The Griswolds and The Bradys hit Disney: Part II

I’d like to begin Part II of my Disney series by announcing — surprise, surprise — that Nate already hit Matt with his cheap breakfast-at-the-castle sword and had it surreptitiously taken away. It actually took a full week before that happened. Shocker.

Anyhoo, let me pick up where I left off in the first installment:

Wednesday, Day 6, Legoland

L==>R: Peyton, Matt, Victor, Alex, Jack, Elle,  Nate, Lauren & Will

L==>R: Peyton, Matt, Victor, Alex, Jack, Elle,
Nate, Lauren & Will

We began Day 6 of our whirlwind vacation with a much needed break from Disney, and a short trek east to Legoland. The Griswold children (aka Nate, Matt and we’ll have to guess on Peyton’s opinion) agreed that this was their favorite park. Not so much for the rides — where the theme seemed to be really long lines, really short rides — but more for all the neat Lego sculptures situated throughout the park.

IMG_1529 Nate participated in the “Lego Trade” program, meaning he could bring or purchase a Lego figurine for around $3, and spend the day trading it with one of the numerous figurines clipped to the name badges of all the Legoland staffers. Within minutes of purchasing his figurine, he fed it to a Lego wolf.



IMG_1536Here are a couple cool shots of some neat Lego sculptures we saw, sneaking in some of our nation’s landmarks and history. Might as well get those kids prepped for their return to S-C-H-O-O-L, huh? Oh yeah.

Again, the sculptures were way cooler than any of the rides, but the kids both enjoyed the Dragon roller-coaster, and — oddly enough — the jousting horse ride. Then, while Nate attended flying school with his cousins, the shorter of the Griswolds and Bradys (aka Elle and Matt) attended driving and boating school. While Elle’s Lego car did nothing more than ram itself into a Lego pole, Matt kind of drove circles around the other age 6 and under kids, I’m pretty sure from letting him spend way too much time playing Mario Kart Wii. Everyone enjoyed boating school, even Clark Griswold himself: IMG_1552

Unfortunately for our day at Legoland, it was perhaps the one day of our vacation where we failed to experience lesson #4: It rains every day in Orlando. Well, technically we weren’t in Orlando anymore. But irregardless, that lack of heat relief was one of many factors contributing to Alice and Sam the butcher’s departure shortly after noon. And again, it also brings me straight back to lesson #1: Do NOT go to Disney (or Legoland) in August. Legoland didn’t have very much shade, and I’m pretty sure during August in Florida if you leave a grape sitting out for more than a couple hours you’ll have a withered old raisin. And that leads me to my favorite shot from Legoland:

The boys impersonate their "personality" after too many hours in the heat.

The boys impersonate their “personality” after too many hours in the heat.

Needless to say, we bugged out of Legoland at about four, and headed to Carrabba’s for some good food and adult conversation. We put all the kids except Peyton at the end of the table, gave them carte blanche on their lemonades, and shunned them away whenever they tried to invade Adultoland. Several of the adults imbibed on that other form of sustenance whence becomes of a grape subjected to heat (and fermentation), and then the whole pack of us hit Del Bocca Vista to float around in the resort’s Lazy River until we were, you guessed it, wrinkled like raisins.

Thursday, Day 7, Epcot

We actually began our day at Epcot with another character breakfast, this time a buffet at Chef Mickey’s, inside Disney’s Contemporary. At least this time for $30+ per adult I could eat until I was full, and the kids could meet the more traditional Disney characters, Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, etc. Matt still seems a little suspicious of the over-sized cartoons:

IMG_1567From Chef Mickey’s we hopped the monorail to Epcot, where we really should have given ourselves two days. Future World itself kept us occupied well past noon, where most of the rides required a Fast Pass, but were so worth it. I’ll second my WDW guide that Soarin’ — the hang-gliding ride — was the favorite of most of our party, although when you marry into a family of car enthusiasts you can’t help but like the Test Track ride. Matt’s brother and older cousins were ribbing him for the car he designed, which looked something like a Smart Car that had been stepped on by a dinosaur, but they shut their mouthy traps when his car beat theirs in speed, design, efficiency, and well… just about everything.

I’ve always liked the Living with the Land boat ride, although this time I remember passing through the garden and remarking to myself about all the produce my kids won’t touch, even with a more-than-generous dollop of ranch dressing. Peyton wasn’t too impressed with Living with the Land either: IMG_1581

The shows at Epcot were really entertaining. During the interactive Turtle Talk with Crush, the first question some innocent little pre-schooler asked was “how Crush made baby turtles?” Nice job Disney for handling that question with more grace than most parents.

We planned the day’s 10+ minute squirt perfectly-timed with the Club Cool store, where you could sample different Coke flavors from around the world. Despite dodging the rain, this stop was the start of the day’s minor disasters. I would say Matt downed more than 10+ Dixie-cup-sized servings of the lemon-lime drink, Kinley Lemon from Israel. Prior to all that sugar he consumed a bag of candy that grandpa purchased for everyone but Matt decided was his. Did I mention he barely ate anything at Chef Mickey? So what you have is a kindergartener full of candy, tons of liquid sugar, and exposure to all that d**n heat (need I mention lesson #1 again?) . Q. What do you get? A. A mid-afternoon puking. Good times. I might also add that Matt left his sugary, soggy cup of Kinley Lemon in the cup holder of the stroller, and when I went to push said stroller without looking, I got stung by something with a huge stinger that was schlepping off Matt’s leftovers. This was bee sting #2 of the vacation, as poor Jack also stepped on one at Blizzard Beach. Thankfully, though, it was our one and only puke experience the whole trip. It has to happen to one kid, right?

By the time we actually hit the World Showcase Plaza, it was close to four, and I have to say we just couldn’t pack in all the countries. We spent what little time we had left at China, Norway, the UK and the US, and we finally made it to closing time at one of the Disney parks, with half of us taking in the evening IllumiNations show and half of us watching The American Adventure presentation. By the time we bid Epcot adieu, parting was not sweet sorrow.

Lesson #8: Give yourself two days at Epcot, preferably ditching your kids on day two.

Lauren & Matt. Note Matt's post-puke change of attire.

Lauren & Matt. Note Matt’s post-puke change of attire.

Friday, Day 8, Hollywood Studios

It was a pleasant surprise for the Griswolds and Bradys to make it to Hollywood, as we had originally planned on a second day at the Magic Kingdom. But being the fast pass queens that Carole Brady (my SIL) and her sister were, we found ourselves with the time and one more day on our 4-day Disney tickets. Lights. Camera. Action.

"The force is strong with these two."

“The force is strong with these two.”

After suggestions from several of the lovely ladies in The Real Housewives of Fort Wayne, we immediately ran to the Jedi Training Academy to sign the kids up to be young padawans. This may have been a mistake, as at least a couple of the eldest padawans asked if they could train to be sith lords instead. No surprise, really. I’ve got some great video of the kids taking on Darth Vader, so gimme $50 or so for a WordPress upgrade and you can check it out! Instead, you’ll have to settle for this action shot of the boys costuming up for their jedi training:

Matt's already using the force to shrug off his brother's false affections, knowing he's clearly joined the Dark Side several years ago...

Matt’s already using the force to shrug off his brother’s false affections, knowing Nate clearly joined the Dark Side several years ago…

Highlights from Hollywood Studios included The Great Movie Ride, the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster (Lauren’s first upside-down coaster, when she grabbed my hand so hard she left marks), and Star Tours (the Star Wars ride). I personally chickened out on the Twilight Zone’s Tower of Terror, but most of the kids liked it. We lost our second kid at Hollywood, when we were leaving the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular show. The truth was that when we left the pavilion, Matt just kept walking right past the rest of us, but I’m preferring to tell everybody that he was steadfastly determined to get back to the stage and see if it would really hurt to be run over by that 400+ pound boulder Indiana Jones dodged. At any rate, Matt was returned to us by a friendly cast member who spotted us all doing a frantic search for him. Leave it to the Griswolds and the Bradys to lose another 5-year-old.

We buggered out of Hollywood Studios early so we could swim one last time at The Bonnet Creek Resort and pack up for the two-day trek home. We also ordered more food pool-side for dinner, where I was pleasantly surprised our waiter remembered us fondly from Day 5.

Day 9 & 10

Our final days were the drive from Orlando back to Fort Fun. While I think the trip home usually drags, I found the trip there seemed to take much longer in anticipation of all that Disney excitement. However, we did make a major mistake of deciding to head home via I-75 instead of the scenic Carolinas and Virginias. Only in Hotlanta will you run across construction and scads of traffic on a Saturday afternoon. Someone should just bomb Atlanta — this coming from someone who even lived there for three months. I was never so pleased to get off the d**n interstate for the night somewhere south of Lexington. On the plus side, with each state we passed through I could feel the downward shift of the temperature by five or so degrees.

We made it back to Fort Wayne by five o’clock on Sunday, thus ending the Griswold’s first trip to that fun money-sucker in the south, Disney World. We created mostly fond (and hot!) memories, and all in all it was a really great trip. Sure… going to Disney is one of those necessary family vacations where the adults in the family need a vacation from their vacation. So did the Griswolds get one? That vacation from the vacation? We sure did: School started three days after our return. Whoot!


The Griswolds and The Bradys hit Disney: Part I

Yeah, yeah, yeah… I know. You’re surprised something by me showed up on your blog reader. I’ll admit it, I’ve been a little bit incognito. If you check out the kids’ individual pages, you’ll find some comments and funny fodder. But as most of you know, I’ve been busy trying to ensure that Thing One and Thing Two didn’t inadvertently smother their now four-month-old sister, Thing Three. It’s been an interesting four months, let me tell you, full of sleepless nights, poop, some crying, poop, spit-up, dairy allergies, and — wouldn’t you know it — more poop! It’s been a wild and crazy ride, one that I wouldn’t change but that takes me back to my comments on Baby X’s page, so check that one out.

However, I finally have something I really must blog about: Disney World. Our family — aka the Griswolds — finally make the trip to that money sucker in the south: Wallyworld. Well not Wallyworld — Disney World — but close enough. But we didn’t do it alone, oh no. This is the tale of the Griswolds AND the Bradys taking on Orlando: 8 adults, 8 kids and 1 infant. Cousins, cousins of cousins, and in-laws. Yikes. The following is a summary of our time in the incredible Florida heat.

Takin' the castle by storm Back row, L=>R: Nate, Victor, Alex, Jack, Lauren, Will Front Row, L=>R: Elle, Matt

Takin’ the castle by storm
Back row, L=>R: Nate, Victor, Alex, Jack, Lauren, Will
Front Row, L=>R: Elle, Matt

Day 1 & 2: While Carole’s 1/2 of the Brady Bunch flew, Mike’s 1/2, Alice and Sam the butcher (aka my in-laws), and we Griswolds decided it would be just swell to caravan down the eastern states. I actually have little complaint here. Since Nate wanted to ride with his cousins in the mini-van, and Matt chose time with Alice and Sam in the pick-up, we Griswolds had only one kid in tow for the majority of the trip: Peyton. So yeah, there was the occasional cry for a bottle and the smell of baby gas, but mostly it was quiet. Probably the quietest I’ve had a car ride since 2005! I actually read a book! I listened to music that wasn’t sung by Laurie Berkner or the Sesame Street crew, and I took in the sights as we cruised through the Virginias and the Carolinas.

The highlight of the drive was the lack of my need to repeat: “Stop it,” “No,” and “Don’t hit your brother,” three hundred times. Plus since the kids abandoned car I got to personally eat all the cool snacks I packed for them. Probably the biggest negative was our stop at my least-favorite restaurant of all time, Cracker Barrel (where I got away with only buying each boy one thing at the dreaded “booby trap of crap” as you walk in the door) and my father-in-law’s complete lack of a lead foot. Nevertheless, we eventually made it to our destination: A re-brokered week in a time-share at The Bonnet Creek Resort by Wyndham, right on Disney property.

Sunday, Day 3, Animal Kingdom

Peyton and I on safari.

Peyton and I on safari.


Sunday began with Alice and Sam abandoning ship for the closest E.R., as Alice arrived feeling a little under-the-weather, the cause of which was never really determined, but brings me to my first lesson:

Lesson #1: Do NOT go to Disney in August. The heat, my God the heat. Despite my incredible efforts to stay hydrated, by the time I arrived back to Del Bocca Vista on Day 3 my pee was nothing short of bright yellow. Since I didn’t get to nurse Peyton all day, my boobs should have resembled a Hooter-girl by the time the park closed, but they were strangely deflated and dried up like the rest of me. And Animal Kingdom was a short day.

Lesson #2: On the first day at the first park, do NOT head to a ride that your small-for-his-age kindergartener cannot ride (Expedition Everest). You’ll be seeing and feeling the results of that meltdown the whole d**n day.

But otherwise, Animal Kingdom… some pretty neat stuff, but overall a really over-priced zoo. Sure, we all had a great time. Sure, Peyton was a champ who never fussed despite the H-E-A-T. Sure, Elle did wander off and was lost for about ten minutes, during which we began an Elle-hunt in the rain. Sure, the Kilimanjaro Safari and Dino rides were pretty awesome. Sure… sure… sure. I’m glad we had the chance to try Animal Kingdom, which didn’t exist the last time I went to Disney back in the Stone Ages, but I was never so happy to ditch when the park closed at seven and head to a Hibachi Grill off-site. I didn’t think I could handle another frozen and thawed Uncrustable PBJ.

Lesson #3: Skip Animal Kingdom, or make it a 1/2 day combined with Hollywood Studios or a water-park.

Monday, Day 4, Blizzard Beach

Monday began with a rational debate over which of Disney’s water-parks we should visit, Typhoon Lagoon or Blizzard Beach — a debate I lost so we headed to a “frozen ski resort” in the middle of August. As Peyton really hasn’t put her sea legs to much use, and Alice needed some recovery time, this was the only day Peyton stayed back at the condo. I don’t have any pictures at Blizzard Beach, as we Griswolds have a peppered history of camera versus water where two cameras have lost. As it is, I almost had to upgrade my text phone to a child-neglect-encouraging smart phone, as my phone got pretty darn wet when I forgot an important lesson:

Lesson #4: It rains every day in Orlando. Most of the time, it’s nothing more than a 5-10 minute squirt.  Our day at Blizzard Beach was the only day the squirt took on a down-pour quality. As a matter of fact, we pretty much rode everything on the red slopes with our eyes closed, to avoid the pummeling of rain drops. However, a good time was, again, had by all at the water park, and Blizzard Beach turned out to be a good choice. Plenty of family stuff to do, and as it turned out only about three people in our party of fourteen wanted to brave the steepest and wettest of the slopes. Most of us were content with some tubing and the wave pool. The water shoes I never bought weren’t necessary, as it was a balmy low 80s thanks to the rain: Not hot enough to scramble an egg on the pavement. But the second time the rides closed for a half-hour from the threat of a thunder-storm, we decided to head out. But there was one more lesson from Blizzard Beach:

Lesson #5: Make sure your kids don’t see the giant sand pail full of ice cream, complete with a shovel for a spoon. Lesson #5.5: Don’t promise your kids said pail of deliciousness, ’cause you won’t stop hearing “Can we get ice cream now? Can we get ice cream now?” until you break down and buy that $10 pail of ice cream. Lesson #5.75: Don’t buy that pail of ice cream that will feed your whole family and even think you can stay on your dairy-free diet. Ooops. It was so worth it, though!

Orgasm in a souvenir pail.

Orgasm in a souvenir pail.

Tuesday, Day 5, The Magic Kingdom

Matt "smitten" with Princess Jasmine.

Matt “smitten” with Princess Jasmine.

We began our trip to the heart of Disney with a monorail trip, followed by a sit-down breakfast in the castle. This was a great way to meet the Disney characters, since they always seemed to be walking at a break-neck speed despite the heat of their costumes. During meals at the castle you get to meet all the princesses. Princess Jasmine was Matt’s favorite. Princess Jasmine was every guy in the room’s favorite, including that Disney staffer looking on wistfully in the background. (Remember those Griswold scenes with Chevy Chase and Christie Brinkley?) Princess Jasmine — what can I say.

Lesson #6: Your 8-year-old kid, who never gave two s**ts about the Disney princesses before, will suddenly find himself wailing in despair that you failed to purchase him an autograph book so that he could collect all the princesses’ signatures. Lesson #6.5: You can stop the wailing by suggesting he get his menu autographed. Completely does the trick.

"On guard!"

“On guard!”

Lesson #7: All tears over the princesses’ autographs will cease when your boys are given their cheap castle sword. Lesson #7.5: The castle swords are C-H-E-A-P, and at least one of the crew will break his within hours of leaving the castle.  Lesson #7.75: You won’t hear the end of the sword breaking until he buys a new sword outside the pirates ride. Ahhhhh Disney merchandise.

We all had a lot of fun at the Magic Kingdom. I would say the highlights for all were Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Pirates of the Caribbean, Space Mountain and Under the Sea. Peyton had a starring role in the Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor show, where she was recognized on screen as a “cute little baby, fresh out of the oven.” Matt, my kid who wants to be a train when he grows up, could have ridden the monorail and the train all day. Nate remained naturally obsessed with the Pirates of the Caribbean ride and his swords. As usual, I remained strangely fascinated with It’s a Small World and the Carousel of Progress (a blissfully long, air-conditioned ride/show).

We had planned on spending two days at the Magic Kingdom, but thanks to the magic of Disney’s Fast Pass, we were able to pack it all into one day, as long as we kept up a frantic pace in the middle of that d**n heat. By late afternoon, this had Matt clamoring to go back to the condo, and “Sam the butcher” was crabbier than Sebastian the crab from The Little Mermaid. So grandpa, grandma, Matt and Peyton called it quits and headed out early for the monorail, while the rest of us trooped onward, which brings me back to Lesson #1: Do NOT go to Disney in August, as well as Lesson #4. It rains every day in Orlando. Thankfully it cooled off after the days’ ten-minute squirt, unfortunately shortly before our Fast Pass window opened up for Splash Mountain.

The rest of us quit Disney World during the middle of the finale light parade, which we had to cut through via crossing guards to escape the Magic Kingdom. We headed back to Bonnet Creek and got some pool-side tiki bar take-out, where our extremely awesome surfer-type bartender/waiter was strangely reminiscent of “Crush” from Finding Nemo.

Nate & I pose briefly with over-sided mouse shrubbery.

Nate & I pose briefly with over-sized mouse shrubbery.

… To be continued shortly when the Griswolds and Bradys continue to hit Disney, Part II…