Thursday, April 30, 2009

Day 3- Animal Kingdom!

After a late night, we were still determined to get a early start. We made it to the bus stop by 8:10am. Plenty of time to get there before the park opened at 9am. Hurray!!

As we made a dash to Kilimanjaro Safaris to get fast passes the scenery was amazing! There was so much attention to detail, I just wanted to walk slowly and take it all in. We knew we would have more time later, so we just soaked in as much as we could and got our fast passes. We were lucky enough to make it for the first showing of The Festival of the Lion King, and get front row seats!

It was in-your-face, high energy, great singing, and just spectacular! I think this was Nathan's favorite show. Might have been mine too!

We stopped for a few character greetings along the way to the Kilimanjaro Safari.

Kilimanjaro Safari's was probably the this I was looking forward to the most, and the biggest disappointment. It was cool to see all the animals close(ish), but they tried to make it seem too real, which just made it obvious how not real it was. That dosen't make much sense, and anyway- the kids loved it so that's all that matters. It was still fun!
After the Safari, we decided to catch a showing of the Finding Nemo Musical. I had a tip that this show was great, and it did not disappoint! The music, acting and costumes were awesome! We had close seats, but they were off to the left. I think I would have rather been further back to get a better view. We found what WE think was another "Hidden Mickey". (I love how Saroya is pretending to hold her breath like she is under water!) It's funny, because even today April 30th- Saroya pointed out a "Hidden Mickey" on a picture in my room. They are all still looking, like Disney sprinkled Mickey heads all over the world!We took a break after the show to have lunch. Nathan & I ate at the Flame Tree Barbecue which had the biggest most delicious sandwiches. I can't remember what Nathan had, but I know I LOVED my sandwich! :)

The kids ate at Restaurantosaurus, which is essentially chicken nuggets and fries. Perfect for mot having to fight with kids to eat! :)

After lunch we walked over to Kali River Rapids to see what the wait was. 10 minutes. Sweet! We walked on and everyone LOVED it. Actually the girls and I went on it again while Nathan & Ethan ran over to ride Expedition Everest.

The girls and I had some extra time, so as we were walking around, we noticed that "It's Tough to be a Bug" only had a 10 minute wait, so we went to see that. YIKES!! It was horrifying for the girls...ok and a little scary for me too. It was the centipedes running across my back I think that got me!

We all found each other, toured the Tree of Life and then only had a few minutes before the park closed.

Since Animal Kingdom closed at 5pm, we decided to make dinner reservations at Hollywood Studios @ Hollywood & Vine for 6:35p. Only problem with that was that we arrived there at 5:30p, and Nathan had some work that he needed to do and the kids wanted to go swimming. I checked with the restaurant to see if there were any earlier times available and she said, "How about right now?" I about screamed I was so happy! I was shocked that they had an opening, knowing how busy the park seemed to be. It was great service, and a buffet- which is normally scary to me with my food issues- but the chef came out and pointed out exactly what I could eat, and offered to make me a few things too! In fact- she even brought me dairy free ice cream, two chocolate chip cookies and a brownie! Luckily the cookies and brownies were pre-packaged so I took them with me.

Sometime during dinner, I noticed the kids talking quietly and pointing. When I asked what what going on, Saroya said, "Jaleigh saw Gabriella from High School Musical!" I looked over, and a waitress did look shockingly like her! Jaleigh was absolutely star stuck! Finally she asked me to go with her to say, "hi". I walked up to a girl named Daniella whose badge says she is from Mexico.

"Um, excuse me... My daughter thinks you are Gabriella from High School Musical."

She turned and said very humbly. "Aww...she does??" And knelt down to talk right to Jaleigh.

"Do you think I am Gabriella?? You are so nice!" and gave Jaleigh a really sweet hug. I could have kissed her for doing that. For never crushing her by saying, "No, I am not her" but let her have her moment. Her dream! Before we left we asked if we could get a picture and she said, "Of course!!"

We left as her manager approached her to find out what was going on. I really hope she gets some kind of recognition for the way she handled the situation, because it really meant the world to Jaleigh. Magic again- the best!

We headed home after dinner and had plenty of time for swimming, homework, and an early night to sleep. The next day we were finally heading to the MAGIC KINGDOM!!!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

So, As I Was Saying...

We woke up early on our first full day at Disney World. Our plan was to get to Hollywood Studios before it opened. Then we would be the "only ones there" and be able to jump on any ride. (HA!)

We got to the bus stop about 8:45a, not as early as I had hoped but we were sooo excited. We watched the first bus come- Animal Kingdom, the second- Epcot, third- Magic Kingdom, fourth- Animal Kingdom.... We were starting to think we were at the wrong place. Then we realized that maybe we weren't the only people that had the idea of getting there "early". Eventually the bus came and we were officially on our way!

We had a plan (thanks to careful preparation and direction from Beth) and we ran to get fastpasses to the newest attraction Toy Story Mania. As far as rides go, this was Saroya's FAVORITE. It was pretty awesome. It involves 3D glasses, Midway games, and trying to beat Dad's score! So much fun.
Jaleigh and I hung out and watched the Jedi Training Academy while Nathan & the older kids rode the Star Tours ride- another big hit. We decided to run over and see if we could do something Jaleigh would like to do, and got to the Beauty and the Beast show just 5 minutes before it began. It was a packed house, but they led us straight down to the front of the auditorium, and we sat 2 rows from the front of the stage. One look at Jaleigh and I knew exactly what people mean about Disney World's "magic". She was beside herself with excitement. We had lunch at the Pizza Planet (from the Toy Story Movie), and it was SOO GOOD!! Nathan and I had salads that were fantastic, and the kids had pizza with grapes and rice crispy treats shaped like a Mickey Head. Not bad for "park food".

We watched the High School Musical 3 street show (which of course had the kids dancing like crazy!!) and Jaleigh was lucky enough to be called up to be in the show with the dancers. Yeah- magic again... :)

The kids had a snack credit that they could use every day- so they opted for the Chocolate Covered Mickey Head ice cream bars.

While we were waiting for the afternoon "Block Party Bash" Ethan & Saroya took the opportunity to trade pins.

By this time, Miss J thinks she is a "cast member" herself, and marches right out to the entertainers to dance in the show. She wasn't paying a bit of attention to what anyone else was doing, she was working the crowd. :)
We went to see the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular, and it was great! I think I spent just as much time watching the show as I did watching my own family with smiles plastered all over their faces.
After the show, it was time for our dinner reservations at the 50's Prime Time Cafe. I was soo excited about this. The premise is you are at your "Mom's" house and you sit at a 50's style table with an 50's black and white TV playing old re-runs at the table. The waiters are supposed to treat you like kids reminding you to "eat your veggies" and "keep your elbows off the table". I thought it would be so fun. Nathan didn't think it was. (Which kinda was funny to me too!) He totally thought the guy was annoying and rude. Saroya was scared of the server and had a few tears because she didn't like the Mac & Cheese (GROSS!!!). We told her it was ok, she didn't have to eat it. Overall, I don't think I would go back there because I wasn't impressed with the food, and Nathan wasn't impressed with the service... (he! he!!) BUT!!! I do think I found a hidden Mickey there. Nathan says no, but I think it is. Can you see it?!

We took some time after dinner to get some character autographs and before we knew it we were into the "extra magic hours". That was so great because the whole place cleared out. We weren't really sure what to do. I asked a lady in the area for an "insider tip" and she said that all the big characters are in the Magic of Disney Animation show so you can get autographs. There was no waiting so we went. IT was interesting, but apparently all of the characters were at the Playhouse Disney Dance Party going on next door, so we went over.

Imagine a dance party with bubbles flying through the air, Disney Characters doing the "Locomotion" and a kid friendly CRAZY DJ running the show! It was a blast. Perfect thing to do at 11:00 at night. They announced that there were some guys making balloon things for kids. THEY WERE AMAZING!!! This one guy had crazy skills and all the kids walked away happy.

Happy that is until Nathan was trying to find a "safe place" to put Saroya's prized possession back in our room. It went a little like this.

"Dad, maybe you shouldn't put it there."

"No, it's Ok sweetie. Look."

"But Dad, the wall might pop it.... "


Then lots of very, very, sad tears and a balloon Teddy Bear's leg shrinking quickly. It took a LONG time for her to get over that one. Nathan felt TERRIBLE!!! She forgave him quickly, but she was still very very sad. Luckily we got a picture forever! :)

The other bummer about that day was realizing that we missed Fantasmic on the only day we could have seen it. BLAH!!

Oh well. Next time..... :) It was an amazing start to an amazing week!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Hotel Avery

Nathan grew up in the hospitality business, his family owning a motel, but I don't think he realized he would be "back in business" for a while! Maybe it is the 27 towels that I have in my closet from an amazing family reunion we had at our house this past summer. Maybe I just have a "social fixation" that is never satisfied, but what ever the reason is, we have been very fortunate in the past couple of months to have some great house guests come to stay with us.

First there was Grandma Old Ears. She was fresh out of rehab for a broken hip, so we loaded her up and brought her to our home.

Oh she and jaleigh had soo much fun! Grandma Old Ears would teach Jaleigh such fun things at meal time, like how they could squirt each other by biting down on a fresh grape.

Grandma was supposed to use her walker, but didn't like to. When I would get after her, she would have Jaleigh jump on the walker seat and take her on a ride all through the house.

When grandma would get tired out, Jaleigh would snuggle right up to her and stay there as long as grandma wanted her to. It was so sweet!

I loved the time we were able to spend with Grandma Old Ears. I loved the way Saroya would always ask grandma if she needed anything in her super loud voice (she never talks quietly to Grandma Old Ears!) and would ask Grandma to brush her hair for her. I loved that when Ethan would get home from school with all 11 years of his coolness, he would find grandma and give her a hug (and duck away when grandma's lips came searching for him!). I love that she and Nathan had a big old rib cookoff and the two of them devoured the whole thing! I love that I got to be with her and help her in her time of need.

After Grandma left Saroya said, "I am really going to miss Grandma Old Ears, no one has ever made my hair softer than she did. And she never HURTS me when she brushes my hair (glaring at me)." All and all I am so thankful we were all able to have that time. We will cherish those memories forever.

Then a couple weeks later, we got to have someone come and stay with us that we had never met or even talked to before. Her name oddly enough... Holly.

The story is amazing, much like the people involved in the story are amazing. It's an adoption story starting with the stunning strength and unconditional love of a teenage girl for her baby and the adoptive parents she chose, to the unbelievable respect, adoration, and unspeakable gratitude the adoptive parents feel toward this special teenage girl. And somehow, somewhere, there I was with my camera. Can you feel the gravity of that?

Neena was one of "my" young women when I was YW President, and we have always had a good relationship. She had talked with me about possibly having Holly (the adoptive mom) come and stay with us while she was here in Michigan. Of course we said yes. I must admit I was a little nervous- I had never met her before- but somehow I knew it would be fine.

From the time we first said "Hello" it was fantastic. She is fantastic! You would have thought we were long lost friends! She amazed me with her creativity and gusto. She made the most adorable fairy dolls, and even gathered all the girls around to show us how to do it one night. I told her one day that she should open an etsy shop. She said, "Ok!" and did it right then! (click here to see it!)

It was really weird to say my name so much (I don't think I have never really talked to another Holly), and it was comical how alike we are in so many ways! I really enjoyed the time we spent together.

The night before the baby was born, Neena, Holly and I had a junk food and movie night here. It was so much fun! The best part was after the movie though, when we all just layed on the bed and talked, and talked, and talked.


he came...

And then he came...and they were parents at last, for the first time.

We were so excited that they got to come "home" to our house for a while. You know I can't just have them "at the house" and not do a little photo shoot, right?

Yes... I do have more pictures (snap) and I am so thankful. Thankful to have been a witness to something so beautiful, so amazing and yet all of them so humble to have been a part. Stunning...

So forgive us for our absence and the missed birthdays, anniversaries, etc., I know there are many who can "do it all". Clearly- I am not one of them! :) I will do my best going forward. I can't wait to continue to document our adventures...