Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Disney World Vacation: Playing (part the rest)

Tuesday, January 24th: 

Before our second day in the parks, I decided to get up early to go for a run around Crescent Lake. I've clearly crossed some kind of line into crazy town, because I was unnaturally excited and looking forward to my run all night long (I woke up at 2am and was disappointed that it wasn't time to get up yet). I snuck out just before the sun rose and did a few laps. I was afraid I'd be all alone but there were quite a few other crazy runners out there. 
sunrise over Crescent Lake.
We walked over to EPCOT for Early Magic Hours and headed straight to Future World. We had to park our stroller in order to visit The Land Pavilion and while marveling at what an operation stroller parking has become - especially at WDW, where they actually have parking attendants - we had a good laugh at the critters who've learned that strollers are absolute treasure troves of snacks. There were squirrels hopping all over every stroller in the rows upon rows of parked vehicles. They were snatching snacks and crumbs from the trays and the seats, and digging around in the baskets, pulling treats out from under jackets, and from inside backpacks and diaper bags. So funny.
he will never go hungry.
We rode Living With The Land, which is really interesting and inspiring. Some day, I want to do the behind the scenes tour of the attraction and get a better look at all the things they grow and how they do it all. Alice was not as interested and she started giving us the "all done" hands about halfway through the boat ride. Sorry, kid!
Spaceship Earth: morning, noon, afternoon.
Alice enjoyed riding The Seas with Nemo & Friends, and then watching the dolphins and manatees and fish in the pavilion displays. We wanted to ride Ellen's Energy Adventure, because that weird ride is one of our very favorites, but we chickened out after the pre-show. We were afraid that we wouldn't be able to keep Alice captive AND entertained for 37 minutes in the dark with loud dinosaurs, even if she could run up and down the enormous ride vehicle. But we couldn't resist taking a traditional photo out in front of the attraction. We took one on our honeymoon, and another when we visited in 2008, and just had to add one from this trip. Here's the full set:
September 2005, April 2008, January 2012

We decided to Journey Into Imagination With Figment instead and it was a winning choice. Alice loved it, and though the loud explosion at the end sent her into momentary shock that I feared would dissolve into tears, she got over it without any drama. 

My very first recollection is from a trip to WDW when I was three-ish. I clearly remember sitting on my dad's shoulders, picking out a Figment stuffed animal. So of course, after the ride, we let Alice choose her very own Figment. I kept him dry while Jon and Alice played in the jumping water outside. On our way back to the hotel for our customary nap, we stopped by the France Pavilion to pick up some pastries. While Alice rested, Jon and I enjoyed a delicious chocolate mousse, strawberry tart, and Napoleon with some Layer Cake Shiraz. Yum. 
After we refreshed, we walked back to EPCOT for our lunch reservation at the Canada Pavilion's Le Cellier Steakhouse. We had to try the famous pretzel bread (amazing) and Canadian cheddar cheese soup (so good!!), and shared the maple creme brûlée for dessert (truly divine). We kept Alice entertained by letting her master her newfound straw-sucking skills on a berry smoothie. She approved. After lunch, we sat down on a curb to wait for a good friend and Alice fed Figment a snack of leaves and flowers.
We didn't have to wait too long before our friend showed up and she was just tickled to meet another little Alice.
They had a nice little chat about weeds and whatnot... nice that our Alice didn't want to say goodbye.

We stopped by the American Adventure Pavilion to see the Spirit of America Fife and Drum Corps. Alice was equally captivated by the drums as by the seagulls swooping around over the show.
We went inside to hear the Voices of Liberty but Alice didn't make it all the way through their set. She and I went outside to play with the birds so Jon could finish enjoying. Alice is really into birds and ducks right now and luckily, there are plenty of them hanging around!
having a chat with a lovely duck couple.
We wandered through the China Pavilion before deciding that our feet needed a bit more R&R, so we headed back to the hotel for a quick dip in the pool and an early bedtime. We hung out in our room and had a nutritious dinner of goldfish and ice cream while watching hotel TV. Ah, vacation.

Wednesday, January 25th

We planned another "free" day in the middle of our stay. We'd strategically packed only half of the clothes and diapers we needed for the week, intending to do laundry on our free day while lounging about the hotel. We slept in, and then planned to throw our clothes in before starting our recreational activities. Unfortunately, most of the hotel's laundry machines were broken. After thirty minutes of problem-solving, the manager advised that we pop over to the Disney Vacation Club Villas to use their laundry facility. So we did, and instead of Jon soaking up some alone time in the room while I took Alice for a run, he enjoyed some time to himself in the laundry room while waiting for a machine to become available. 

After Alice and I did a few laps around the lake, we returned to help Jon load up the washing machines. Then we strolled down the Boardwalk to pick up some breakfast and lunch before heading to the pool. 

Alice had a great time playing in the sand again. When Jon went to change the laundry, I built her a bunch of sand castles. We retired to our lounge chairs to eat our sandwiches and were soon joined by a duck couple looking for a handout. The ducks were not at all shy and were actually making us a little nervous with how close and forward they were getting. They gobbled up any crumbs that fell at our feet and I kept trying to shoo them away with my towel. Alice thought the whole thing was hilarious and couldn't decide whether it was more fun to throw crumbs or shoo them away.

ducks & giggles from Growing Up Senge on Vimeo.

After our customary afternoon nap, we headed over to the Wilderness Lodge to meet Jon's uncle, aunt, cousin and her beau. We checked out the pool and the geyser (which did not oblige with an eruption). Alice had a grand time running over the bridge that spanned the bubbling stream inside the lobby. It was definitely the thing for little kids to do, at one point it was practically a stampede.
We enjoyed a really nice meal at Artist Point and great company, of course. It was great to see Jon's family and to have some adult interaction even if all we did was talk about Alice. We're looking forward to seeing all the Senges again at an upcoming reunion weekend.

We still managed to hit our ridiculously early vacation bedtime but Alice woke and cried a bit at 1:30am. We all fell back asleep, but she kept crying on and off, and then cried a bunch more around 2am. I got up to get her but she was just laying in her bed, crying, and didn't make any move to get out of bed. I unzipped her little tent flap and rubbed her back, and then she tried to zip it back up again. But she kept crying, so I had to figure something out. We all got up and scrambled for an emergency snack. Alice ate a squeeze pouch and some goldfish and while she was snacking, pointed at the goldfish on the front of the bag, saying and signing "fish." It sounds more like "fshhhhhhhhhh..." 

Thursday, January 26th:

We got to the Magic Kingdom right at 8am for Early Magic Hours. We took some photos at the entrance and at the castle, and then headed straight to Fantasyland.
Look, the castle! ignore that crane in the background, I didn't have time to Photoshop it out...
Since the carousel is the first thing you see after walking through the castle, there was no way Alice would let us pass without riding it. She really, really enjoys carousels, despite the ambivalent expression the photo below.
She learned to make the sign and sound for horse but she just points to her head and makes this hilarious "uhhhhh-huhhh-huhhh" sound instead of "nayyyyy." She made sure to say horse any time the carousel was in sight for the rest of the day.

We rode Peter Pan, which she enjoyed, and it's a small world, which she LOVED. She said "wow, WOW... wow, WOW" through the entire ride. She pointed at all the suns and made the gesture for sun that goes along with her favorite Raffi song, Mr. Sun. She pointed out every circle or sphere and said "ba!" and made signs for all the animals she knows - including fish, frog, monkey, horse (for anything remotely resembling a horse), elephant, and kitty.

We tried to enjoy the Hall of Presidents, since we hadn't yet seen animatronic Barack Obama. Alice was super tired and frantic and I tried to keep her in the seat by letting her play with my little purse. She busied herself by removing all of my credit cards and personal effects and then stuffing them under her legs. I had to try and catch anything before it hit the ground, lest it roll under the seats all the way to the front of the theater. After the show, we walked all around Tomorrowland, trying to coax her into a stroller nap while we deliberated our plans for the evening and the next day. We took a break from our nap efforts to ride the PeopleMover, which Alice really enjoyed. 

We decided to stick it out at the Magic Kingdom so we could see the night-time entertainment. We put Alice back in her stroller and parked her in a quiet corner to let her cry it out. After 10-15 minutes of snot-nosed sobbing (not being mean here, her nose had been dripping since we got to Orlando), she finally passed out with her face on her stroller tray. She then jerked upright and sat straight up with her head hanging back before falling over backwards, and then finally over sideways until she was laying down properly. I sat and watched this painful process couldn't believe that some people's kids just close their eyes and drift pleasantly off to sleep whenever they're tired.

We didn't want to move the stroller and risk waking her, so Jon and I took turns sitting with her while the other went out to forage for chicken strips and corn dogs and such. On one of my watches, I almost lost my mind when Jack Sparrow and his really loud pirate compatriot came out to engage everyone in a bunch of shouting and sword fighting about twenty feet away from our quiet corner. Luckily, Alice didn't even flinch. 
On Jon's last foraging trip, he brought back a Mickey balloon for Alice. She really has a thing for balloons and makes sure to tell us whenever there is one in within sight. She was understandably thrilled to wake up and find a balloon of her very own. After her nap, we explored Adventureland. Alice really wanted to ride Aladdin's Magic Carpets, but there was no way she'd make it through the long line in the sun so we visited the Enchanted Tiki Room instead and enjoyed the newly restored "classic" version of the attraction.

While we waited for our fast pass reservation for the Jungle Cruise, we let Alice play with her balloon and had a little photo shoot.
i promise she had more fun than it looks like in these photos
Alice liked all the animals on the Jungle Cruise, saying "kitty" when we saw the tiger and signing "elephant" for about every pachyderm in the pool.
Jon's cousin and beau joined us and we spent the rest of the evening wrapping up everything else Alice didn't know she wanted to do; the Country Bear Jamboree, Haunted Mansion, Snow White's Scary Adventure, the carousel (again), and dinner at Pecos Bill's, of course. Alice wasn't super happy about sitting to wait for the fireworks but settled down for Wishes and the very cool castle show The Magic, The Memories and You. After the shows, we waited for the crowds to disperse a bit and then fought our way through the store aisles. We picked out a Mickey Mouse to match the Minnie we picked up on Alice's first visit to Disneyland. You should have seen her face when Jon put Mickey in the stroller and carried her off for a diaper change. Tragedy and comedy, indeed.
so, so tired.
Despite the three obnoxious tween boys sitting next to us on the bus, Alice passed out hardcore on the ride home. I carried her, still asleep, all the way from the bus to our bed, and even stopped to take a photo in the lobby. I can't stress enough that this. never. happens. Clearly, we just don't tire her out enough...
it's just not a disney vacation until you're passed out with a mickey mouse plush and balloon in the hotel lobby.

Friday, January 27th:

On our last morning, we jammed over to the Animal Kingdom for one last hurrah, mainly so we could ride Expedition Everest. We took turns feeding Alice while the other ran straight on the expedition via the single rider line. We both rode twice in a row, until we couldn't ignore the signs that we're getting too old for that and should stop before we made ourselves sick. On Jon's last ride, I pushed Alice through the exit gift shop and got a little too close to the stuffed animal display. She picked up a huge yeti plush that our suitcase did not have room for, so we swapped it for this smaller snow leopard. Because, how could we resist? I call it the "yeti kitty," Alice calls it "yeh-yee." 
We swung by the tigers one more time so Alice could see the kitties, and actually saw two tigers sitting upright with open eyes. What a rare treat! The other one was sleeping, of course.
Yawning, and watching.
We stopped by Camp Minnie-Mickey so Alice could say hello to some of her favorite friends. We didn't count on making friends with the young fellow waiting in front of us. Chad was totally enamored with Alice, patting her head and her kitty. I got to practice my French and was again reminded that I can only barely converse with a child. I completely forgot to ask Chad how old he was or where he was from. He impressed us by counting to ten in English, and his father (grandfather?) complimented my accent. Chad asked if Jon spoke French and I had to answer "non, il ne parle pas du tout!" Chad asked if Alice spoke English and I told him, "comme un bebe!" 
I think he wanted to take her home.
The wait was worth it; Alice LOVED meeting Mickey and Minnie. It could be my imagination, but I think they especially liked meeting her, too. Alice made sure to give Pluto plenty of kisses...
Mid-kiss face.
We headed back for our nap session wherein Jon and I worked on finishing off our adult beverages and snacks, since we did not anticipate having room in our suitcases to ferry uneaten snacks back home. This is a good representation of most of our nap hours:
And then we walked back to EPCOT for one last whirl around the World Showcase, and stopped for a little cuddle with a princess:
Alice thought Princess Aurora was pretty great; I think the feeling was mutual.
We picked up some sushi and teriyaki and caught some awesome Taiko drumming at the Japan Pavilion. Alice ate some goldfish sushi, and practiced using her chopsticks, too!
We caught Illuminations once more, this time from behind a tree somewhere near Canada. Even though there were Extra Magic Hours until 12pm that night, we didn't last long after that. We stopped by the France Pavilion to pick up a few souvenirs and a few pastries, and then bid farewell to EPCOT and walked home one last time.

Saturday, January 28th:

We let Alice be our alarm clock again and lingered over our pastries before we got our day underway. We had plenty of time until check out, and I needed every minute to wrangle our belongings back into a portable configuration. Alice was a huge help in undoing whatever I'd just done, whining and crying the whole time. We walked out of our room mere moments before the deadline and practically ran down the poor housekeeper who seemed to be waiting to give us the boot.

We hopped on a bus over to Downtown Disney for one last rendezvous with Jon's uncle, aunt, and cousin. It was a really rejuvenating highlight in an otherwise draining day. After lunch, we bussed back to the hotel and let Alice run around until it was time to catch our shuttle back to the airport. Alice was getting tired and fussy even before we got on the bus, and it was all I could do to contain her for the thirty minute ride.

Once through airport security, we encouraged her to run, jump, and otherwise wear herself out. Any parent knows this strategy runs a fine line between running down the energy reserves and jacking a kid up on cortisol. Alice was pretty jacked up by the time we boarded the plane. We buckled her into her seat and took off, trying to keep her happy and/or distracted. She hadn't slept since 8am that morning and was desperate to sleep but is amazingly uncooperative when it comes to sleeping anywhere but her own bed. So my worst nightmare came true and I became the jackass on the airplane who lets her kid cry for twenty minutes while scrunching down in her seat with her fingers in her ears.

I wanted to make an announcement over the PA. "This is going to suck for twenty minutes, but I promise she'll fall asleep." The stewardess came over with a snack and a toy, but there was nothing I could do for Alice. Playing with her, distracting her, taking her out of the seat would only prolong the crying. Sure enough, twenty minutes later, she was passed-outsies. And then I put my head down and sobbed (silently) for a good twenty minutes. When the stewardess came around again, I ordered a half-bottle of wine to go with the chocolate bar we imported from the EPCOT UK Pavilion. That helped, as did the kind words from the woman across the aisle. But still, it was rough.

Alice slept for about two hours and woke with about three hours left in the flight. Awesome. Luckily, I knew just the trick. I turned on Winnie the Pooh (a particular favorite of ours) and let Alice watch it twice.
Totally engrossed, even without the sound. A shot of her credit, via Virgin America's in-flight entertainment.
After waiting for what felt like an eternity for the carousel to spit out our luggage, and slogging our way through traffic on the 110, we finally made it home. It took a few rough days for Alice to recover from all that fun and for us to recover from vacation with a toddler. 

We're working to gather our thoughts on visiting WDW with a toddler, and will post some specific tidbits soon. In the meantime, we're looking forward to another weekend on the road and then checking into a hotel for a weekend while Alice stays at home with grandparents. We literally need a vacation from our vacation. But the photos are worth it and the memories are priceless!


  1. In my head i'm starting to plan a WDW trip for next spring...I'd like it to coincide with a half-marathon there. I will definitely pick your brain for tips!!! What's the best time of year, where to stay, how do you take advantage of the early/late magic hours???

  2. Lovely post! We are headed to our first trip with our little one in a few weeks..We're excited!

  3. Enjoyed your post. Great pictures too! This leaves me daydreaming about going back.

  4. I love Disneyland. My husband and I go there alone when we are in southern CA, but it’s more fun with lots of kids! Glad you had such a wonderful trip.


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