Thursday, December 20, 2012

Will at 2


Will turned 2 on November 11, the day we left on our family vacation.  Since we were taking him to Disney World, we didn't have a party, but I wanted to post a little update on Will before any more time passes.

Will is just a joy to be around.  He has such a sweet nature - he loves to cuddle and give hugs.  I frequently hear "Carry up, Mommy!" which is his way of asking me to pick him up and carry him - I almost always oblige.  My favorite part of our bath routine is right after he gets out of the tub - he loves for me to wrap him in his hooded towel and pick him up for a long snuggle before we put on his pajamas.

Will is inquisitive, and he loves to learn.  He learned all of the letters in the alphabet about 4 months ago and loves to point out any letters he sees.  As of about 3 months ago, he knows the basic sound every letter makes, and one of his favorite songs to sing is the one from LeapFrog's The Letter Factory.  He loves to count (I've heard him to go to 14, but haven't worked with him to see if he can go higher) and knows all of the basics of colors, shapes, and animal sounds.  He has a terrific vocabulary and tries to repeat every word that is new to him.  Clearly he is brilliant.  ;)

He likes lots of different toys, but his favorites are trains, the play kitchen and all of its accessories, Lego Duplos, his Hess toy truck, Little People, and his plastic animals & dinosaurs.  He also loves to pretend and has quite the imagination.  He will frequently say something like "I'm a pirate!  Yo ho ho!", "I'm a lion - ROAR!!!" or "I made a bat! Look at my bat, Mommy.  It's MY bat." while brandishing a long mailing tube.  There is a striped bug that frequently makes it into his stories - I have yet to see it, but he assures me it is around.

After all of our sleep struggles, he is finally a really good sleeper.  He loves his toddler bed and goes to bed easily around 8 - bedtime routine is a few books (he loves to be read to), a couple of songs, and a prayer.  We rarely hear from him once we walk out of the room until around 6:30 - 7 the next morning.  He usually naps for 1.5 - 2 hours each afternoon, going down around 1.

The kid loves to eat.  He is still good about trying things, but his favorites are typical kid foods - pizza, mac & cheese, chicken nuggets, quesadillas, and pasta.  He usually has a waffle or pancakes, yogurt and a smoothie for breakfast - he loves smoothies, so I'm able to get some veggies in then (I usually mix in spinach, carrots, or both with the fruit).  His favorite snack is still a Plum Organics food pouch, and since it is another way to get vegetables in him, I haven't discouraged it.  Other frequent snacks are apple slices, yogurt sticks, almost any kind of cracker, cereal, dried fruit, or diced pears.

Shortly before reaching two, he reached the tantrum phase - oh so fun!  Will is determined and strong-willed (we named him appropriately), and he will quickly and loudly let you know if he doesn't like something.  He is already very familiar with our time out spot.  Fortunately, he is just as quick to get over these episodes, apologize if necessary, and move on.

Will loves his sister very much - they always run to hug each other when I pick them up on school days, and he always asks if she is up when I go into his room to get him in the morning or after nap.  Although they fight like most siblings, they are best friends and love each other very much.  I love listening to their conversations, and I pray that they remain as close throughout their lives.

Will is our precious boy, and we love him so much.  Happy 2nd birthday, My Will!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Disney 2012: Last Night and Going Home

We spent our last evening at WDW at Epcot.  The Magic Kingdom closed at 7 again for Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party.  I had toyed with the idea of going one night, but we decided to save it for another trip when the kids are older - plus, we knew we'd be up late packing.  Epcot seemed to be our best option.

Spaceship Earth was our first stop.  There had been a 20+ minute line when we went on Monday, and it was walk on when we got there that night - glad we skipped it the first time!  Claire and I rode together.  The ride has an interactive feature where it asks questions about your lifestyle and predicts what your life will be like in the future.  The camera didn't pick up Claire's face, but we were both entertained by the ride's results.

Spaceship Earth Collage

We ate dinner at the Mexico quick service restaurant - in hindsight, we should have gone a little further into the World Showcase since apparently everyone else had the same idea.  The place was packed.  It was a little stressful, but we found a table and got some food in our bellies.

We had time to visit one pavilion, and we went to Mexico to let the kids get in one last ride.  It was a gentle boat ride featuring Donald Duck (one of Will's favorite characters).  Afterwards we took our time walking out, enjoying the Christmas decorations and soaking up the atmosphere for one last time.


The next morning we got ready to leave and had time for a relaxed breakfast downstairs - the Mickey waffles were very tasty!  We got on our bus to leave, and about 10 minutes before we got the airport, I got a message from Southwest that our flight was delayed by at least 2 hours.  It was a bummer, but it worked out okay.  We had plenty of time to eat lunch, and both kids (and Robert!) took naps in the terminal before the flight.  Once again the portable DVD player came in handy - "Tangled" kept them entertained for most of our flight - and we still made it home in time to go through our usual bedtime routine.

Checking out the topiaries while waiting for the Magical Express to take us home

Money!  Between the penny press machines and her new Mickey Mouse bank, Claire got obsessed with change during our trip.

Sweet sleepers


Watching them get our plane ready before we boarded - we were able to spot two of our bags on the luggage cart

Thank you, Technology!

For days after we got back from our trip, Claire would ask when we could go back, and one of the kids' favorite activities was to pack a small bag with stuff and pretend that they were going to Disney World.  If that's not a sign of a successful trip with two kids under 5, I don't know what is.  :)  All of the planning and the navigating the logistics of traveling with two small kids were totally worth all of the smiles, excitement, and memories we made.

So long, Mickey & Friends - see in (probably) in a few years!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Disney 2012: Last Day

When planning our trip, I left our 5th day in the parks open to see things we missed, re-ride favorites, etc.  We started off back at the Magic Kingdom, arriving for the opening show (the characters arrive on the train) and rope drop.

Through the gates one last time (on this trip!)
MK 1 Collage

First on our list was a visit to Tinkerbell.  The waits were always 45 minutes or longer, so we wanted to go before it got crowded.  Even so, we still had to wait awhile, but the kids were happy to meet Tink and her sister, Periwinkle.  (Claire's wearing the other shirt I made for her the night before we left - Minnie's bow didn't last very long.  I guess I need stronger glue!)



Another ride on the Jungle Cruise!


Robert went to get FastPasses for the Winnie the Pooh ride while Mom & I took the kids to see Tinkerbell. He also got a bonus FP for Dumbo - score!

Dumbo Collage

This one pretty much sums up how the kids felt about the day!


We were right next to the Fantasyland Train Station, so it was the perfect opportunity to take the train for a loop around the Magic Kingdom.  We grabbed a couple of snacks for the trip - Claire was pretty proud of herself for sneaking bites of Nana's caramel corn, although she wasn't really as sneaky as she thought.  :)  Will loves trains and was thrilled to go for a ride.  When we got back to the station, he got to watch as they filled the steam engine with water - he kept talking about it for the next few days.

Train Collage

Before we left Fantasyland, Claire wanted to ride Barnstormer - the only roller coaster than she is tall enough to ride.  We watched it a couple of times, and she kept saying she wanted to try it, so I took her.


Verdict?  She LOVED it - squealed and giggled the entire time and immediately wanted to get on again.  I am so glad to have a fellow thrill seeker - now I just need for her to grow a few inches.  :)

We started walking back towards the castle, talking about what we wanted to do next, and we noticed that New Fantasyland was open for dress rehearsals.  It officially opened on Dec. 6, and I knew from reading the Lines message board that it was frequently open to everyone, but I didn't want to get my hopes up that we would be able to check it out.  We thought the lines for the rides would probably be long, but we decided to go in just to see it.  Surprisingly, the posted wait for the new Little Mermaid line was only 15 minutes - I was so excited!  The actual wait was even less, and the queue was designed to keep kids from getting bored.  It was a cute ride, and I was glad we got to check it out.

LM Collage

We walked back by the new restaurant, Be Our Guest, which is themed after Beauty & the Beast (one of Will's favorite movies).  It looked like they were taking reservations for dinner, so I went to try to get one.  They didn't have any for parties our size, but they said the wait for lunch was about 20-30 minutes.  We didn't have to be anywhere, so we got in line - and were SO glad we did.  Definitely the best counter service meal we had, both in food and in experience.  It was a little chaotic since there were still working out the system, but it was expected and worked out fine.  You order at kiosks at the entrance, and you get a plastic disc shaped a little like a rose that you set on your table, and the rose links your order to your table, which is then delivered to you by waitstaff.  The main dining area was noisy, but we realized there was a side room that was really quiet.  It turned out to be a great choice for lunch.

Keeping Will entertained with stickers while we were in line

Replica of the stained glass from the movie

Disney 2012: Back at the Lodge

While the kids were dressed up and in good moods, we wanted to get a few photos of them at our hotel.

By the totem pole - Will tried to take the frog off every time we passed by
WL 1 Collage

Wilderness Lodge Christmas tree - it was gorgeous, reaching near the top of the 5-story atrium in the lobby

Bridge inside the lodge - Will ran across it multiple times a day
WL 2 Collage

More Christmas decorations

There was a caricature artist downstairs in the evenings, and every day Claire said that she would like to pose for a picture.  Thursday night was the perfect opportunity.  She sat so still, and we were all happy with the results.  We're getting a frame and will put it in her room - great souvenir.

Eventually they wound down to get some sleep before our last day in the World.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Disney 2012: Dinner at the Castle

Thursday evening was a big night - dinner at Cinderella's Royal Table.  We were all looking forward to getting a glimpse inside the castle, and we were not disappointed.

Claire is - to put it mildly - particular about what she wears.  I knew a lot of the little girls would be dressed in princess dresses, but I knew she probably would not enjoy wearing one herself (too scratchy, sleeves too short, you name it,...), so before our trip I took her to the mall and let her pick out a special dress.  We found one that we both thought was cute.  She told me that she felt very beautiful in it.  :)

We got to the Magic Kingdom in time for a couple of photos outside before our dinner, and then it was time to meet Cinderella.





We had the best experience - one of the top highlights of the trip for all of us.  The food was good, the princesses were sweet, and there was something especially magical about being in the castle at night.

Claire's special dessert - decorate your own ice cream cup

Claire with her wand and Will with his sword
CRT 1 Collage

Will got a big kiss from Snow White, and he loved showing it off
CRT 2 Collage

Aurora and Jasmine
CRT 3 Collage

Ariel said that Will's hug was one of the best she'd ever received.  :)
CRT 4 Collage

The park was closing at 7 that night for the Christmas party, but we had time for another ride on the carousel and a chance at the Sword in the Stone.
CRT 6 Collage

Sword Collage

The castle at night - the large windows near the bottom of the photo are the restaurant windows.  Beautiful!

It was time to go, and as we made our way down Main Street, the snow started for the party.  It was a magical end to a wonderful evening in the Kingdom.
Snow Collage

Disney 2012: Animal Kingdom

November 15

I've been to WDW twice before this trip (once on a family trip when I was 10 and again on our senior class trip at 18).  Animal Kingdom opened after my second trip, so it was the only 1 of the 4 I had never visited.  I was excited to see the "new" park, and especially for Will to see all of the animals.  He loves any type of animal, and I knew this would be a fun day for both of the kids.

We started the drizzly, chilly morning with a character breakfast at Tusker House an hour before the park opened.  This breakfast had 4 of the "Big Five" characters - Mickey, Donald, Daisy & Goofy.  It was a big hit with the kids!


Tusker House Collage

Besides having great characters and good food, Tusker House is right next to one of the biggest attractions in the park - Kilimanjaro Safaris.  We finished up a few minutes after the park opened and were able to get on the ride quickly.  For the safari, you ride in an open air vehicle and see many African animals roaming around - elephants, giraffes, hippos, rhinos, lions, etc.

Safari1 Collage

Safari 2 Collage

Next up was the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail.  We especially enjoyed checking out all the gorillas - they even had a baby one.
Forest Trail Collage

Will imitating an angry gorilla

The Tree of Life sits at the hub of the park - it is huge and decorated with intricate animal carvings.


We made our way to Asia and the Maharajah Jungle Trek.  The main attraction on the trek is the tigers, and we were treated to a show.  The tigers are separated into two areas, divided by "temple ruins" with large windows to view them.  One of the tigers were really interested/trying to stalk another one on the other side, and he has his face right against the window - so close, he was fogging it up.  We loved getting such a close view of him but were certainly glad we had a barrier!

Tiger Collage

Since this trip was primarily for the kids, we didn't make plans to ride any of the roller coasters or anything else that they were too small to ride.  However, I LOVE roller coasters, and it was killing me a little to keep passing them up.  As we walked past Expedition Everest, Robert noticed the longing look of my face and suggested that I ride it while he, Mom & Dad took the kids to ride something in DinoLand.  I jumped at the chance and quickly took off to the single rider line for Everest.  I only had to wait a couple of minutes, and I was so glad to have the chance to ride it.  So. Much. Fun.  The photo of me with the teens cracked me up - glad that the ride photo was included in our PhotoPass!

I made it over to meet everyone else just as they were getting on Triceratop Spin.

We wanted to see the Lion King show, but we knew we were getting close to break time and wanted to make sure the kids had good naps before our big dinner that night, so we had to skip it.  Next time!  After getting a few souvenirs and a couple of photos in front of the AK Christmas tree, we went back to the hotel to rest up before meeting Cinderella.