Friday, November 27, 2009

WDW Family Trip, December 2007, Day 1, Part 3: YOU AGAIN??!!

Day 1, Part 2 Located HERE

We finish eating, and Aaron announces that he's now ready to play a game. We head down and let them sit on a game that appears like they're actually moving a character on the screen. It's about 5:35 now, and I head out to see if the strollers are anywhere near where we left them. They were, and I bring them up to the entrance. I then pull out my cell and give a call out to Mel, an online friend that was down there at the same time. The plan was to try to meet up after we ate and see Fantasmic. I get their voice mail, so I leave a message telling them where we were and that we were heading towards Fantasmicland. She calls back a couple of minutes later and gives us their location and potential plans. They were just leaving the hotel and were walking to MGM…sounded like they were having some problems with Amelia sleeping, so, if she fell asleep before they got to MGM, they were going to turn around and let her sleep. I think all parents have been in situations like that! She said she'd call with an update as they got closer. I put the phone back in my pocket. We walk past Star Tours and past the Indy show which was in full-tilt action…we could feel the heat from the flames outside of the theater. We keep on going past Prime Time (never knew where that place was) and Hollywood & Vine. About this time, Eric crashes hard and is snoring in the stroller. We make it to the Tower of Terror, and Aaron mentions that he wants to ride it.

That's my boy! He's tall enough, but we tell him what it does, and he agrees to wait until later. I pull out my phone and see that I missed a call from Mel. She left a voice mail and asked me to give DaisyDebbie (another friend/fiend in the parks) a call and ask her to call Mel's number. I call Debbie as we make our way up the path to Fantasmicland and leave a voice message for her. We were debating whether to do the show with Eric asleep and, after seeing how close the stroller parking was to the seating, agree to just carry him in. We enter and head left to sit down. Mel calls back and says that Amelia is asleep and that they won't be able to make it. We agree to shoot to meet up at the Magic Kingdom the next day. She then asks if I have Debbie's number. I put her on hold but can't get to my address book, so I tell her I'll call her right back.

We hang up, and I find Debbie's number (which is actually her old number…but I didn't realize it, so that first voice mail I left her actually went to someone else). I have nothing to write the number down with or on, so I tell Aaron to memorize the area code, I take the prefix, and Sheri memorizes the last 4 (my short-term memory is about as good as Dory's, so I knew I wasn't going to be able to remember 10 numbers in sequence for more than a couple of seconds). After a couple of trial runs, I call Mel back, and we recite the wrong number to her. We wish each other well (and best of luck as she had a lot going on with the snowstorm and cancelled flights and extended stays).

6:21 rolls around, and my leg starts vibrating again… "Restricted"…it's gotta be Debbie! She must have gotten my voice mail earlier (so I thought). She says that they're walking into MGM now with Mare's (yes, another friend/fiend in the parks) crew and wondered where we were. After telling her about Mel, we agreed to try to meet up afterwards near the hat for a little bit after Fantasmic. In between pleads to get a Mickey light saber, I tell Aaron that, if he behaves, then maybe he could see Renee (Mare's daughter…a couple of years older than Aaron) tonight for a bit.

Eric's awake but not quite aware of what's going on. I'm a little worried about Eric with Fantasmic because 1) he's not big on scary things; 2) he's not big on the dark; and 3) he's REALLY not big on fireworks. We thought we'd give it a shot since it had all the characters in it…especially Mickey. We warn him about the bad dreams and a couple of small fireworks ("I don't like fireworks. Daddy, you like fireworks. Aaron likes fireworks. Mommy likes fireworks. But I don't like fireworks!"). Both boys get into helping the crowd do the wave.

Then it starts.

Eric sees Mickey, and he likes it!

Then Eric sees Mickey with sparks shooting out of his hand…

…and he starts crying.

Then a short burst of fireworks a couple of minutes later, and he's in the fetal position in Sheri's arms.

And the nightmare sequence doesn't even start for a couple more minutes. He won't even look up when the boats with the Princesses go by. I tell Sheri that I'll take him out before the nightmare and wait for them. She offers to do it since he's got a vice grip on her neck and would probably faint if I tried to get him to let go. We agree to meet by the strollers (she didn't have her phone with her, so we both prayed that we'd see each other), and she gets Eric out of there quickly. Had he not been so tired and overstimulated, he may have had a chance to avoid therapy. Lesson learned…we won't get the prestigious "Parent of the Night" award, but we'll adapt the rest of the trip a little based on this. A little.

Aaron and I stay and watch the rest of it. Aaron's favorite part? When Malificent turns into a dragon and sets the lake on fire! Yep, he's definitely the violent one. He REALLY liked the show. We bolt for the exit the second the show is over, and I've got a strong hold on Aaron's hand so I don't lose him among the 8,000 bodies exiting en masse. We clear the entrance and head to the strollers. Luckily, wifey finds us in a couple of seconds, and the family is again united. Eric seemed calm…it didn't take him too long to stop crying once Sheri got him away from direct view of the action.

We head out and start to make our way towards the big hat. I had my phone in my hand in case someone tried to call. We spotted them from about 100 feet as the crowds were really sparse in this part of the park. Debbie was trying to call someone…me, possibly. We did the "can you hear me now?" bit a couple of times before giving each other a warm hug. Mare gave us all a hug too and introduced us to another family that she was with. Renee came bearing gifts…COOKIES!!! Everyone commented on how tall Aaron had gotten and loved meeting Eric for the first time. Eric was eating the rest of his Mickey Rice Krispy bar and was content in his stroller watching everything.

Christina, Aaron, Renee, Eric

Debbie calls Squid (another friend/fiend...he got left behind in Illinois, though) and tells him who all was there. The kids start chasing a Mickey lit up on the pavement. We all agree to head over to the Osborne Lights for a few minutes. We knew we were getting close to being on borrowed time with the boys, but they were in tow for quite a bit of the day, and they seemed to enjoy seeing other kids, so we decided to go for it.

Aaron stayed with the girls most of the way…he got a little ahead of us (farther than we usually let the boys) but Debbie and Lexie were ahead of them while Mare was close by. Besides, the crowds were still not bad here. We could tell Aaron liked the freedom (he's [i]sniff[/i] growing up so fast!).

We paused for a minute to find out where to enter the lights. The kids decided that I shouldn't be pushing an empty stroller, so I got busy making sure Christina's stuffed bear was securely fastened in the stroller I was pushing…yes, folks, I was pushing a teddy bear in a stroller down the road at MGM.

We got to the entrance to the lights, and Sheri and I were immediately glad we decided to see this Spectacle! As we walked down towards one of the intersections, we considered all hopping into a Photopass line to get a group pic, but every photographer had lines 5-6 deep.

A Christmas carol starts up, and the lights start going crazy…I thought the lights just stayed lit the whole time. I inquired as to what happened if a light bulb went out (do they all go out?). I also wondered, out loud, just how messed up you'd get if you saw the lights (especially the angels) when drunk.

Sheri moved farther away from me and closer to Mare and Debbie.

We got to the main intersection and watch the snow coming down. Aside from the fact that it was still around 75 degrees, the snow looked pretty darn realistic. Aaron tried catching the "snow" in his mouth.

And, yes, we all hurled jokes at each other about the need to eat the snow to wash out our dirty mouths (the snow is made from soap).

Feliz Navidad starts up, and the lights go crazy again. I uploaded a short video of this on YouTube, but the resolution/quality was really degraded on there on playback:

You really can't tell that it's Debbie or Mare dancing, and the kids dancing are hard to make out. Click Here for the somewhat higher-quality one (warning…approximately a 10Meg download, but can at least tell who is who).

I went to put on my sunglasses to entertain Eric, but he wasn't paying attention. I thought I'd sing Sunglasses at Night to Sheri, but she was talking to DD and Badelves (Mare). I'm stuck in a dilemma…I'm putting the clips on my glasses, but the humor's gone (some would say it was never there). I try to take them off without anyone noticing, but I notice Debbie just shaking her head at me. Busted! She turns to Sheri and asks her how much she has to drink in order to live with me.

We walk down one of the streets marveling at the lights. Some of the crew decide they want some roasted nuts and ask if we want some… can only imagine where the conversation went from there. To make things even worse (though funnier), Mare stops me and says that I have something stuck on my back. She looks at it and takes it off…it was a Woody sticker. I'll keep this clean, but you can imagine how the conversation went. Debbie, after hearing nuts and Woody in the same discussion, comes over, and the conversation just spirals out of control from there. Even Lexie (Debbie's teen-aged daughter) was laughing at everything the alleged grown-ups were saying.

Oh, and Aaron becomes best friends with whomever would share their roasted nuts with him.

8:10 rolls around, and we're really starting to wonder about the boys tomorrow, so we try to schedule meeting up tomorrow and say our goodbyes. We are able to get to the bus stops before the second showing of Fantasmic ends and stand on the first bus there. Eric was starting to get a little tired, and a drop-dead gorgeous woman offers up her seat so Eric can sit down. The little devil then starts flirting with everyone around him. We make it back to the Pop and head to our room. Sheri begins unpacking the mountain of bags that magically arrived in our room. The boys are going crazy, so I throw them in the bathtub and get them cleaned up. It takes a while to settle them down, but eventually they fall asleep (one in each bed). I end up with Eric in my bed.

Tomorrow: Magic Kingdom!

Part II Starts HERE

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

WDW Family Trip, December 2007, Day 1, Part 2: YOU AGAIN??!!

Day 1, Part 1 located HERE

For those who haven't read any of my past trip reports, we determine how well the day is going to be by how long we have to wait for a Disney Transportation System bus. We depart the Pop Century Food Court, make our way through the gift shop, and head out the doors to the Epcot bus stop.

No bus.

And nobody in line.

@#%&^&!…we just ate the exhaust of the bus…it pulled out about 30 seconds before we got there. This essentially equates to disaster at the parks.

So we get (Aaron, don't touch the chain) into the (Aaron, don't touch the chain) line for the (AARON, QUIT GRABBING THE CHAIN!) Epcot bus (AARON!!!!!!!!!!!).

Breathe in…it's a vacation…breathe out… they're just exciteAARON IF I HAVE TO TELL YOU ONE MORE TIME TO….BACK ON A PLANE AND GO HOME!

They pause long enough for a picture:

Eric still has the "I'm gonna bite something" look.

About 15 minutes later, the Epcot bus comes trundling in. We throw the kids out of the stroller, collapse the strollers, holler at the kids for getting on the bus without us, and hop on the bus.

Of course, Aaron falls asleep on the ride to Epcot. Now, how to pic up a 45 pound kid and a medium-sized stroller, walk off the bus, open the stroller, and get said kid into the stroller? It was ugly the first time, but he got in there. He's out for the count as we get to the bag check. We stroll through with no problem and head to the entranHOLY COW there are a lot of people here!! had today's crowd level at 4, but I think the Florida residents didn't get the memo. We finger scan and head in. Aaron's still out, so we decide to do an Eric-only WDW vacation to appease all of you who are calling us bad parents.

See? Just me, Mommy, and Eric! She just had to wear another Lime Green shirt…she's not even on the Disboards, so she's just doing it to annoy the Hell out of me (it worked).

We realized that Eric doesn't have a "1st Trip" pin, so we make our way over to Guest Relations (bathroom break first…Aaron's still out). We walk in, and who do we get but Tom! Tom was the guy who we met two years prior when he made the infamous "penis-head" hat for me (you can look it up yourself, if you want). He gives Eric a pin, and, as we talked about meeting him before, he throws out Grand Gathering pins to all of us (the ones with the Incredibles on them). We head out and head towards Innoventions West for the Visa Character Meet and Greet to get Eric's first exposure to a Character.

Too bad half of Orange County had the same idea…the line was 30+ deep. Nope, we ain't gonna wait for that! Aaron's awake and wants to do a little in Innoventions, so we let them loose for a few minutes. We head out by the Character Connection and see lines upon lines, so we make a beeline for the fountain (or the "waterfall" as Eric called it). After a few minutes of that, I start getting a bit antsy because we're about an hour behind schedule now. I throw the schedule away and get us heading towards the World Showcase. Drinks first! A Grey Goose Slushie sounded really good, but we were gonna stop at the International Gateway. We settle on a bottled water and a frozen lemonade. The boys did really good sharing as they passed it between the two of them every few seconds. We go by Canada and see the Lumberjack Santa finishing up. We then head over to the U.K…while the crowds on the main walkways were thick, the U.K. pavilion was somewhat quiet. We chanced it that there would be characters and were rewarded to see Pooh, Tigger, and Eeyore with almost no line!

Was Eric scared?


We took a chance by not getting autograph books this time. We got it for Aaron last time, and he got so focused on the autographs that he didn't take the time to enjoy seeing the character.

We left the U.K. and headed to the Gateway to catch a boat to MGM. As we walk down to the dock, we just about get there when we get stopped…full boat…wait for the next one. On the bright side, we were first in line for the next one. While waiting, we gabbed with a CM from San Diego who was a huge Chargers fan. Okay, I gabbed while Sheri yawned. There was another CM there who was trying to do crowd control. They were going to fire up a boat that was docked by the big floral thingy that looks like a spider made of dolphins and take it non-stop to MGM, but it was going to dock behind another boat that just arrived and was going to do the hotel stops. He was hilarious telling people which way to go ("I can't say it any clearer, folks!").

Spider made of dolphins (kind of a compromise between Sheri and me as to what it was):

We hop on the boat and cruise straight to MGM. Along the way, I could have sworn I heard something echoed in the distance…DeeeeVeeeeSeeee…DeeeVeeeSeee…look at how close you can be with DeeeeeeVeeeeeeeeSeeeeee….. Once we get there we stop for a couple of Photopass pics by the tree. It's an hour later than I had planned, but hey, it's vacation!

We headed straight to the Animation Courtyard area in search of another character. We had planned on doing the Mermaid show, but it was down that day. We snuck around past the High School Musical show and made our way under the arch. Wow! Characters everywhere! We hop in line for none other than Handy Manny. Aaron did absolutely great as a big brother…he often would let Eric run up to the character first, even Manny, a character that wasn't in the parks when Aaron was there by himself.

We look at the other characters and are about to get in line for Jojo when we notice that Playhouse Disney Live is about to start. We head over there and grab some carpet! We weren't quite feeling the vibe at Epcot, but we're back on track here at MGM. Both boys were up singing and dancing and, most importantly, smiling and having a great time!

After that, we head out of the Animation area and walk towards the huge hat. We go by it and hit the bathroom quickly (Eric still dry). We figured that we're on a roll, so we decided to see if Mike and Sully from Monster's, Inc. were out. They were, but the line was rather long, so we kept on going in the hope that we'd get to see them later. We kept on walking towards Toy Story Pizza Planet (a huge request from Aaron). We get to the Muppet Fountain, and I decide to take us on a minor detour to Al's Toy Barn to see if Buzz was still out.

WOOHOO!!! He was…as was Woody. Best of all, there was hardly any line for either. Now, I should tell you that Eric has Toy Story and Toy Story 2 completely memorized, and he absolutely LOVES Buzz and Woody! He got so excited to get in line for Buzz that his legs couldn't keep up, and he wiped out on the pavement. His knees are scraped up badly, and he starts crying pretty loudly. Aaron's trying to comfort him as we make sure he's okay. A CM saw the spill and gives each of them a couple of Woody stickers. Eric's fine when he realizes he's next in line to see his hero.

His knees are all better, apparently. Oh, and Aaron's all smiles too as he also loves Buzz!

We then turn to get in line for Woody and notice that a huge line materialized out of nowhere (my guess is that Muppets just let out). We stay in line for a couple of minutes but realize that we're about 18 deep. We leave it up to the boys as to whether we stay in line or leave, eat, and try to catch Woody another time. Sheri and I were both floored when they both readily agreed to get out of line to see him later.

A couple of minutes later, we make it to Pizza Planet. The atmosphere is cool here, and Aaron loves the aliens and the games. The pizza itself is okay, but the number of smiles that this place gives the boys makes the food taste better. My brains are shot as Sheri and I decide what/how to order. She agrees to do the ordering while I take the boys upstairs to sit. Of course I stupidly pick a table next to the railing where the stairs are, and I become a nervous wreck (seriously…I was not in good shape) with the boys as they look over the railing. In my mind I'm seeing one of them falling over. I got them to head over to see the registers and food pickup line and calm down a little. Wifey brings up the food, and Eric has a conniption because I cut his pizza when he wanted it whole. After tears and some furtive glances from tables around us, he calms down and eats a piece. Then he announces that he's done…until I wave a Mickey Rice Krispy bar in front of him.

Continued...Day 1, Part 3 HERE

Disney Podcast Contest - Final Results!

Well, the campaigning is done…the babies are all kissed…the palms are greased…it's over.

What you see below are the final results of my first attempt at a poll on podcasts, and the results blew me away. I was going to be happy if I had 50-75 people vote. We just about made it to 500 people (492!!!!!). Thos 492 folks cast a total of 1,417 votes for podcasts that they listen to! We even had a new entry in the last week (DisFanReview!)

Lots of votes in the last week or so. WaltCast again led the way with 19 votes, followed closely by WDW Today (18), Running to Disney (16), and the WDW Radio Show (13). Be Our Guest nabbed another 7 votes, while Netcot, Inside the Magic, and Disneyland News Today each added 6 to their total. Some folks really lobbied for support, and hopefully they got some new listeners. Others didn't mention it at all. In fact, many of the top ten didn't mention the contest once and still received a large number of folks who said that they listen to their podcasts.

I feel bad for what happened to WTTM…because of a mistake on my part, it got left out of the original list. Because of that, I think it would have received at least another 30-40 votes. Sorry, Paul!

Thanks to everyone who took part in it…hopefully some of the newer shows got some listeners as a result of this, while those who may be looking for a podcast to listen to may have found a new one to call their own.


WDW Today


Running to Disney


WDW Radio Show


Be Our Guest


Inside the Magic






Mouse Guest


All About the Mouse


Dis Unplugged




WEDWay Radio


Disney Dudes


Those Darn Cats


Character Breakfast


Disneyland News Today




Trapped on Vacation


Communicore Online


Disney Pincast


Magical Definition


Meandering Mouse


Mouse Lounge






Big D in HD




Adv. Of Teen Dsny Geek


Magic City Mayhem


Magic Never Ends


Imagineering My Way






Disney Brit


Mouse Droppings


Disney, Indiana


Laughing Place


Disney Tidbits


Let's Talk About Disney


Above the Firehouse


Mortis Matinee


A Window To The Magic


Mouse Comedy


Extinct Attractions


Remember the Magic


At the Main St. Cinema




Northern Mouse


Park Hopping Party




Mouse Magic HD


Original D


Park Hopping Podcast


WDW Family Trip, December 2007, Day 1, Part 1: YOU AGAIN??!!

I had my alarms set for 3:30 and 3:35. Sheri had her foghorn set at 3:30, and we had an additional alarm set across the room for around 3:30. We wanted to make sure we were up. Of all the alarms set, it was our newest alarm clock that woke us up. We've only had this one for a little under 3 years.

Eric came flying into our room thinking he could jump in bed with us and sleep.

Instead of sending him back to bed, we let him stay in for a little bit while we got up and got ready. He stayed awake wondering what the heck was going on. After we got dressed, we handed him Pal Mickey and asked him if he wanted to wake Aaron up.

He was READY for payback for all the times Aaron had woken him up. We told him to ask Aaron if he wanted to go to Walt Disney World today. In my mind, I expected Aaron to sit up in shock for a few seconds and then start running up and down the stairs, shedding clothes every couple feet, and screaming "WE'RE GOING TO DISNEY WORLD!!!!" for about 5 minutes. Then he'd tell Eric what that place was like, and the younger one would start tearing off his clothes and screaming for joy.

I forgot it was only 3:45 in the morning and that he was still quite tired (the Tooth Fairy came by for the second time the night before, and I think Aaron wanted to stay up to catch him/her).

Here's the wake-up:

I think it finally dawned on him about 55 seconds into it as he's about to head out the room and then makes a quick U-turn back in. I wish I would have kept the video on for about 20 more seconds because Aaron asked me in a most serious tone, "Do we have enough money to go now?" Refer to the pre-trip…that was one of the reasons I used to tell him why we weren't going to be able to go to WDW for a long while.

They get dressed in record time…you could tell the excitement was building:

Ummmmmmmm… feeling okay, Eric?

I go all OCD as we pile into the van…checking the heat setting again, the humidifier again, making sure the cats have food/water, etc. The temperature is around 19 degrees, but it's supposed to be 85 in Orlando. We opt for short-sleeved shirts and jackets. We packed shorts in our carry-ons to change into when we arrived. We tell the cats bye, and they're already pissed at us (@#$&*^&#^$ bastards are leaving us AGAIN…you just wait and see if there's a tree standing in this house when you get your sorry selves back!). I open the garage door and nearly gave the paper deliverer a coronary as she had no idea that door would be going up at 4:05 just as she was walking by. She was already to her car by the time I figured out where she sprinted to.

A short 10 minute drive later, and we're pulling into the Central Illinois Regional Airport. The first argument occurs at this time... "Drop us off at the terminal or park and use the shuttle?" I looked for the shuttle and didn't see it, so I gave in to wifey's request and pulled up to the terminal. I then unload six bags-of-checking, three ons-of-carrying, two strollers strollering (?), and my wife who simply hates me. We drag the pile into the entrance, and they all wait while I go park the van. As I start walking to the terminal, I see the shuttle pulling up. I can't win.

We head into the terminal, and I proceed to do the check-in. All the boarding passes except for one of Eric's print, and we head to the counter to let them deal with the pile-o-crap. While the bags were getting checked, I talked with the station manager for AirTran a little to get caught up on where some of the old employees are (I used to work for AirTran back in '98-'99).

After getting all of that taken care of, we make our way towards security. Before that, we stop and grab a donut (of course, the boys have to get chocolate ones in an attempt to get as messy as possible before the flight). Security is a breeze, though we monopolized the conveyor belt with the carry-ons, the strollers, and the bins of pocket/shoe/belt stuff.

How do those of you with more than 2 kids do it??!!!!

We've got about 25 minutes before we're supposed to board, so we do the potty rounds. In looking at our tickets, Sheri and I are to board in Zone 6, while Aaron and Eric are to board in zone 5. I considered suggesting that we let the boys board, and we could just catch a later flight for a calm, quiet trip. Needless to say, that wouldn't have gone over very well. We gate check the strollers, make our way down the jetway, hop on the plane, and watch Aaron go straight for an empty business-class seat. After convincing him that we have to sit farther back, we get to our seats and strike up a conversation with a couple behind Sheri and Eric who are going to Disney too. It's their first time using Magical Express and staying on-site, so they were full of questions.

We blast off and are in the air in no time. I work with Aaron on the jaw-thrust technique of keeping your ears clear (for those who don't know it, if your ears are popping, just take your lower jaw and push it forward…worked wonders for me when I was flight training, and I didn't have to take my hands off the controls like I would have to if I were to do the valsalva technique). I won't bore you with the flight details…just that Eric slept a bit (good!), and Aaron mastered the jaw thrust…his ears were fine.

We landed in Atlanta and did what is becoming a tradition at KATL...the "land and sit" dance. We exited off of the active (the "outer" parallel runways) and sat on the tarmac with about 10 other flights waiting for clearance to cross the outbound active (the "inner" parallel runways). Once they get a 757 or 767 departing (because of the wake turbulence, they require the next plane to hold for a minute or so), it becomes a mad dash across the active as all the recently-landed planes scoot across and then jockey to get to their gates (complete with horns and one-fingered waves, I'm sure). We deplaned and were pleasantly surprised to see that our connection was only 5 gates away (I had visions of one of my friends (Tricia) trying to make her connection in Detroit for a cruise a few weeks before). Potty check…Eric's still dry! We hopped on the connection and noticed that there were quite a few folks from the BMI-ATL flight on this one too.

Aaron was sitting by me again this segment. An AirTran pilot grabbed a seat across the aisle from me, and Eric took an instant dislike to him ("I don't like pilots! Daddy, you like pilots, but I don't!"). He refused to take his eyes off of him, and he physically got a little closer to Mommy. I made a mental note to have a DNA test done on Eric and the UPS man as soon as we got home…any son of mine would surely love pilots. The boys again did great…Mommy helped by giving them new books and old toys to play with. On our approach into MCO, the pilot and I were engaged in a good conversation about the airline industry, Illinois, and other stuff that bored Sheri. We were landing north, so we were able to see WDW in the distance. We could make out the Golf Ball, the Swolphin, the Contemp, and Space Mountain while on our final approach. We land on time, grab our stuff, and make our way off the plane. While waiting for the gate checked strollers, the couple doing M.E. for the first time pass by us and ask where to go. We tell them that we can show them where to go once we get the strollers. The strollers come, and I realize that the baggage claim tags are attached to the ticket sleeve and that the ticket sleeve is in the pouch in front of my seat.

Great…more ammo for Sheri's eternal quest to prove I'm an idiot.

The flight attendant gets it, and we make our way up the jetway about 5 minutes later. We hoped that the couple waiting for us didn't actually wait. They were waiting, but they were doing the bathroom run. We meet up and head for the tram. It's then that I realize just how many folks from BMI were on the plane…lots of University of Illinois and Illinois State University apparel on the tram.

Off the tram and on the elevators on B-side as far down as we can go. A few minutes later we see a guy with big white hands, and hardly anyone else (WOOHOO!). Sheri and the boys head over to sit, while I get in line with the guy using M.E. for the first time. He has the M.E. envelope and asks what all he needs in order to get on the bus. After talking for a minute or two he looks in the envelope and notices that there are some yellow tags in there.

"What are these for?"

All together now….UH OH!!!

After telling him what this means, he does what all men are trained to do in situations like this…he blames it on his girlfriend/wife and hops out of line towards the baggage claim.

I get us processed, and we cross the red carpet into our line. Sheri calls her mother to let her know that we made it. Sheri pointed out an interesting thing here…when it was just us traveling, there was no need to call. With the boys, we had to let her know we made it with them. Perhaps she was worried that we would forget that we were traveling as a family and left the boys in Atlanta. While waiting in line, the boys chastise me for being in the way of their viewing of a TV with Disney commercials on it. About 13 minutes later, we're on the bus. I noticed that we weren't the first resort to get on the bus, so I expected that we'd be towards the back of the bus (another hint for all you paying attention…when on Magical Express, shoot for the front of the bus if at all possible…reason: if you are in the back, those getting off in front of you will also be in the check-in line in front of you). Surprisingly, everyone was sitting in back, so we hopped in a couple of the front rows.

We're on our way, and Eric sees his first palm trees. His comment? "JUNGLE BOOKIE!" Naturally, I start singing the song that is now in your head and probably will be for the next 2 hours.

I dare you to watch it...

You're welcome.

They start watching the video on the bus (GPS is what starts the video…interesting). Every character that pops up on the screen is called out by name by our boys. I've almost got watery eyes watching them smiling and watching…and we're not even on property yet! The bus driver gives us a countdown to the WDW sign, and the bus erupts in applause and shouts of joy as we hop on site. I figured that, since we were a value on a bus that contained folks staying at AKL and CBR, we'd be the last. Nope…we're the first stop! I look at the time…I had hoped that we would be on property by around 12:15…right on time! We get to the Pop, hop off the bus, and wait for the strollers (oops…forgot to factor in time to get those…and all those people are now in line to check in…oh well). After tipping the driver, opening up the strollers, and nearly duct-taping the boys in them, we head inside for check-in. A CM gives the boys a couple of stickers while we're waiting.

The line moves rather quickly, and, finally, it's our turn. We hop up in front of Gary, from Miami and give him our name. He gets this quizzical look on his face and states that he's heard that name before. Sheri immediately pipes up, "You checked us in last time we were here back in October!" Gary smiles and nods in agreement. Sheri and I start going back and forth with, "yeah, you lived in Danville for a while…not too far from where we are now!" I comment to him that I was thankful he didn't give a disgruntled "YOU AGAIN?!!" when we walked up. I then look at Sheri and ask her if it means we've been here too much when we start recognizing individual cast members.

He asks us where we stayed at last time. "The 90's." He pulls out a map and simply says, "where do you want this time?"

"Howabouthefifties? Arethereanyroomsavailableinthefifties?"

He clicks around for a couple of minutes and gives us the good news…we're in the Tramp building, second floor, and the room was available! We get our keys, thank Gary and tell him we'll see him next week for our next stay and are on our way! Bathroom break first, though. We head out the back door, and the overstimulation of the boys commences with all the stuff.


We head towards Tramp, and Aaron comments on the 500 foot-tall doggie (according to him). I took the long way to the elevator...didn't know the area behind the Tramp statue was open access to the elevators, and Sheri rubs it in. Up to the second floor…we get out of the elevator, look left, and see the ass of a huge dog! After laughing about the view, we turn around, take a right, take a left, turn around because I should have taken a right, then take a left, and go 4 doors down. It's our room!!!

We open the door, and the boys immediately jump out of the strollers and start jumping on the bed. Eric starts singing "No More Monkeys Jumping on the Bed!" Then he fell off the bed and starts crying because he bumped his head (talk about irony). Other than the tears, Eric's still dry! We wrestle the boys out of their jeans and into shorts. We make sure we have what we need for the parks and head out!

Lunch first…gotta have food! I get my cheesesteak wrap (it's becoming a tradition at the Pop). The boys split a chicken fingers meal, and Sheri got fricassee of lamb (I don't remember what she had…she didn't write down anything in the journal for the first day, so I'm going to make it up as I go along for her!).

Since I foresee the length of this report rivaling War and Peace, I figured I'd do the same thing as I've done with the other trip reports andbreak the days up a little so as not to put as many people to sleep as typically do.

Day 1, Part 2 Located HERE

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

WDW Family Trip, December 2007, Pre-Trip

First, let me introduce you to "The Cast"

Me (Age: 34.995)

Sheri (Age: 3_.923…and the most loved member of the family by most)

Aaron (Age: 4.983)

Eric (Age: 2.96)

Yes, all four of us have birthdays within four weeks of each other. March must be a particularly fertile month for our heritage.

As soon as we decided to take Aaron for a trip to Walt Disney World when he turned three, we immediately knew the first question everybody would ask us would be, "So are you going to take Eric for his own trip when he turns three?" Initially, I thought it to be fair, but that was for just a fleeting moment. First, I didn't want to be the one to tell Aaron, "Sorry, bud, but it's Eric's turn." We might as well have just said, "You see, Eric is actually our favorite child…you were the practice child, and we perfected it with him, so he gets to go himself." Second, Sheri and I are both first-born children, and we know just how hellacious that position is.

"There's only one kid around, so it must have been you."

"Your sister/brother said that because they heard YOU say it!"

"You're old enough to know better…they aren't!"

Nope, if we go, it's the entire family going.

2007 was an odd year for vacations for us. We had one trip planned…our ten-year anniversary trip to WDW in May (sans kids). Spring Break rolls around, and the stress levels in the family were getting a little out of whack. We decided that we needed to get out of the house and go somewhere, even if for a couple of days. We looked for something open in Chicago on short notice but found nothing. We started looking at Wyndham resorts in Wisconsin Dells…nothing. Nashville? Nope. Branson? Well, yes, but what the Hell is there to do in Branson with kids? They won't get Jim Stafford's jokes (Sheri doesn't even get Jim Stafford's jokes).

Branson it is! We get away for a few days and come back kind of refreshed. It was a relatively inexpensive trip, but more importantly, we survived a trip together as a family with relatively few death threats. We already had the May trip pretty much paid for. We decided to see if WDW would guide us (while we were down there) on whether to make the trip in December or not.

For those who read the May trip report, y'all know that we had a marvelous time together and absolutely loved Epcot. We did the best we could to just tell the boys (Aaron mainly) that we were going on vacation. He figured it out the day we got back but wasn't upset at all. He was nonchalant about it…surprisingly. We did some number-crunching and decided that we could probably swing another trip in December so long as we didn't go crazy with other spending and didn't do any other trips for a while (a special thanks needs to go out to about 70 "Moose-meeters"…@#$#$^!$# enablers!!!). We booked this trip in early June…just before the 180 day mark so we could get our dining reservations in. We decided not to tell the boys this time and surprise them the day of the trip to see what would happen.

We go through July and August and realize that perhaps we may have overextended ourselves a bit as one of my fairly good paying part-time positions at school ended. Also, the Economics department was finally having some success at hiring and retaining faculty, which means that my non-tenure-track teaching position may no longer be needed after this year. At the same time, Sheri ended up getting temporarily (1-year, but I still think they'll try to keep her there) placed in a different supervisory position with more responsibility and stress. To make things even more interesting, I was in an accident that totaled our low-mileage-excellent-condition Elantra in late August. Needless to say, the stress levels were ratcheting up again.






I knew when it was, and I knew that it just wasn't going to work out (school, finances, no way we were doing THREE (?!?) trips in one year, etc).

That goes to show you how much I know.

On a whim, I looked at staying at the Wyndham Bonnet Creek resort, using part of an unused 5-day hopper pass, and just renting a car down there. I priced a bunch of other things and found that the two of us could realistically do this entire trip for $350 ($218 for just me). I drafted up a 2-page document on how this all could work…as we duked it out, airfares went up some, but we bit the bullet and went down for the Meet for a total span of about 48 hours.

Of course, Aaron surmised that we were down at Disney World again…

…and this time he wasn't as forgiving.


He's doing this almost every day. Remember that we can't tell him because it's all a surprise. So we start making up things...

"We were just there a couple of years ago."

"We'll go sometime…it'll be a while, but sometime."

"It costs a lot of money to go there."

"You are no longer our favorite child…get over it!"

Halloween rolls around, and Sheri decides to start packing.

After Thanksgiving, Sheri and I really start ramping up the Disney stuff. We've got CDs in our vehicles with movie songs that we play when they're in there. We ask the boys what their favorite characters are and what their favorite movies are. We ask Aaron what rides he liked the best when we took him back when he was our test child. We start "strongly recommending" certain Disney DVDs when they fight over what to watch.

By the way, that last item was more difficult to do than you may think. Until May of this year, these boys were the only grandchildren on all sides of the family, and the grandparents spent more on these two than a small country's Gross Domestic Product for the entire year.

Don't believe me? Here are a few shots of our video cabinet showing the side with the kids' movies:

Imagine, if you would, wifey and I going to the cabinet to pick a movie to get the kids to stop fighting. Now imagine wifey and I fighting over which movie to pick in order to get the kids to stop fighting. It usually ended with the boys coming in, pushing their way between us to the cabinet, and grabbing a Disney movie to watch while Sheri and I continued our argument.

So far, the secret was still intact...but barely. I'll admit that Aaron thought I was nuts when I opened up two strollers down in the basement and asked him to jump in to see if he could fit. We have a double-stroller, but one of the rear wheels has taken a liking to falling off on occasion. Plus, I was dreading trying to haul that puppy onto the Disney Transportation System.

The week before the trip was nerve-wracking to say the least. Sheri had to deal with a number of issues at work, and I was to be in the middle of finals week. My mother called to tell me that my Grandmother was likely not going to make it much longer. We celebrated the boys' birthdays together the week before the trip. Of course, a major ice storm was brewing and was scheduled to hit us about the time the party started. The university already had contingency plans in case it had to close Monday (during finals week…they would give finals the following Monday…while we were to be in Florida!). The surprise was nearly ruined several times by family members not talking in code around the kids the day of the party. We decided to stay the night at Sheri's folks and wait out the ice storm. Sunday rolls around, and the ice is falling! My cell phone doesn't get that good of reception over there, and I missed a phone call from my mother. I called her back using another phone and got the news that my Grandmother had passed away. I was starting to figure out if there was any way I'd be able to make it down for the funeral, but she told me there wasn't going to be one. Then my phone rings again, and I can't hear anything on the other end. I looked up the area code in the phone book map and surmised that it was eastern Pennsylvania. Ten minutes later it dawns on me that it was probably Mel (a friend heading down to WDW just before us) trying to call. I grab Sheri's cell phone and try to call them no avail.

We made it home, and the University was open for finals on Monday, so I wouldn't have to deal with that. I kept checking the weather for Bloomington, Atlanta, and Orlando. An impending snowstorm was making its way over towards New England the night before we were to leave, so I started figuring out where all of our planes would be originating from. Our flight from BMI to ATL originates out of ATL, and that's a hub, so operations can redirect planes in the event of cancellations. The one from ATL to MCO originates from Houston, which will have come from Atlanta the night before, which is in the clear. Whew. The weather in Orlando was to be unseasonably hot the first part of our trip, and unseasonably cold the last part. I got the final out of the way on Monday and only had to deal with the final the day before we left. My teaching assistant was around and helped out more than I ever could have imagined! I spent most of Thursday entering grades and dealing with students begging me to give them a higher grade so as not to ruin their college careers and ultimately their lives.

I called the school as I was picking Aaron up the last day so the teachers wouldn't be tempted to tell him to "Have a good trip!"

We get the kids to bed a bit earlier than usual as we were going to be waking them up around 4 am. As they're dreaming of sugar plums, I'm hauling down what seemed like 100 pieces of luggage, which, by the way, were hidden like Christmas presents. We make sure everything is set, and I load up the van with all but one bag (for our toiletries). I then looked around at the documents, realized that I hadn't put on the Magical Express tags, cursed, and went back to the van to put those on.

10:00 rolls around, and we head upstairs to bed. Normally I'm up until midnight or 1 am, but I was so tired I couldn't even do the "we're too excited to sleep" bit I always do the night before we leave. I collapse on the bed and am snoring in no time (but not after making sure we had 3 alarms set). I know that we'll be awake in just a few hours.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Last Day to Vote!!!

...and the world said "FINALLY!!!"

Yep, Tuesday, November 3rd, is the final day for you to vote for all those Disney podcasts you listen to. It has been going on for several months now and is a little different than your traditional contest. There were no nominations...pretty much every Disney podcast out there was included. Also, it wasn't a "vote for your favorite" format. You can vote for as many as you like! The goal is to just see what ones people listen to the most. Some of the hosts have had some fun with it, which was one of the goals. Hopefully it also got some of the newer podcasts a few new listeners too.

The polls close tonight, so get those last-minute lobbying efforts, annoying phone calls, incessant TV ads, and baby-kissing taken care of now!

To vote, just go to (if you're getting this via e-mail or RSS feed) and look at the right-hand side of the screen. You'll see the list of podcasts you can vote for. If you would like to vote for one not listed (or listed on top but not "votable"), just send me an e-mail with your additional votes. I'll send you a confirmation that I've added them. Were within range of 500 voters...I don't know it we'll make it to that landmark or not, but we're close.

Have fun!