Wednesday, February 29, 2012

February 24-25: The End

After eleven days with visits to six different cities and a lot of fun in the sun, it was time for our vacation to come to an end.

We drove to Winter Haven, Florida to visit my aunt, uncle and cousin before flying out of Lakeland the next day. Overall, it was a good vacation. We had a lot of fun. We saw a lot of things and enjoyed the warm weather. But it was not relaxing.

I think that is just the way it is with little kids and vacation. They really are a lot of fun. It's fun to introduce them to new things and watch their reactions and experience everything with them. But it is also a lot of work and very exhausting!

My ideal vacation would include a lot of laying out at the pool or beach, reading books, eating leisurely meals, and sleeping in late. None of those things really can happen when small children are in the picture! Daniel and I definitely need to find a way to go on a little vacation with just the two of us someday.

This vacation was pretty intense. We slept in four different places, so there was a lot of unpacking and repacking and driving. That was kind of annoying. But on a positive note, we did get to see a lot of different places. Isla did pretty well overall, considering that she was totally pulled out of her routine and forced to eat and sleep on the go most of the time.

Now we are home and back to the cold weather and the real world. But we have already started talking about another (much smaller) vacation in June!

February 22: Naples

Before we left the Bonita Springs area, we drove down to Naples and spent the day there.

Naples has a pretty nice zoo, so we decided to check it out. It was a bit overpriced ($20 per person!), but it was a fun outing for us. I didn't take a picture, but Audrey told us her favorite animals of the day were the gazelles.

They had a big alligator exhibit and we got to watch them feed the alligators.The zoo has been around since the 1920s, and they had some cool, huge trees.
For $5 you could feed the giraffes a piece of lettuce. We saved our $5 and just watched other people feed the giraffes.
After the zoo, we drove to downtown Naples where they have a super swanky shopping area, historic district, beach and pier. We thought we needed one more look at the ocean before heading home, so we went out on the pier. The water in Naples was gorgeous!

Monday, February 27, 2012

February 20-23: Bonita Springs

For the last part of our trip, we traveled to Bonita Springs, Florida. Daniel led worship for a revival at a church there, so this was the main reason for our whole trip to Florida.On our way to Bonita Springs, we stopped at the Miromar Outlet Center for lunch and some shopping. They have a big playland there, and the girls had a good time playing.

Both girls, especially Audrey, had fun playing on the church stage each night after the revival. Audrey just loved being at this church. She was so friendly with everyone and loved to shake everyone's hands and tell them all about her trip to Disney World. The church is mostly older people, and Audrey and Isla were the only little ones around. So they got a lot of attention! Audrey especially liked the fact that there were no other kids in the nursery with them, so she got all of the teacher's undivided attention.

Have I mentioned yet how beautiful the weather was for the whole trip? Or how much I loved it? I really think I am just a happier person when I am not cold. I really need to move somewhere that has 80 degree weather year round.

One night, while Daniel was rehearsing, the girls and I went out to explore the church grounds. We also took some pictures in the beautiful evening light.
While in Bonita Springs, we stayed in a house with another couple that used to go to our church named Bruce and Donna. Audrey loved them so much! I wish I would have taken a picture of her with both of them. She loved to talk to them and play with them. First thing when we woke up, she asked, "Where are Bruce and Donna?" Her favorite game was to put stickers all over them. There was also a nice pool in this community where we stayed. Audrey got even braver in the water. She learned that she could hold onto the side of the pool and let her feet float up in the air. She kept saying, "The water is pushing me up to the sky!" She also learned how to kick her feet while they were floating.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

February 16-19: Venice

My dad and stepmom live in Venice, Florida. So after our Disney days were over, we headed to their place for a visit. Our days in Venice were much calmer and less busy than the Disney days, which was a good thing!
Venice is on the Gulf Coast, so we got to spend an afternoon at the beach. It was kind of cloudy that day, really the only cloudy day of our whole trip. But it was still warm, and the sun did peek through the clouds a few times.

Audrey wasn't too fond of the beach on our trip last year. I was hoping that the beach would be a better experience for her this year. And it was! Last year, she did not like the sand, and she did not want it to touch her. This year, she had no problem covering herself in sand! She loved it.

At some point before we left for Florida, Audrey got the idea in her head that she wanted to make an angel in the sand. Like a snow angel. I really didn't think she would actually want to do it once we got to the beach, but I was wrong. She plopped right down in the sand and made her angel.

The gated community where my dad lives has a new, resort style pool. It is really nice, and we enjoyed swimming one afternoon.

This was Isla's first time in a swimming pool. She loved it. I guess it is just like a big bathtub to her. She had a lot of fun splashing and kicking her feet.

The last few times that Audrey has been swimming, she has been a bit nervous about the water. We really need to get her enrolled in swimming lessons. She really enjoyed this pool, because it has a really shallow part where she could walk by herself. She could crawl around in the water, and she kept saying, "look at me! I'm swimming!" Not quite, but at least she was being brave and playing in the water by herself without someone holding her hand.

Monday, February 20, 2012

February 15: Hollywood Studios, part 2

Daniel and I had a few hours at Hollywood Studios to fun! It was really nice to be able to walk around without the strollers for a while. I wanted to take some pictures with just the two of us, but I failed and didn't take any.

If I were more adventurous, we would have ridden some of the bigger rides like Tower of Terror, the Aerosmith rollercoaster or the Star Wars ride. But I have motion sickness issues, and I do not enjoy most rides, so Daniel was stuck doing some of the tamer (aka lamer) things with me.

We rode The Great Movie Ride. I think this was probably cool at one point, but the movies are pretty outdated and compared to a lot of other Disney attractions, the special effects are nothing too special. I think if they updated it with more current movies and better special effects and less cheesiness, this could be a fun ride.

We ate dinner, and then had just enough time to go to the Indiana Jones Stunt Show. This wasn't my favorite attraction, but it was fun and entertaining.

At about 6:00, we headed towards the Fantasmic arena. Fantasmic is the closing show at Hollywood Studios. It is really popular, and I had read lots of great reviews about it. The Times Guide said that the seating was limited, so we got there about an hour early in order to be sure we had a seat. That was not too early at all, as the place was quickly filling up.

In this outdoor theater that has a seating capacity of 9000, what are the chances that we wind up sitting right next to our local high school marching band? We did not seat ourselves; we were ushered to our seat, and there they were, right next to us! Crazy!Fantasmic features lights, fireworks, water, fire, boats, special effects, and of course, Disney characters. The theme of the show is Mickey vs. all of the Disney villains. I knew that we needed to see this show without Audrey because of the fireworks, but with all of the villains, it would be fairly scary and intense for little ones as well. I'm definitely glad that we did this show without her.It really is an impressive show. I tried to take a few pictures, but they don't do it justice. If you are at Hollywood Studios, it is definitely worth watching, especially if your little ones are back at the resort with Grandpa and Grandma!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

February 15: Hollywood Studios, part 1

For our second day at Disney, we decided to go to Hollywood Studios. I had never been there before, but I did do my research. I knew that there were not a ton of things to do with little ones in the park, but there was enough that I thought we would have a good time. It was a much more laid back day than our Magic Kingdom day, which was a good thing.

We started by getting a Fastpass to the Toy Story Mania ride. I had read about the crazy popularity of the ride, and that Fastpasses are sometimes gone by 11:00. We got the Fastpass just after 9, and our return time wasn't until noon.

Then we went to the Disney Jr. show. This was right up Audrey's alley as she was familiar with most of the characters in this show. This was a puppet show, but it was a Disney styled puppet show, so it was much better than your average puppet show. Audrey was still in serious, poker face mode for this one. But I think she enjoyed it.
We walked across the road to The Little Mermaid show next and just missed being able to walk right in as it was beginning. Instead, we had to wait 30 minutes for the next show. Audrey has never watched The Little Mermaid, and I was worried that it might be a little scary for her.

It most definitely was a little scary for her. It is a 17 minute show summarizing the whole story, but a good 5 minutes of the show is devoted to Ursula, and it is kind of intense. We probably should have skipped this one with Audrey.

It was about 11:00 when The Little Mermaid was over, so we decided to go for an early lunch again. On our way to lunch, we saw Daisy and Donald and a very short line. Audrey and I jumped in line, while the others went to get our lunch at Pizza Planet. Across the street from Pizza Planet was MuppetVision 3D. It was a fun show. Audrey enjoyed it without her 3D glasses, as she kind of gets freaked out when things jump at her in 3D (we learned that the day before at Mickey's Philharmagic!)

Once the Muppet show was over, we walked back over to the Toy Story Mania ride. For this one, we did want to make sure we returned within our one hour Fastpass time, as it is an extremely popular ride. We saw wait times around 80 minutes for it. With the Fastpass, we still had to wait over 20 minutes.
Toy Story Mania really was worth all the hype! It is a fun, 3D carnival style ride, where you get to ride in a car and play a bunch of shooting games. It didn't sound all that special to me, but it was really cool. This was the only ride where Audrey showed excitement during the ride. No poker face on this one...she was actually laughing as she was riding.

Then it was time for the Beauty and the Beast show. This show is a 30 minute version of the Broadway stage musical and movie. Audrey is very familiar with the Beauty and the Beast movie and songs, so I was really excited for her to see this show. She was excited too!
We went to the 2:00 show, and that was probably not the best time for Audrey Once the show started, she got so tired. Her eyes were starting to glaze over, and I kept bouncing her to make sure she was awake! That was the end of the day for the girls at Hollywood Studios. We all went back to the resort after Beauty and the Beast. Daniel and I left the girls with Daniel's parents at the resort, then headed back to Hollywood Studios to enjoy some time in the park without the kids!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

February 14: Magic Kingdom, part 3

After the parade, we went to Tomorrowland to ride the People Mover and the Buzz Lightyear ride. This probably wasn't the best idea for avoiding lines, as it seemed that everyone else had the same idea as us. We got a Fastpass for the Buzz Lightyear ride and planned to ride the People Mover while we waited for our Fastpass time.

But then Audrey fell asleep in her stroller, and it was about time for Isla to have a bottle. So we decided to find a spot in the shade instead and rest while Audrey slept and Isla ate.

After the girls were ready, we rode the Buzz Lightyear ride. Because it seemed to be a popular time for that ride, we still had to wait about 15 minutes with the Fastpass. But that was much better than waiting 45 minutes like everyone else. Audrey did not like the Buzz Lightyear ride. It was kind of jerky and loud, and she did not find it enjoyable. Isla did seem to like it though; she kept playing with my laser gun.
When we first arrived at the park, we got a Fastpass for the Mickey and princess character greetings. The guy who was working at the Fastpass station said that we did not have to return within the hour time frame on our ticket (which was between 9:50 and 10:50 am). He said we could just come back any time after 9:50, and the Fastpass would still be accepted. So we saved the character greetings for later in the day.

Getting a Fastpass was a great idea here. The lines were only about 15-20 minutes at the time we showed up, but we still got to cut in front of all those people. After waiting 45 minutes for Tinkerbell, I was happy to jump to the front of these lines. Audrey loves the characters, and she loved seeing Mickey, Minnie, Cinderella and Belle.
To end our day, Daniel's parents took us to a character dinner at the Crystal Palace with some Winnie the Pooh characters. Food and Disney characters...two of Audrey's favorite things, so we knew this would be a hit with her. Isla slept through most of the meal, but she woke up in time to eat some carrots and meet Winnie the Pooh.Our goal was to get out of the park before the fireworks started at 8 pm. We were all tired, plus Audrey hates fireworks. We thought we could beat the crowds if we left a little early. We ALMOST made it. We were in line at the bus stop when the fireworks started. We ended up seeing most of the show while in line and on the bus, with Audrey crying through most of it.

Whew! So that was our day at Magic Kingdom. Overall, it was just a great day. I think everyone had a good time. Isla was really cooperative, though I think she was kind of overstimulated by the whole day. (She didn't sleep well that night). I wanted to record all of this so that we will remember everything. It costs so much money to go to Disney; I feel like it makes the day last longer (and therefore be more worth the money) when we can go back and read about everything we did.

Next up...Hollywood Studios!

February 14: Magic Kingdom, part 2

Audrey and I decided to go meet Tinkerbell, while everyone else stopped to enjoy a Dole Whip. The Tinkerbell wait was 45 minutes, and I don't think it was worth it. The Times Guide said that we would meet Tinkerbell and her fairy friends, as in plural friends. So I was expecting to get pictures with several characters.

But once we finally got into Tinkerbell's "house", it was just Tinkerbell and a boy fairy. Audrey informed me that the boy's name was Terence. (I looked it up and she was does she know these things??)
This was our longest wait of the day, and we could have, probably should have, skipped it. But Audrey liked sitting on Tinkerbell's lap, and now we have a picture to remember it.

After we finally finished with Tinkerbell, it was a little after 2:00. We decided to head over to Main Street, get some ice cream for me and Audrey, and set up camp in a prime parade viewing location. This was not too early to get a spot for the parade, as many other people had the same idea.

It was nice to have some down time after a busy morning. Plus, we had a lot of time to take pictures while we waited for the parade to start!
If you were at Disney with little kids who didn't care about Disney characters, you could definitely skip the parade and enjoy shorter lines throughout the park. But Audrey LOVES the characters, and the parade is a big highlight of her day. This year she knew even more of the characters (too much TV for her!) than last year, so she was super excited whenever she saw someone else come down the street. Like Mary Poppins! (on a completely random note, I'm thinking that a Mary Poppins party might be really fun for her 4th birthday.)
What are the chances that the day we are at the Magic Kingdom our local high school band would also be at the Magic Kingdom marching in the parade?? Crazy! Here is our friend and babysitter Kaylee marching with the poms.

Friday, February 17, 2012

February 14: Magic Kingdom, part 1

I'm going to give you a play by play of our days at Disney. It's probably going to be far more information than you ever wanted to know about our vacation, so feel free to browse/skip through as much as you want.

I am the type of person who likes to research and know everything about a place before I go there. So I spent a lot of time reading about Disney and finding tips on what to do with a preschooler and a baby. I had a plan for our day, which we sort of followed. If you are planning a trip to Disney anytime soon, maybe this will help you out. It ended up working out well for us; here's what we did:

Everything I read said to get there early and do Fantasyland first. This was good advice. We walked in the park at 9:05. We did Winnie the Pooh, the carousel, It's a Small World and Mickey's Philharmagic with no waiting. Dumbo was closed, so we didn't have to mess with waiting in line there.

Audrey says the carousel was her favorite, though she had a very serious expression on her face the whole time. It takes her a while to warm up in a new place, so she was pretty serious and quiet through the whole morning. It's hard to know what she liked until later when she starts talking about it all.Both girls liked It's a Small World. Isla's eyes were huge the whole time as she looked around at everything!We were going to see Rapunzel in Fantasyland, but the line was too long. So we headed over towards Frontierland. On the way, we ran into Tiana, and there was very little wait to see her. Audrey was excited because Tiana asked her what her favorite color was. Audrey loves the color yellow, and she loves to tell everyone that it is her favorite color.It was about 11;00, so we decided to eat an early lunch before the crowds got too crazy. We ate at Pecos Bill's Tall Tale Inn in Frontierland. Everyone else seemed to like their food, but I didn't think mine was very good. Eating at 11:00 was a brilliant idea. No lines, no crowds. I hate eating in busy crowded places with two little kids. We had plenty of time and space to eat our meal.

As we were leaving the restaurant, there was a street dance beginning outside. A Disney worker walked up to Audrey and asked if she wanted to come dance. To my shock and amazement, Audrey said yes. Audrey went with this girl and marched around and danced in a crowd of people for three songs, all by herself!
After lunch, we went to the Magic Carpets of Aladdin ride. But once she and Daniel were in line, Audrey decided she did not want to ride. Instead, she wanted to ride the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. I knew that Audrey would most likely be scared on that ride, but we decided to go on it anyway. That was probably a bad idea. Audrey started to get scared while we were waiting in line for the ride. But she rode it. The whole time I was trying to explain to her about Captain Jack Sparrow and how he is a nice pirate and not scary...but she was not convinced.

Next up was the Jungle Cruise ride. We got a Fast Pass for this before lunch so we didn't have to wait in line. It is a dumb ride, and not worth the 45-60 minute wait that is usually there. But Audrey liked it, and it was a good non-scary ride after the pirate experience.