with that smiley today.


We get to Downtown Disney's Marketplace and, I restrain Aaron from the fountains in the sidewalk. We hit the Christmas store, and it hits us back. Seems like everyone else had the same idea as us.


Another math question for y'all: Busy + Stroller + Small Aisles + Mush Isn't Much of a Shopper = Mush is pissed.


We fight our way out and ask them to toss our son out too, and Wifey hits the scrapbooking store. She gets the Disney Dollars card (still has around $40 after using it to buy Pal Mickey) and gets some awesome deals (Hell, even I was impressed at all that she got). Aaron and I don't do scrapping, so I entertain him at the entrance to the Rainforest Cafe. He has fun trying to get pennies in the crocodile's mouth.


We then are starting to get a little hungry, and the Earl of Sandwich was next on the itinerary. We look over the menu and notice that, while the line was huge, it was moving really fast, so we split up (Sheri takes Aaron outside and I get in line for the food). I saw a Western Illinois University shirt in the line, so I talked to him for a sec (their current President was one of my phone-a-friends for Millionaire)...found out he was the tennis coach for WIU.


I bring the food out, and Aaron devours half of his pizza sandwich in two bites (at least it's not chicken blobs). I had the Scudetto (awesome), and Sheri had the Original. We call Brittany (her cousin...re-read the beginning if you're not keeping up *cough* Tony). Her beau had to go to work at 4, so she said she'd call if she was going to head over to Movies.


That done, we head over to the Toy Store and make a bee-line for the Mr. Potato Head area. I've read a bunch about it, and we wanted to see if it lived up to its hype.


It did. Though I was still not in the greatest of moods, there were some really cute accessories/body parts that were unique. For those who don't know about this, for around $19, you get a box that you can fill with as many parts as you want to. We already had a Potato Head at home and had Darth Tator wrapped for Aaron's birthday, so we didn't need a 3rd Potato. I asked to see if we had to have a Potato Head in the box or if it was okay to just put parts in. Just parts was okay .


We head out and snap a pic of Aaron with his superhero:


On to World of Disney. That store is flippin' huge! It's also flippin' busy! We saw only a few rooms of it. Aaron was nearing his limit and was starting to fall asleep when:


We're going on a trip in our favorite rocket ship. ZOOOOOOMMINNGGG THRROUUGHH THE SKIESSSS...Little Einsteins


Is it me or is that theme song just addicting?


Climb aboard. Get ready to explore. THERE'S SO MUUUUUCCCCHHH TO FIND...Little Einsteins


Aaron (and nearly every other kid in the store) is fixated on the huge tv screen in one of the rooms at the promo for the Little Einsteins DVD.



We're going on a mission. Start the countdown. 5....4....3..2..1


I start singing with them.


Everyone to Rocket. Rev it up now....vvrroooOOOOMMMMMMMMM


Sheri is staring at me like I'm a lunatic.


In my defense, at least 30% of the adults in that room were doing the same thing! I challenge all of you to hear that theme song and not have it in your head for the rest of the day! The kids that actually sing that...WOW...they're young but they harmonize really well in some parts of the song.


Aaron falls asleep in the stroller, while I hum the theme a few more times. I have a certificate for a free pin from Birnbaum's Official Guide. I figure out where to go, and a few minutes later, I have my first Disney pin (okay...second pin...a friend gave me a Millionaire pin from MGM after my date with Regis in 2001).


Aaron's out for the count, and I'm getting a bit tired myself. We decide to bypass Legoland and head back to the hotel for the rest that is already taking place. We get on the bus and sit down. There is a family across the aisle with one of the most talkative (but cutest) 4-year old girls I have ever seen. Standing next to them was a woman who could have easily been Miss Texas. I was trying not to drool too much, but it was no avail. The family with the girl had just come back from a Disney cruise, and I talk to them about how it was. Sheri is digging her nails into my leg because she knows exactly what I'm doing. Our ten-year anniversary is about 18 months out, and we have all but agreed to do WDW for it. I'm trying to convince her to do a cruise, too (the land/sea package), but she's really concerned about sea-sickness/motion-sickness. Neither of us have been on a cruise, but I'm starting the propaganda phase early . We still have time, but it may just be a land excursion (I'm not done yet, though).


We get back to Movies, and Aaron's wide awake. Does he rest at all? Nope! Do Mommy and Daddy get any rest? Nope! At least he got a good 45 minute nap at DTD. Well, we're all awake and doing well, so let's head out. We're gonna change the plans...eat at Whispering Canyon, tour the resorts a bit, and then hit Epcot for Illuminations. We head to the bus stop and I get this happy feeling in my pocket.


My phone was vibrating.


It was Brittany. She comes over to the food court, and we talk with her for a while. Aaron is totally psycho now because he's at WDW and knows someone there. Sheri and Aaron make a few pressed pennies while talking to Brit. Eventually we part ways and head out to the busses. The original plan was to take the MK bus and then boat to WL. The Epcot bus gets here first, and it's empty, so we hop on that one and decide to transfer there instead (we'll get the boat ride in later). On the bus ride from Epcot to Wilderness Lodge (in case you didn't know what WL was), Aaron falls asleep..


We get to WL and stop to take a few pictures.


Hmmm...too dark. So I spoke unto thee and said "LET THERE BE LIGHT". And there was light, and it was good.


It's amazing what digital cameras can do...we just switched to the night shot for the second pic.


Now, we're here for a couple of reasons. First, we want to eat some good food and see what I have been told is an awesome atrium. Second, I'm delivering Robin's report from earlier this year to Bobby. Well...not the whole report...part of the chapter where they meet Bobby and Nikki gets her ring (I'm on a budget and can't afford all the paper needed to print out the ENTIRE report...geez).


We're at WL about 45 minutes before our ADR, so we look around some and get a few pics. I look over to Whispering Canyon and don't see a Tigger hat (what I gathered to be Bobby's trademark). Bummer...I guess we'll have to drop off the report. I stop by the hostess table and ask if Bobby was by chance working that night. He was, and I asked if we could request his section. They let me know that it may take a bit longer (no prob...we were still 20 minutes early for our ADR). Besides, I have something to give him.


They looked at me the same way Sheri looked at me as I sang the Little Einstein's theme. I played on. Yep...Bobby has a stalker!


I hope they realized I was joking. They give me the pager, and I give it to Aaron, who has to go potty, so he gives it to Sheri, and I take him potty. Of course the pager goes off as soon as we enter the men's room. (bad timing karma yet again).


We are seated and THERE HE IS!!! The famous Bobby the Kid. He introduces himself, and I scare him by asking about what happened to Tigger! He mentions that someone else started wearing a frog on his/her hat, and a bruhaha ensued as to what was considered appropriate dress. Tigger was axed, apparently.


Now...how in the hell did I know about Tigger if this was my first time eating here? I contemplate doing a "This is Your Life" segment, but I was worried they would think I actually WAS stalking him. I then tell him that I know the Dunlap family and the Costello family via the internet and that he made such an impact on Robin's crew that she wrote about it and wanted him to know how much he was appreciated.


I gave him the chapter, and he was speechless. He actually started reading it at the table. I mentioned that it was 17 pages long and he put it under his arm. My guess is that he read a little bit of it every time he went behind the walls.


Oh yeah...we're eating here too. He introduces himself to Aaron and asks Aaron if he had any girlfriends. We tell him about last night with Cinderella and Jasmine, and Bobby comments that he is really handsome. Another server, Lelani, walks by just as I rip off my glasses and act all suave, stating that he gets his looks from his father. Lelani then says "Oh really...is his father here?"


Sheri and Bobby both about fell on the floor laughing.


While I licked my wounds, Bobby tries to get a drink order from Aaron. He goes through about 30 different drinks, and Aaron is just fixated on every word he is saying. Bobby starts throwing in stuff like liver pate and pig's feet, and Aaron keeps nodding his head like he understands exactly what he's saying and believes every single word.


I decide to have a beer and ask what they have for a selection. He starts going through the list, and I start acting just like Aaron...serious look on my face...nodding my head and saying "uh-huh" after every selection. He cracked up after a few seconds, and I decided on a Mich Ultra. He then asks where we were from, and we told him central Illinois...Bloomington to be exact. Apparently he likes to keep track of this.


A few minutes later, he walks by and throws a handful of napkins behind him right over Sheri's head. Aaron doesn't quite know what to think. He then comes back with our drinks. He stands behind Aaron and tells him to look at the picture on the wall. As Aaron does that, he drops about 20 straws right over Aaron's head and into his lap. That got Aaron giggling!


I told Sheri about the Zurg (Bennet) tradition of bussing his tables. With Aaron, however, we would not be able to do it. Mr. the Kid stops by with something, and we let him know that he got off the hook this one time regarding us bussing his tables. He went out of character and started reminiscing a little bit. He said that the rest of the waitstaff always wondered how he got his tables to bus for him, and he got embarrassed trying to explain why. Note to Bennet, Kimball, Robin, and anyone else seeing Bobby...keep up the tradition of bussing.


Another couple is seated where we would have bussed. A couple of minutes later:






I turn around, and just as loud as he was:








The folks at the table he was at now get into the game:




The table between the two of us shouting now speaks up:






<---Bobby's face


Oops...wrong state. "Sorry about that," he says to the Indy table.


The Indianapolis table fires back that the woman there lived in Decatur for several years.


The food came out, and it was just about as awesome as it was the previous night at CRT. During the meal, a band started playing Christmas music in the lobby of the Lodge, so the servers were told to tone it down while they played. I must have mentioned earlier in the meal that Aaron's birthday was tomorrow (the 19th), but Bobby moved it to tonight. He screamed for everyone's attention and promptly got scolded for hollaring during the special music. "It's not like anyone is listening to them anyway"...that got him a good laugh from several tables. He rounded up several "princesses" and gathered them around the table near Aaron.



He then tells Aaron to cover his ears while he talked to the girls. The funny part is that Aaron started covering his ears when they started singing "Happy Birthday" to him.


Aaron also did the requisite pony trot and got his wooden nickel.



As we left (we left him an extra $10 on top of the included dining plan tip), I told him I had a stupid question to ask. He, of course, replied that there are no stupid questions, to which I replied that I was a college economics professor and have therefore heard plenty of stupid questions. Anyway, I asked him how to get to the boat launch. He gave the directions. We shook hands, and our Bobby experience was over.


Okay, despite the bad timing karma, the meal went really well.


Once the meal was over, it was all downhill.


Someone spilled a drink in/on our stroller, so our coats/sweatshirts, etc. were all wet. It was a cool evening, too (yes, Debbie, I actually was cold down there for a brief amount of time). We curse under our breaths and head out to the MK boat to catch the monorail. Like clockwork, Aaron falls asleep before the ferry arrives at Ft. Wilderness. Awww...and we are riding the monorail too for the first time!


Okay, change of plans (YET AGAIN!). Sheri and I decided to skip Epcot and tour the monorail resorts...Aaron would think all that was boring anyway. We go through the Contemporary, and Sheri presses a few pennies. Over to the Polynesian. I'm going to stay at the Poly some day...mark my words. More pennies sacrificed themselves for Sheri. Then the Grand Floridian. We saw the huge gingerbread house in there as well as the mega-tree. We didn't feel the "uppity" factor at the Poly or Wilderness Lodge. The Contemporary and the Grand Floridian, however...whoah. While looking around at the GF, I realized that very few folks had mouse-ears on or Disney clothing on or anything of the sort. Compare that to the All Stars, and 70-80% of the folks are running around with a Goofy hat or Mike W's (Monster's Inc.) hat or something along those lines. I'd definitely like to stay at the Grand Floridian sometime, but I am finding myself perfectly content with the value resort. Sheri agrees.


Aaron wakes up while at the GF, so we get a gingerbread man to split. We sat down on one of the sofas in the lobby and were scared to spill any crumbs for fear of immediate death.


MVMCP was going on that night, and Wishes was just ending, so the line for the monorail was really long (FYI the monorails don't run during fireworks). We hop on the monorail to head back to Magic Kingdom to take the bus back to Movies. The audio of the monorail as you enter "Stitch Kingdom" (according to Experiment 626) cracked me up.


We take the bus and talk with some folks returning from the Christmas party...they all said it was jammed.


We get off at All Star Sports to see if we could talk to Brittany's boyfriend for a couple of minutes, but he was on his lunch. Since Aaron was awake, we walked back to Movies via Sports and Music.


Back at our hotel room, we know tomorrow is going to be a huge day...Aaron's birthday! Today was supposed to be a slow day, and it was not as relaxing as I had hoped. Hopefully tomorrow would be a little better.


We'll see what the first bus stop tells us.

Monday, March 30, 2009

December 2005 Trip Report, Day 2: Timing is Everything!

The previous night I set a wake-up call for 6:50.



(I'm up)




(I'm waiting to see if Aaron will answer it)




(Wifey: It's the phone, you mo-ron)
















Wifey (looking directly at me): dumbass.



Thus begins our first morning at Walt Disney World.




We had all bathed the night before, and Sheri, being the more organized of the two of us, had the bag packed and the stroller ready. We just had to get dressed and get moving. I looked over the touring plan for the 17,432nd time and put it in my pocket. Aaron was thrown in the stroller, and we were off to the Food Court for breakfast. I pulled out my mace fully expecting a mob scene there, and it was a ghost town.




I remember reading about the Mickey waffles and how good they were, so I decided to try one for myself. Sheri went for the platter and skipped the eggs. Aaron got the kid's Mickey waffle with strawberries. Aaron was 2, so he could eat for free at the buffets, and we planned to share our stuff with him elsewhere. We didn't purchase the dining plan for him. Since the waffles for him were pretty inexpensive, we decided just to pay for his (besides, we were hungry, darn it!). I didn't even look at the receipt showing how many counter service credits we had remaining.


The cursing of the day goes to Delswife (Robin), who let me in on this little secret! I absolutely loved that malted enriched flour waffle shaped like the head of Mickey Mouse. Not only did it taste great, I got all the carbs I'll need for the next two weeks from that meal alone! Sheri did find some sugar-free syrup, so I rationalized that I wouldn't gain 60 pounds on the spot. I secretly knew that this would not be the last time I'd be eating one of these. Aaron got a kick out of chomping on Mickey's ears (filled with strawberries).


Now, the timing on just about everything yesterday was pretty much perfect, so I prepare myself mentally for long waits…besides, we're going to the Magic Kingdom on a Saturday. We get in line for the MK bus, and about 30 seconds later, up rolls a bus for us. We hop on and are surprised to see so many seats open.


I've prepped Aaron that we FINALLY get to see Cinderella's Castle today. This kid is almost as obsessive about things as I am. When Disney started promoting the release of Cindy's DVD, that's just about all he would talk about for weeks. I actually went out with him and got it the day it came out. As luck would have it, I saw three of my current students at WalMart and told them I was getting that movie for him. That drew a few puzzled looks from them. Hey…he's only 2, and she is pretty hot.


Anyway, he wants to meet Cinderella. We have ADRs for the Royal Table for supper that night, and I think Sheri was looking forward to eating in the castle more than anything else this vacation. As we drive past the Contemporary Resort, Aaron asks if that is her castle…you can't fault his curiosity!


Then he saw his first monorail.


Cinderelly momentarily took the back burner.


"I wanna ride the white train!" We will, son…in time, we will.


We got to MK at about 8:35, went through the bag check and had a nice conversation with the woman doing those duties (there was nobody behind us so we felt okay talking for a minute). Got through the gates, and there really weren't that many people waiting to get in. 13 minutes before the park opening ceremony (according to Steve Soares' site), so we decided to get the family pic by the Mickey floral. We waited for a couple of families to get their pics done, and we asked a young pair of Asian guys to take our pic.


Here's what we got:




Okay...so they took a practice shot. They did take a family shot of us (in their defense). We then put Aaron up there for a solo shot and got this:


As we were putting the camera away, the next family came up and asked if I could take their picture. SURE! So I snapped away 3-4 shots of various poses. They leave, and another family hands me their camera, and I start taking more pics. I've got Madonna's Vogue going through my head now. I thought about trying the "YOU'RE IN THE PICTURE" routine that I saw on the planning video where 9 sets of complete strangers end up in the same picture, but I didn't want to tick off anyone who was waiting for their turn.


My duties as Photo Guy done, we wait for a few more minutes, and the music starts to play. I get all excited and put Aaron up on my shoulders.


"Ladies and Gentlemen, in just 5 minutes…"


Sorry, bud…false alarm. None of us has ever seen the opening ceremony…I didn't know!


We wait for the real start, and I thrown Aaron up on my shoulders again so he can see.


He heard the train and started bouncing on my shoulders. Next to Cinderelly, his biggest obsession is trains. The train enters (not sure which one it was), and he FINALLY gets to see Mickey:



It ends, and off we go to Main Street U.S.A.! WAIT!!! We have to dodge a sea of folks trying to get to stroller rental. Sheri looks at me and exclaims that she is SOOOOO glad we brought our own stroller. Then we pause a moment to look around, and I really couldn't speak for a minute. Being on Main Street for only the second time in my life was surreal, but now I was with my wife and older son, AND it was all decorated for Christmas.


We head down Main Street, and we finally arrive at the moment where Aaron can see his girlfriend's castle! Sheri has the camera ready...we turn the corner by the Confectionary...


...and Aaron is simply awestruck by what he sees:

a guy holding about 100 balloons.

Ummm...kid...look beyond the balloon guy. Hello? Aaron?



Then he finally saw it.



We turn the tables on those Photopass folks…instead of them hunting us down, I hunted one of them down!


MUSH'S NOTE: Being that this trip report is over three years old, giving you the link for the Photopass site would seem kind of pointless.



We go through the Castle (Aaron was looking straight up and smiling at this) and started the plan. We got in line for Dumbo, and it starts raining. Not hard, but still a little wet. One cycle, and we rode Dumbo. In no particular order (I don't want to divulge proprietary info from the pay-side portion of Sehlinger's Unofficial Guide website), we either walked on or had less than a 3 minute wait for the Tea Cups, Winnie the Pooh, the Carrousel, Peter Pan, and Small World.




We also got in to see Philharmagic in just a couple of minutes...


This one instantly became one of my favorites. I was laughing both at the show and at Aaron's reaction to his first 3-D movie. He was constantly reaching out and trying to grab the things! I won't spoil it for those who haven't seen it yet, but the effects are absolutely awesome.


During It's a Small World, we found that Aaron really likes the boat rides. He looked at the dolls singing and the animals and the scenery, but he also liked looking over the edge at the water. He asked at least twice for money to throw in there (we said no). At the end of the ride, he looks at the clock near the entrance/exit and says rather loudly, "STOP SINGING THAT SONG!!!" I only caught something about a song, but Sheri, stifling a laugh, looks at me and says "did he just say that?" Once she told me exactly what he said, I couldn't stop laughing for several minutes. Aaron kept looking at me and saying that it wasn't funny, but I begged to differ.


Okay...potty break...and Aaron's still dry! This is the best success we've had with him and potty training yet. If I have to buy a plane ticket once a week and have him pee all over an airplane seat to potty train him, then I just might do that!


We looked at our watch, and we're waay ahead of where we thought we would be (about an hour and a half). Hey, Cinderellabration was going to start in 3 minutes...LET'S GO!


We worked our way around the Liberty Square side of the Castle and see a sea of folks waiting to see the show (say that 5 times fast). We started across the bridge when we heard them say that the show was cancelled (probably due to it still raining a bit).


What does this mean? Hmmm...Everyone is in front of the Castle...nobody is in Liberty Square. LET'S GO TO LIBERTY SQUARE before the masses leave the Castle. We were at the perfect place at the perfect time yet again! We were going to head over to the Country Bears when, out of the corner of our eyes by the saloon is Woody and Jessie! Aaron doesn't see them, so we get in line without telling him what the line was for. We strike up a conversation with the family in front of us as the line moves forward, and Aaron notices all the pins that one of the kids is wearing on his lanyard. Uh-oh. You've got enough obsessions already kid...don't start the pin frenzy this early!


While we're waiting in line, Aaron sees a puddle of water. Now, everybody pull out your calculators and see if you can solve this: Small boy + Puddle of water = ???





Before I could even register what he was going to do, he slammed his foot down into the puddle and got a Hispanic boy's pants all wet. This was probably the only time I really got angry with him the entire trip, and even then I didn't go all Tasmanian Devil/Beast like I'm known to do. He knew I was mad, and I made him apologize to the boy, while Sheri and I apologized several times to the boy's mother. We felt really bad because I think the family spoke very little English and may not have comprehended how sorry we were for what happened.


We get closer, and Aaron sees Woody and Jessie, though he was calling her "Woody's Mommy" . He's got Toy Story pretty much memorized, but he has only seen Toy Story 2 a couple of times.


It's our turn, and they change out the characters. I expected wailing from Aaron because they left, but he seemed to understand completely that "they were going to just rest for a couple minutes" and was excited to see them re-emerge moments later. He walks to them with Sharpie pen and autograph book in hand and gets autographs/pictures (of course the pen ran out as Jessie was signing).


I noticed a major difference between how Aaron reacted with Minnie and Goofy yesterday and Woody and Jessie today. I think we may have made a mistake with doing autographs at this age. He seemed like he didn't know if he should hug them and talk to them or just give them the pen and book. Oh well...live and learn.


Okay...so it's around 11 am now. We decided to hold off on the Country Bears until later and make our way over to Cosmic Rays for our lunch. We got FP for Buzz and headed in to eat. We decided to use just one counter service meal on the combo and split it among the three of us. This time I looked at the number of counter service meals we had remaining.





We should have 9. WTH (in a good way)? Sheri hypothesizes that maybe we paid for Aaron to have a meal plan. Nope...I'm sure the paperwork has just the two adults on there. She says the math is correct. No...it can't be. Then it hit me:


When we checked in, the guy said that they don't usually do this, and I finally realized why. I pulled out our Key to the World card, and, sure enough, the dining plan has 2 adults and 1 child! The front desk agent gave us a helluva gift ($60). I would have kissed that guy had I known what he did. We can now order whatever he wants as well as whatever we want (and not have to worry about what he likes to eat).


Of course this also means that Sheri was right and I was wrong. She still hasn't let me forget about it, either.


Stomachs full and still in shock at what the front desk did, I place a call to our neighbor in order to A) rub it in that it's about 50 degrees warmer where we are; B) make sure our cats are still alive; and C) find out whether his mother-in-law (Judy) works at the Emporium or Exposition Hall (several members of the family work for WDW...one of our neighbor's brothers had a lot to do with the creation of Wishes).


Our FP return time for Buzz was still about 10 minutes away, so we shopped around under the TTA entrance. We get into Buzz, and Aaron promptly falls asleep while in the queue. Figures...I was expecting this to be his favorite ride, too. When we get up to where Buzz is, I rouse him, and he simply fixated on him. He can't believe he is in front of Buzz Lightyear! We got on the ride, and I let Sheri have her own gun while Aaron and I shared the other one. I then found out just how competitive my wife actually is!


While I'm trying to explain how to shoot the gun to Aaron and what to shoot for, Sheri starts racking up points. After she gets about 20,000 points ahead, I turn the seat to a blank wall so she can't hit anything either. The ride stops about halfway through, and Sheri just sits there. HERE'S MY CHANCE! Aaron and I start going for the long-distance ones, and within a matter of 20 seconds, I pass up Sheri's score. I get this big grin on my face, and she then realizes that you can still get points. After muttering a couple of choice words that I expect Aaron to repeat any day now, we're both hitting targets like crazy.


At the end of the ride, she ends up beating me by 500 points. I consider it a moral victory because I had Aaron helping.


12:30 pm, and I think it's now time to head back to the hotel for a rest. Before that, we drop in to the cinema to purchase a Pal Mickey and get a specialty pin that I won doing something online (they were out of the pins...oh well). They took Pal out and turned him on for me. I gave him to Aaron and he just held it and hugged it. This would not last long. We also decided to head to the Emporium to see if Judy was working...nope.


Aaron crashes on the bus, but he wakes up long enough to salute Buzz on the way to our room. As we approach our room, we see his Care Bear in a little hammock made from the drapes. I thought it was cute. Sheri commented that they used the only non-Disney toy we brought for decoration . Aaron, however, is pissed - he thinks the Care Bear is a hostage or something and rescues it as soon as we unlock the door.


So...here we are at our hotel at 1:00 to rest. Aaron does everything but rest. He would have given Tigger a run for his money with all his bouncing. We planned on 3-4 hours to rest, and he screwed around and finally fell asleep for a measly half-hour nap. I head down to the front desk to verify the number of meals total that we had remaining on the dining plan. They did use 1 for Aaron at Teppanyaki (which we didn't know...he ate from our plates), but there's no way I'm bringing that up. I'm still just happy as can be that they gave us the plan for him. I head back to the room to re-plan the dining structure while at the same time re-planning the touring plans since we were ahead by quite a bit. Wifey just looked over my way and mumbled something about "A.D.D. Boy".


Aaron wakes up at 3:30...nearly an hour before we wanted him to get up, and I could see in Sheri's eyes that she wanted to head back to MK. It didn't take much convincing, and we headed to the bus stop. I have started considering the timing between us and the bus as a barometer for how the day would go. We walk up and a bus pulls up. I start giggling like a little girl.


We got there in time for the 4:30 showing of Cinderellabration. Aaron finally gets to see his girlfriend! I was more or less either way on seeing it, but Sheri wanted to see it to, so we stayed:




It was cute, and I got to see Jasmine, so I'll give it a thumbs-up.


With that over and still nearly an hour before our ressies, we head over to Toontown to see if we can get another couple characters out of the way. It's a helluva lot busier now, and I start praying to the Rain Gods to come visit. Aaron wants to see Cinderelly again, so we get in line for the princesses. He was REALLY crabby (I TOLD you that you needed a longer nap) until we got into the princess room. I think they weren't used to seeing smaller boys there...they probably get a steady diet of princess wannabes, so they really did gave Aaron the royal treatment. It was Snow White, Cinderella, and Belle. The Photopass site had several pics, but here are a few that we also got:






Now, it's kind of scary, but, while I was at the Air Force Academy, the guys all argued on who the hottest princess was. I always lobbied for Ariel, but Jasmine and Belle were always in the running. When we saw Belle, she jumped to the front of my list:



The Photopass pics are better, but whoever did Belle was absolutely beautiful.


15 minutes before our ADRs, and Sheri is getting giddy with excitement. We trek from Toontown to the back of the Castle and check in. We had a little time so we looked around. Considering the last time we were here we didn't even realize you could go inside the castle, we were impressed. Sheri got a picture of her knight in shining armor:


Okay...a pic with her other knight in shining armor. I don't know what the heck Aaron was doing when I snapped this, but I'm gonna use it against him someday.


Potty break for Sheri and Aaron, so I look around some more and take a few pics. They come out, and Aaron is starting to get a little psycho. Until...


Down the steps comes Cinderella. Aaron is and starts walking to her. I grab him and get in line, while Sheri frets about him wondering how she could be in both Toontown and here. Belle now has competition for the top spot, because this Cindy was also drop-dead beautiful.



This picture was taken right after Aaron got his first kiss from a princess. I nearly got in line after that!


The minute Aaron leaves Cindy, the bells chime and the Royal Mushrush family is to be seated (man, their timing is perfect!) We're seated and took pics of the lipstick mark. The server comes, and Sheri and I both wonder if any of the servers are near nervous breakdowns with all the "My Lords" and "My Ladies". The food is...well...AWESOME!!!. We vow to go back to Phase 1 of South Beach after Christmas and indulge ourselves in the food here. I got the 10 oz. prime rib, while Sheri got the tenderloin. Aaron got his usual chicken blobs (fruit instead of fries...and he didn't whine). For dessert, Aaron got a sundae (and he nearly ate the whole thing), I got the triple-layer chocolate cake, and Sheri got the crème brulee. I've read that the food here gets a bad rap, but we absolutely loved it. We were definitely thanking the dining plan.


I have never seen him concentrate so much on a meal:


Even though the tip is included with the dining plan, we add a little bit more (mostly to compensate for all the "My Lords" and "My Ladies"). As we head downstairs, who should we see but (you guessed it) Cindy again.


Aaron is almost quivering with excitement.


"Hold on bud...you've talked to her twice already"




How could I say "no" to that? There was no line, and Aaron almost knocked her down with the hug. She laughs and gives him ANOTHER KISS.


Let's tally the score:








Something ain't right with the world.


Well, it's somewhere around 7:00 now, and we are already done with the plans for the day. Let's head to Adventureland and get a head start on another day's plan !!! We walk through the Castle leisurely and stop dead in our tracks. Main Street U.S.A. lit up at night during the Christmas season simply cannot be described. We took a picture, but the lighting just didn't work out that well.


Eventually we head to the bridge to Adventureland and immediately find Rafiki and Timon. The line was short (Heck, there's no schedule...let's enjoy it!) so we got in. We are second from the front when the characters "take a break". Aaron is fine with it again. When they come back out, Timon starts playing with the crowd...going in and out...back and forth...etc. The folks in front of us had a blast with him. I don't know if they were cast members who knew the character or not, but Timon was having all sorts of fun with them (I recall seeing a pen go flying through the air and making them run for it).


Aaron gets the hugs, autographs, and pics, and we head to Aladdin. Short line again, and we get on in 2 cycles. Sheri rides with Aaron in front, and I shoot them from the back.


No...Aaron isn't washing off the lipstick. We ride, and Aaron takes the carpet all the way up and Mommy when she tries to bring the carpet back down a little. He did the same thing to us on Dumbo. I try to figure out the tilt in the back seat and never really got the hang of it when the ride ends. We avoided the camel spit at least.


We get off, and who do we run into but Aladdin himself and Jasmine! We get in line, and Aaron is talking a mile a minute (Where's his carpet? Where's Abu? Where's Genie? etc.). I told him to ask them when he got up there. Sure enough, he goes really quiet when he meets them, and, though he asked them where Abu was, it was almost in a whisper (Abu, by the way, was in Animal Kingdom). He got that way with a lot of characters...it was like he was in awe of them when he got up next to them. Sheri jokes that Aladdin had a striking resemblance to John Stamos.


Al noticed the lipstick and asked who he got a kiss from. Aaron just stared and smiled. I mouthed "Cindy" to Jasmine, and she played right along. Right as we were ready to leave, Al says there's something on Aaron's right cheek (Cindy kissed the left cheek).


Jasmine planted a kiss on the other cheek.











I throw in the towel. I can't compete with a cute 2 year old.


We then hit the Tiki Birds, and I'm a little nervous about Aaron and being scared in the dark. He LOVED it and wanted to go on it again. Spectromagic was due to start in 20 minutes, though, so we convince him to see the parade. He states that it's okay and proceeds to go from excited to asleep in approximately 2.6 seconds. We head over to Liberty Square and secure a spot next to a walkway that they say will close once the parade starts. We talk with the CM who's on the college program there while we wait. Here comes the parade, and I've got to admit that, despite being skeptical about people getting in front of us, nobody did. I did cast a couple of mean looks at people who thought about it, but we had an armada of families around us who looked threateningly enough to ward off anyone. We bonded.


The parade starts, and I try to rouse Aaron. It took a while, but he woke up, and the first thing he saw was the clowns playing the trumpets on the first float (probably similar to an LSD trip back in the '60s). The stroller was in front of us by the street, but he wanted to be held, and the folks around us were content with the stroller there (nobody could budge in...gave a little additional breathing room for everyone). I didn't want to put him on my shoulders for fear of obstructing the views of people behind me (we were only about 4 deep total, but we still didn't do it).


When you are holding a tall 2.98 year old, that parade can seem to go on forever. We marveled at the floats and saw Cindy (same one from the Royal Table), and Aaron loved the lights. With the parade over, we leisurely strolled near the bridge to Adventureland to stake out a spot for Wishes and saw quite a few empty spaces. Okay...we'll take it (not thinking why the spots were empty). I make a water run using snack credits and get back to where I left my family. Aaron sees everyone with a lighted thing (either a spinner or a necklace), and just at that time, one of the vendors with the lights goes by. I didn't even wait for Aaron to ask. I got him a necklace, and he promptly took it apart and whined that he broke it. We put the ends back together and played that game for a while until Wishes started.

We had our camera on the "night-time" setting and got the acid trip lights of the Crystal Palace in the background.



It was really overcast and foggy, and although we could see the castle, there was a rather large tree blocking our view to the left of the castle.


Oops. I could have sworn I heard Sheri mutter "Dumbass" under her breath.


I don't think it mattered where we were watching the fireworks, though. The only ones we could see distinctly were the ones fired right by the castle. The ones that went higher were diffused almost to the point where you couldn't see them. I'm guessing the blokes (we stood next to a British woman during Spectromagic, and her vernacular rubbed off on me) standing at the station at the end of Main Street couldn't even see those. Tinkerbelle was clear, and Aaron thought it was cool. Some people were upset that they couldn't see anything, but we took it in stride...we were coming back on the 19th (Day 4) anyway.


Afterwards I wanted to just sit and people-watch for a bit to let the crowds thin out a bit (there was another Spectromagic, but we weren't staying for that). Aaron ruins that plans when he tells us that he wants to go home to rest (translation: get my ass back to the hotel so I can sleep in a bed!). We join the swarm heading for the exit and laugh at the folks returning the rented strollers.


There's a bus for All Star Movies!!! Quick...RUN!!! Oh, wait, there's half of the people staying at Movies in the line. I'm still chalking up another successful timing, however. Well...what to do...the line for Music is really small. Besides, we want to see some of the other hotels, too! We hop in line for A-S Music and strike up a conversation with a nice family from Jackson, MS. The bus comes, and Aaron crashes on the bus for good.


We get to Music and head through the main hall and start looking around. Sheri and I are wide awake, but Aaron is dead to the world. Sounds like a good time to look around. So Sheri starts taking pics with Aaron sleeping in them.



We keep exploring and run into Donald and Daisy! Now, I have a history trying to find Donald. When we came down in '01, I looked everywhere for Donald (he's my favorite) and never saw him. Damnit, I wanted a picture with him! So I settled for this:


We head back to our room, but stop for a snack break (sugar-free jello...must not upset the South Beach Gods any more than we already have). Finally we are home to rest.


We put Aaron to bed, hopped into bed ourselves, and decided not to have a wake-up call for tomorrow (Sunday the 18th). Sunday was to be a "down day" with no theme parks.


Yeah, right...down day.