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Sunday, January 8, 2012

Will Turns 7 on Cast Away Cay

After a great nights sleep in our cozy room, we awoke to a steely grey sky and we were approaching Cast Away Cay, Disney's private island. Will has been dreaming about this place for years. So, you know when you are so excited about an event that there is no possible way the actual place could possibly live up to the build up. That's what happened to us today.

We began the day by singing happy birthday to Will and letting him open up his present. The night before while the boys were at the Oceanier's club we hit the stores to buy the one thing we knew Will wanted more than anything else, a model of The Disney Dream. He pulled the Birthday pin that a kind cast member had given us out of the bag, and pulled out the big styrofoam packing box. The anticipation on his face was palpable. He pulled off the tape and opened the lid, he just stared for a minute, then pulled the ship out of the package with awe. He pointed out all the features of the ship that we had seen already. He looked at me and said, "Mommy, this is the most special present I have ever gotten.' That was followed by a big hug.

After finally convincing Nate that it was time to get dressed, we headed down to the Royal Palace restaurant for a lovely breakfast served in Royal style. This was the beginning of the birthday extravaganza. The wait staff made Will feel very special, the flip side, all the extra attention Will was getting put Nate in a decidedly bad mood. He knew that it was Will's day but it was not easy for him to take. Ken had planned a great excursion for the day, it was time for us to head off the boat and onto the island.

We were scheduled to feed and swim with sting rays, ride bikes around the island and then snorkel in the crystal clear tropical waters, sounds idyllic right? It would have been had it not been about 15 degrees, with a very chilly wind. We were shivering within minutes of being off the boat and we hadn't hit the water yet. I was hopeful that the sun would come out and warm things up a bit that was not to be. We headed to Sting Ray Bay for our first adventure of the day. Despite the clouds the water was still clear and turquoise. Even from the beach we could see the large grey creatures gracefully sailing through the water. One of the sting ray specialists who lives on the island took us through an educational session about the rays, we huddled together on the benches and listened intently. It was then time to hit the water to interact with the rays. They are trained to swim across hose shoe shaped decks and take food right out of your hand. Ken and I both got right in there, we each had a ray suck a piece of shrimp from between our fingers. We tried to convince Will and Nate to give it a try but they were intimidated by the size of the rays and they had purple lips before they even put a toe in the water. Will cautiously waded in the water and giggled as the gentle giants sailed past his legs. Nate initially thought they were quite interesting to watch but then a group of 7 or 8 of them headed straight for him. One of the ray's wings grazed his leg and that was it, the panic set in. "Mommy, I'm scared", this was quickly followed by the projectile tears. I scooped him up wrapped him in a towel and sat with him on the beach. It wasn't long until Will was out of the water chanting, "I'm cold, I'm cold, I'm cold." I wrapped him up too, and we headed into the shelter to put on some warmer clothes. Unfortunately, maximum coldness had set in, this is very difficult for Will to recover from. As we made our way over to the bikes there was a mixture of whining and tears the whole way. We tried to convince him that bike ridding would warm him up but he wasn't buying it.

The beginning of our biking expedition was full of drama, Will could not get himself together and Ken could no longer cope with the whining. I took over the consolation, let him know that he would be just fine and that I would ride right beside him. Once he was off he was flying! Halfway through the trail one pedal went flying off the bike. Luckily there was a lovely British gentleman who also happened to be an engineer close by. Will and I were by ourselves well ahead of Ken and Nate so I was very glad to have a hand. The lovely man got the pedal back on and we were off again. By the time we got back to the bike rental spot Will was all smiles and had really enjoyed the ride. Ken and Nate eventually came out of the trail, Nate had done an equal mixture of ridding and walking while Ken had to ride his own bike and balance Nate's as well.

Nate was on the very of blood sugar crash so we headed to the island BBQ for a bite to eat and then we headed back to the ship. The clouds were not clearing and it seemed the temperature was continuing to fall. The up side of all this is that we will be returning to the Island on Saturday, we can only hope the weather will improve by then! The one thing the boys have been dying to try since boarding the ship is the Aqua Duck, the water roller coaster that circles the 11th deck and extends 13 feet over the side of the ship. We were all cold but the pools had been well heated so we thought the water would be fairly warm. We were wrong. We got to the top of the stairs (which is the highest spot we can get to on the ship, the view was fantastic) got into the rafts and set off. I am not a roller coaster lover but Nate was so excited I couldn't say no. We slipped down the initial drop and then were shot back up by a freezing cold blast of water. By the time we got to the end I think I was experiencing the initial stages of hypothermia but Nate was cheering, he had had the best time. We hopped into the pool to warm up but it was not warm enough. We dragged Nate out of the pool and headed up to our room to change out of our wet clothes and I had a hot shower. I have to admit I was a little bitter at that moment, here we were in the Bahamas and I was shivering. The shower helped to lift my spirits and Ken took the boys to the Oceanier's club for a pre dinner play. This allowed us to relax for a little bit and have a drink on the deck (wrapped up in a blanket) before our dinner at the Enchanted Garden. This is a beautiful restaurant that changes from day to night as you dine. Again, the wait staff made Will feel very special, to top it all off he got two desserts. The boys were big fans of the Mickey Mouse shaped ice cream bar. When he was finished that, the wait staff gathered to sing Happy Birthday and they brought him a piece of chocolate cake, he was so excited, I'm not sure I've ever seen him like that before.

The boys really wanted to head back to the club for a little more play. We dropped them off and then found the quietest bar on the ship. Outlook is the highest bar on board and it has a spectacular view. We watched other cruise ships bobbing by out on the dark water. Eight thirty rolled around and we went to pick up the boys. Tomorrow we had lots of interesting things to do in Nassau, the boys needed to get to bed. We tucked them into their bunks and they were asleep and seconds. Ken and I headed out onto the deck for a lovely glass of wine while the ocean passed by beneath us. Neither of us could believe that we now have a seven year old. It still seems like only a heart beat ago that I held him for the first time. Time evaporates, I am so glad we are spending this time together as a family, I know this is a birthday Will will never forget.

Sailing Away

I have
gotten a few days behind on these blog posts.
The Disney ones took so long to write because so much happened in a day
that it became difficult to be motivated to write. Especially when life on a cruise ship is all about
relaxation! This is actually our third
full day on the ship and I’ve got some time while Will is having a nap to get
caught up. Let me just paint a picture
for you of my surroundings while I write.
I’m sitting on our private verandah, it’s about eighty degrees and we
are surrounded by perfectly calm blue ocean.
It’s our day at sea and it seems we have dropped anchor somewhere
between Nassau and Castaway Cay. The sun
is shimmering on the surface of the water and the currents are creating an ever changing shade
of blue as far as the eye can see. This
is paradise.

Now let me
take you back a few days, January third.
We were not scheduled to board the boat until 12:30 so we had a lovely
slow morning, sleeping in a little, eating breakfast, packing up and putting
out rented house back in order. I was
feeling a little sad that this part of our trip was over but I was also so looking
forward to the cruise. The last four
days have been jammed packed and I was looking forward to a slightly slower
pace. The boys were out of their minds
excited. By the time we said good bye to
Grandma Jane and Eric and loaded in to the car they could not contain
themselves. The silliness pouring out of
the back seat was outrageous, We resorted
to technology to tame them for the hour and a half drive to Port Canaveral. Out the window the weather was deceiving, it
was a beautiful sunny sky but as we drove further south I had hoped the
temperature would climb up a little, it didn’t, it stayed steady at 48
degrees. We weren’t going to let a
little crisp weather dampen our spirits, it was still better than the snow
squalls we knew were happening at home.

We arrived
at Cape Canaveral, dropped off our rental car and took a quick shuttle to the
Port. As we came over one bridge we got
the first view of our ship. It towered
14 stories above the ocean’s surface and was so beautiful! Will and Nate were vibrating with excitement,
the most important thing they saw right away was the Aquaduck, the onboard
water roller coaster, that they have been dying to ride. That
was the first thing Nate wanted to do but it was far too cold to be exposed to
the elements in bathing suits! I have
got to give it to Disney, their organizational strategies are
unparalleled. Despite the fact that
there were thousands of people in the boarding terminal all trying to check in
at the same time the lines moved quickly and we were on the gang plank headed to
the ship in about 20 minutes. As we
entered the Grand foyer of the ship, the hosts announced our arrival and
welcomed us to our vacation. This ship
really is a work of art. The Disney
theme is present but subtle. The colours
of the ship are soft and muted with punches of Disney flair! The chandelier in the Foyer is stunning,
thousands of crystals and stained glass layered together, it immediately tells
you this is a special place. Our
stateroom would not be available for about another hour so we took a quick look
around part of the ship and then found a place for lunch. We sat in the sun on the 11th
deck, behind floor to ceiling windows to stay warm and eat our first meal on
board. Neither Will or Nate were
thrilled to stop and sit for a few minutes, they were ready to explore every
inch of the boat. It took some
convincing, but we got them to eat and when we were finished our room was available. We headed down one floor, found our corridor
and opened the door. Will’s birthday
surprise revealed itself as the room was all decked out in birthday decorations
and a cake was waiting. Will was over
the moon! Nate was excited too but
absolutely did not want to stay in our beautiful room. I wanted to explore it’s features and look at
the view from our deck but the boys were ready to go. Nate very plainly pointed out that there was
no fun stuff for kids in the room. True
enough so we were off. We took them to
get checked in at the Oceaniers club and have a tour of all the fun play
rooms. Both boys had been looking forward
to playing in this spot since they found out about this feature of the
boat. Truthfully, Ken and I were pretty
excited too. This is a very secure area
where you can drop your kids off to play with other kids, no parents
allowed! It is a really cool place with
screens everywhere, an interactive play floor and different themed areas for
play. There is a recreation of Andy’s
room from Toy story (Nate’s favourite spot).
There’s a Nemo area filled with computers and a submarine where you can
look through a periscope and see the view from the bridge. There is a Tinkerbelle’s Tree house dress up
area, a Monster’s Inc playground and on the other side of the snack room is the
Oceanier’s Lab, this is Will’s favourite
spot. Both boys wanted to stay right
away but it was nearing time to sail away.
We headed back to our state room to bundle up, that’s right, for the kickoff
of our Caribbean cruise we were cozy in jeans, socks, shoes, sweaters and
scarves. Even with these precautions
Nate was so cold that his lips turned blue!
The party atmosphere on the main deck was electric. Crew members handed out red and blue
streamers that filled the air with colour.
We sang, danced and chanted, “we’re on vacation!” When I say we, I mean Nate and I. This was all too much for Mr. Will. This was a dream of a life time for him and
he wanted to quietly take in every second.
He found a lounge chair, slightly away from the crowds where he could
watch as the boat pulled out. To others
he may have looked sullen or sad but we knew this was a moment of deep concentration
and joy for him. Nate and I danced away
and didn’t even notice the moment we were set in motion. I looked over to check and Will and noticed
that land was passing along beside us.
Nate and I joined Ken and Will along the railing to watch as we headed
out to the open sea. We were all looking
for the spot on the rocks where three years ago we had sat and watched the
Disney Wonder head out. It seemed
impossible to believe that our someday had arrived.

Once we hit
the open sea and there was nothing around us but blue it was time to head
inside, warm up and get ready for dinner.
This cruise has a rotating dinner schedule where you are booked into one
of the three dining rooms each night.
Our first dinner was to take place at the Animator’s Palate. The animators palate is a vibrant restaurant
created specifically for kids. There are
screens everywhere and characters from Finding Nemo continuously swam by. This was fantastic because the boys were
exhausted from a very exciting day and the show kept them very occupied! Half way through dinner, much to my delight
was a turtle talk with Crush session just like we had experienced at Epcot,
fantastic! Although we knew the boys
were tired, they would not go to bed without a play secession at the Oceniers
club. We reached the gate to the club
and they could not get in there fast enough.
Other kids being dropped off were teary and hesitant, not our two. Before I could even say good bye and have fun
they were gone and Ken and I were alone!
We immediately headed to the
adult part of the ship and had a quiet after dinner drink. It was the first time on this grand adventure
that we really had to sit and catch our breath, it was the moment we had been
looking forward to for weeks! At 8:30
we knew it was time for the boys to head to bed. Tomorrow would be yet another day full of
adventure and we wanted them to be well rested.
We dragged them out of the club, got back to our room and put them into
pajamas. Despite being exhausted, the
new beds were too exciting. The couch
folds down into a bed and Will’s bunk came down out of the ceiling. They both needed to explore these very cool
new sleeping spots. Ken and I headed out on our veranda for a
drink under the stars and listened as the boys giggled and swapped beds. Eventually the novelty wore off and they
drifted off the Neverland. Ken and I
also crawled into our fluffy, white bed and drifted off with the gentle rock of
the ocean beneath us.

EPCOT – Experimental Prototype community of Tomorrow

I learned something today.
I learned the EPCOT actually stands form something, I had no idea. It stands for Experimental Prototype
Community of Tomorrow. Interesting right?
Now back to the beginning. The
morning began with a change in weather, it was cloudy and cool, our moods seemed to correspond. The Parks are great but we had reached the 4th
day of going all day long without any breaks.
I think we all were starting to feel the wear and tear. However, Ken has many memories of Epcot, it
Is his favourite of all the parks and he was excited.
After a
quick breakfast we all piled into the cars, Nate had taken to having a word of
the day, today’s word was Epcot, fitting, he said the word over and over until
we reached the gates. Apparently Epcot
is a very fun word to say as Will joined in a s well. The American Holidays ended on Sunday, this
seemed to relieve many crowds we had experienced at the other parks. We were there early enough that we were in
the first parking lot and didn’t even need to take a tram from the parking lot! Thanks to the expert advice of our friend
Tracy we immediately headed to get a fast pass for Saorin’. We then checked out all the attractions
located in that building. Epcot really
is the most educational park of the four, we saw some very interesting
things. We started off with a movie, The
Circle of Life, an environmental fable hsted by everyone’s favourite Lion King
characters, Timoe and Pumba. The basic
gist of the movie was a good one but it had a very Disneyfied ending showing
how all humans are working together and cleaning up the environment. I don’t think we’re quite there yet, but,
it’s a great goal! We then headed on a
boat tour that took us through the history of the planet and then into Disney’s
green houses where they are developing interesting new organic and hydroponic
gardening techniques. The green thumb in
me was certainly impressed.
We then
headed to what I really think was my favourite section of the Park, The Nemo
Reef! There were some really fantastic displays
here but my favourite by far was Turtle Talk with Crush. Crush is my favourite Disney Character of all time so I
was thinking that this would be fun but it was way better than I had
expected. We entered the theater and
Crush started talking to the people in the audience, asking and responding to
questions, it was really cool. There
must be an actor somewhere providing the voice, the animation part we haven’t
figured out yet as his mouth moved fairly accurately to the words. We then spent some time admiring the fish and
aquatic life they have in giant aquariums.
The dolphins were of course my favourites. We then went to the Manatee tank. They are something to see up close, they
really look like giant lumps of clay floating in the water. Giant lumps of clay that munch on lettuce all
day long. It was then time to use our
fast pass for Saorin’.

I didn’t
really know what to expect from this ride but as we got further along the line,
the warnings became more frequent, do not ride if you are afraid of heights, please
remove loose fitting shoes, yikes, what was I getting myself into? I decided that this trip I was going to do
things that I was afraid of (except roller coasters, I’m hanging on to that
fear!) The ride amounted to a big flight simulator in
an Imax type screen. The ride lifted us
up into the center of the screen and we were off. Soaring over the Southern Pacific coast of
the US, Yosemite Park, Napa Valley, the Pacific Ocean, it was so
beautiful! I was glad to have been brave
and faced my fear of that ride!

It was
almost 1;00pm and we had done so much yet we had just scratched the surface. Nate was slowing down, that became our
indicator that it was time for lunch. We
again had a quick lunch so as not to miss any park attractions. Once filled up again, Nate and Will were
ready for action! Although the action we
found may not have been the right thing.
We headed over to Ellen’s Energy Adventure, we thought this would be a
funny, educational experience and It was but it was also another experience
that sent Nate over the edge. At the
beginning of the movie/ride, Ellen and Bill Nye the Science Guy (Bill, Bill,
Bill, Bill) took us back to the beginning of the earth and then the period of
the dinosaur. At this point the ride moved and took us into a recreated dino
land, complete with a roaring, giant T Rex.
I heard the whimpering first, then the I’m scared, then the full out
melt down. Luckily, we moved quickly
through the dinosaurs and onto the next time period. Nate
recovered quickly but every time we went into another dark area and he was
unsure of what was coming next, he got very close and still.

the ride was over, it was time to head to the giant sphere and ride Space Ship
Earth. This was really cool, travelling through
displays about the ways we have communicated with each other through out
time. When we got to the very top of the
dome it was as if we had entered a planetarium.
The stars projected on the roof were spectacular! Will, Ken and Eric now had fast passes to
ride Mission to Space. A ride simulated
to feel like a launch. Nate, Jane and I
spent the time having a little snack and then Nate hatched a grand plan to
surprise the boys when they passed by our resting spot. The plan contained a lot of choreography and
we had to run drills continuously until
the boys walked right past us and missed the whole thing! Nate yelled surprise and Ken didn’t even
notice. Clearly, we had to re-run the
scene so that Ken and the other boys would have the appropriate reaction, we had
been practicing for half an hour after all!
After the appropriate level of surprise was attained we headed over to
the Test Track. This immediately became
a favourite experience of all the boys in our party. Even I have to admit it was pretty cool! We hoped into a car on a track that went
through a variety of testing obstacle courses. Then to achieve the speed and breaking tests
it took us flying along an outdoor track.
Will and Nate were beside themselves, I could hear them whooping and
giggling through the whole ride and when we got off, the conversation was a
mile a minute. Did you see this, did you
see that, we went sooooo fast, let’s do it again! We explained to them that the wait without a
fast pass was two hours, that quickly changed their minds and we were off to
explore the world!
managed to explore almost all of Tomorrowland but the sun was already beginning to set as we
headed off for the world Exposition.
Nate was struggling as he had injured his foot and he was hungry. Will on the other hand was excited, he couldn’t
wait to get to China, he thought there would be a Great Wall of China, imagine
his disappointment when there wasn’t! We did however come across a show of
Chinese acrobats and contortionists. The
boys were enthralled for a while as one man did amazing tricks with a giant
clay pot and a young woman turned herself into a pretzel! This is as far as we got, Mexico, Germany and
China, then the temperature plummeted and we were all cold, tired and
hungry. We made our way back to Mexico
where we had a lovely meal overlooking the lake. It was the beginning of Will’s birthday
celebrations as our waitress brought over cake with a candle and the wait staff
sang to him in Spanish. Will had never
experienced this before and he loved it.
His eyes shone with excitement!

Finally the time had come to say good bye to the Magic
Kingdom. We had had four fabulous days
of sine shine and fun or as Nate would happily sing for you, “Disney Junior,
where the magic begins!” Our magic is
not over though, tomorrow we board the cruise ship. I really don’t know who is
more excited about that Ken and I or the boys!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Animal Kingdom

The day began again with perfect blue skys and even warmer temperatures than the day before. I think today was the day Nate and I were looking forward to the most, today, we were headed to the Animal Kingdom! After all the crowds and drama of yesterday we decided to sleep in a little and head to the part slightly later in the morning.

We headed out at about 9:30 and after parking at Downtown Disney and taking an hours worth of Disney transit we arrived at the park. When we walked through the gates there was a sign that said the Magic Kingdom was closed for the day, it had reached it's capacity. We were very glad to be right where we were that day and not trying to cope with the crowds at Mickey central! The moment we walked through the gates Nate was in awe, he was constantly shouting, "Mommy look at this, Mommy, look at this!" He loves all things animal so this park was right up his alley. On the advice of our friend Tracey, we headed directly to the safari ride, we walked right on, no wait time at all! In many ways it reminded me of the Bush Gardens safari but we were all impressed with how close the animals were to the truck. We have some fabulous pictures of lions, giraffes and hippos! Nate picked up a new vocabulary work, geysers. In a section of the ride we have to make it through a whole section of exploding geysers, this really captured his imagination and for the rest of the day, we had to hop over all cracks in the side walk to avoid the 'geysers!'

We then took the steam train on a back lot tour to Raffiki's Planet Watch. The boys both enjoyed interacting with a learning about a variety of different animals, including a small petting zoo where the boys could brush the animals. We walked around and looked at the small numbers on animals out at the time, Nate's natural curiosity about anatomy immediatly got the better of him. There was a goat hanging out (literally) Nate looked at me and said, "Mommy, what's that? Does a goat have a giant penis?" I don't think I managed an answer, I was too busy trying to take him seriously. By this time we were all a bit tired and hungry so we headed to a lovely little sit down restaurant for a Boate Team New Year's lunch. This really did become our main celebration for the day with beer wine and a very entertaining waitress. I know I have said this before, but I do love watching my boys charm everyone they meet on our journeys. They had a certain genuine enthusiasm for life that people pick up on and respond to. They always strike up conversations about who they are, where their from and the nature of our adventure!

After our lunch time refueling the boys were again full of energy, we headed to Dino-world where we rode the flying triceratops. Nate was in charge of a lever that tipped the Dino forward and backward, he had the best time tilting mommy all around! At this point the group separated for a bit. Ken and Eric had Fast Passes for the parks' roller coaster while the boys, Jane and I headed to see Nemo's Underwater Adventure, the stage show. It really was an impressive show of puppets and actors, singing and dancing. My favourite part was right at the end when the entire theater was filled with bubbles in celebration of the reunion between Nemo and his Dad (oh, shoot, I hope I didn't ruin the ending for any one)! The boys, Jane and I then headed to the parade route and our designated rendez vous point. It was time for Mickey's Jingle Jungle Parade. Will and Nate are so close that I often forget they really are almost two full years apart, there are many things here that really highlight that difference. Nate is thrilled to see his favourite characters. As Goofy, Micky and Donald passes by, Nate waved and waved, Will on the other hand was thoroughly unimpressed, he watched the parade and enjoyed the interesting moving parts but he could have cared less if the characters had been there or not.

After we had our fill of holiday cheer we headed over to Camp Mickey Mini for the Festival of the Lion King. I had been looking forward to this all day. The show did not disappoint. It was full of songs, colour, fire walkers and incredible costumes and animatronics. By the end we were all singing along and Nate decided that he would spend some of his Christmas money on a stuffed Pumba that he has fallen asleep with every night since! After a long day of shows and excitement it was time to make the journey home. We took the bus to a Disney Resort where we caught the river boat to Down town Disney. We had done this the first time we came to Florida but Nate had no recollection of the experience. As we cruised down the river in the early evening the air smelled of summer. That lovely sent that comes from the sun warmed plants and flowers as they transition to evening and cool off from the warm sun. Another lovely day was in the books. We said good bye to 2011 and ushered in 2012 with nothing but warmth and the creation of great family memories!

Hollywood Studios

Today is a day that will live in all our memories for a very long time. The day began as all the others, beautiful weather, perfect sunny sky and July like temperatures. I have to keep reminding myself that we are on Christmas holidays, not summer vacation! Today I had thought really was going to be a day for Will.
Hollywood Studios has all the Star Wars stuff, the Star Tours ride and the Jedi training camp that young master Will has been squealing with excitement about since shortly after finding out about this trip! I was a bit worried about Nate as I knew a number of the attractions at this park would be a bit on the scary side, I was hoping to avoid the full scale melt downs we had experienced at the Magic Kingdom. Luckily we only had one close encounter with panic mode!
We know the parks would be busy today, being New Year's Day so we avoided the Disney transportation and drove straight to the parking lots. We entered the park only about half an hour after it opened and enjoyed wide open streets and non existent wait times. We headed directly to the most popular attraction in the park, Toy Story for a fast pass, then Will, Ken and Eric headed of to the Star tours ride (Nate had decided it would be too scary) while Jane and I took Nate to the Honey I Shrunk the Kids play area. There are many cool things about this little area, giant blades of grass, stumps that make music when you step on them and a giant spider's web but for the most part, this place was my nightmare. Right in the middle, there was this massive ant hill with a ton of twisty, dark tunnels that were too short for me yet when Nate went off to explore them, I had no idea where he was. After a few heart pounding minutes Nate reappeared and guess what, yes, immediately wanted to head back in. Luckily The other half of our party rejoined us. Nate couldn't wait to show Will all around and we sent in Uncle Eric, he was the right size to crawl around in the hill with the boys!
We finally convinced the boys that there were other things to see int he park and it was time to move on. As we walked, Will was full of stories of the Star Tours Ride, he was quivering with excitement. We did the back lot movie tour which I found to be really interesting. We had one dicey moment with Nate when our tram became part of a special effects scene in a movie that involved a rattling bridge and exploding barrels of oil. Thankfully the scene ended quickly and Nate survived! We then headed to the Muppet Vision 3D movie. It was a great experience for this child of the 80s to sit in the Muppet Theater with the Old Hecklers right over head! We then went to sign Will and Nate for what would turn out to be one of the highlights of the day. As soon as Will found out about this trip he began doing research. He discovered that there was a Jedi training camp at Hollywood studios, this quickly became the number one slot on his list of things to see and do! He could barely contain himself on the walk to the sign up booth. We got a time for later in the day and Will was glowing. By that time we were all feeling a little hot and tired, we made a quick stop for lunch. With full bellies and a top up in energy we were ready to tackle our next adventure. We headed over to see One Man's Dream, the story of Walt Disney, it really is quite something that one man had the vision and determination to make this world of fantasy, a reality. I was surprised by how interested the boys were but they hung on every word. they had quite a few questions after word that showed they were really thinking about Walt's accomplishments.
It was finally out fast pass time at one of the busiest attractions of the park, The toy Story Midway. When we arrived the wait time was 2 hours, insane! We walked right in with our fast passes and we were on the ride with in 10 minutes. God bless the fast pass! I climbed into a car with Nate and we were off, he had the best time firing virtual balls at the objects on the screen, he was firing and firing and giggling and giggling. I could hear Will's squeals from behind us, we all had a great time! Uncle Eric ended up with the highest score with Ken at a close second but I think Nate and I laughed the most! Now it was time for the big moment, Jedi Training Camp, we headed over to the training Camp Headquarters and waited for the camp to begin. Will could not contain himself. to the point that I had to give him a little alone time while he waited because he was out of his mind with anticipation. After a brief trivia session to make sure all the potential Jedi know there facts the trainees were off to the theater. The training took place on a stage just out side the village of Tatoiene, they donned their Jedi Robes and the Jedi master took the stage. Will was focused on every word he said, every move he made. Nate had a hard time getting his light saber to work, at one point I thought he would be the only trainee with out a saber but there were some other very helpful Jedi who helped him, phew! They learned a defence sequence and then troopers stormed the stage closely followed by Darth Vader and Moll who tried to convince the young Padewan to join the Dark side. Clearly, none of them defected so the epic battle began, each young trainee had to fight the Dark side. Will waited patiently and when it was his turn, he very politely tapped Darth's saber a few times and scurried to the end of the line. Nate had been wearing his hat on top of his robe the whole time. When it was his turn to battle the Jedi Master said, "Here comes my fashion statement." Darth instructed Nate to release all his anger, the Jedi Master replied, "I don't think there's much anger in this one!" He was right, he too tapped swords and Darth and danced back to the line. With the force working through all the young Padewan they defeated the dark side and earned their Jedi certificates. We then allowed each boy to buy a light saber as they had rightfully earned onr. This may be a decision we come to regret but, so far so good!
Both boys were so proud of themselves, they were glowing. The wait at the Star tours ride was quite short and now that Nate was a real Jedi he was no longer afraid so we all did the ride together. It was now only about an hour away from dusk and the attraction I really wanted to see. At Christmas the Streets of America are drenched in lights, even during the day you can see stand ofter strand of lights coating every building. Ken and Eric had fast passes for the Rockin' roller coaster so we agreed to meet back at the light display after Jane the boys and I saw an animation demonstration. We arrived at the meeting spot first and grabbed a great piece of curb to wait for Ken and Eric and the beginning of the light show. I must admit at this point I was exhausted and grumpy, I had had two boys pulling my arms and stomping on my feet for most of the day, I was ready to go home but I knew the light show would be worth the wait. A lovely Disney cast member came over to talk to the boys, she asked where they were from and if they were celebrating anything. Will and Nate were their usual charming selves, they provided her with the blow by blow of our trip so far and Will added that it was almost his 7th birthday. She chatted away with them for a while and then gave them each a Mickey sticker, I thought that was pretty lucky but that was only the beginning. The Jedi training had paid off because the force was most certainly with us. After Ken and Eric had rejoined us, the woman returned and told the boys that since they had come from so far away and that it was almost Will's birthday they could flip the switch that would turn on all the lights! I think we all had looks of shock on our faces and then we were excited, this was going to be fantastic! She led us down the street and into the roped off area where the show coordinator welcomed us and told the boys exactly what would happen. They would stand in front of the giant switch (it takes a big switch to turn on 5 million lights!) and after the introduction he would say, "lights on" and at that point they would flip the switch. They both listened intently to the instructions and when their big moment came they were ready. "Lights on" and the boys together turned on all the lights in the display, it was a beautiful moment, the whole street became alive with dancing lights. We got to stay in the ceremony area to watch the lights dance in choreographed precision to the music. The Disney staff handed us a certificate and then we were on our way. We walked down the street and admired the glow. As the boys passed the different displays they said, "we turned that on, and that on, and that on . . ." It was a very sweet moment.
I have been thinking about my Mom a lot on this trip. The Christmas that Nate had just been born and Will wasn't quite two, she talked about talking the boys to Disney when they were about 5 and 7, she thought that would be the perfect age (she was right). I was surprised at that statement because when I was growing up she said that Disney was the last place she wanted to go, when I pointed that out she said, "Yha well, it's different when you're a grand parent!" The funny thing is, I mostly have been thinking about how much she would have hated Disney, she couldn't stand crowds, heat or rides. The past few days have been all about crowds, heat and rides! I do know that she would have loved watching the boys experience everything, she loved them fiercely! As we walked back to where the Disney cast memeber had found us, I realized we had been sitting under a hundred angels, that now lit up glowed white and blue. I'm sure my mom had a hand in arranging this experience for us, she always loved Christmas lights.
We all walked slowly back to the car. Will and Nate were asleep before we hit the highway. Tomorrow is our last day the the parks, look out Epcot, here we come!

Saturday, December 31, 2011

As they say . . . Let the Magic Begin!

We awoke bright and early to a perfectly sunny day, not a could in the sky and an orange tree in the back yard! We knew that today would be very busy at the Magic Kingdom so we wanted to get an early start. This is one of the few times in our lives that we were up before Will and Nate, they were wiped out from the day before but as soon as they smelled toast in the air they popped out of bed.

After a quick breakfast all six of us made it out of the house. We were on the road and headed to the park. Our house is about a 15 minute drive, you could feel the excited energy of two boys pouring from the back seat! Finally, the moment arrived we drove through the gate and headed to the mono rail. Usually I have a very clear picture of the boys reaction to everything because I watch them to see how they reopened to their new experiences but this was also a new experience for me, in some ways I think I may have been just as overwhelmed as they were. It is impressive walking down Main Street USA with the castle in the background. As we entered the park there was a shrub sculpted to look like Mini, Nate thought this was very impressive, "Look mommy, it's a grass Mini!" We headed into the heart of the park to get to some of the parks highlights before the major crowds rolled in. My whole life the one thing I have wanted to ride at Disney was the Spinning Tea Cups. Everyone else was more sceptical about my enthusiasm but were accommodating to my request. As we walked around the castle the ride came into view, my time had arrived! There was room for three in each cup so Will, Nate and I climbed into one and Jane, Eric and Ken piled into another, then we were off, spinning away, Will and Nate giggled and loved turning the wheel to make us spin faster and faster. I could hear some pretty hefty laughing coming from the other cup filled with Boates. At the end of the day, Ken actually said that the Tea Cups were his favourite ride of the day. It all really is about the simple things!

Thanks to the advice of a colleague we quickly picked up fast passes for the flight of Peter Pan and headed for the Small World ride. So, I'm going to take a few sentences here to relieve the social conscience side of my self and then I'm not going to say another thing about it. There are many things about Disney that are magical, it's also the home of every social stereotype under the sun. The Small World Rider really brought that home, every possible cultural stereotype about nations around the world are on full display in this ride. Gender bias is also blatant with hundreds of little girls dressed up as Princesses and boys as Pirates or Princes, okay that's it, oh aside for the insane wast of natural resources but I get it, the world needs places full of fantasy and hope. Okay that's it, for real now!

After the Small World (which ended up as a favourite ride for both boys) we headed to the Haunted Mansion. This became the scene of some major Boate family drama. Nate is a sensitive soul, we all asked him if this was something he wanted to do. His reply, "Yes! I'm not scared of anything!" I asked Ken, "Can he handle it?' To which he confidently replied, "Of course" We wound our way through the grave yard, Nate became quieter and quieter. We enter the mansion and he started to quiver, we walked into the main hall where it gets dark and he went into full blown panic mode, screaming and crying to the point where I couldn't even pick him up because the flail was so extreme. Luckily a lovely Disney cast member came over to us and said "when the door to your left opens up, there is an exit!" It's amazing what a little sun sine and food can do for the soul. 20 minutes later we were eating lunch and Nate was fully recovered!

We spent the rest of the day ridding the Flight of Peter Pan, watching Mickey's Philharmagic and exploring Tomorrowland. At 3:00pm we headed to the castle to meet up with the Monk's family, Jacob (their son) is a good friend of Will and Nate's from Barrie! What we didn't realize was that there was a holiday show scheduled for 3:00pm at the castle. Happily, Tracy and I shared the same idea, once the show is over and the people filter out we will find each other. That is exactly what happened, the boys had a happy reunion and instantly were filled with over flowing energy! We all left the park and headed back to our house for a swim and dinner.

Despite that fact that the pool was only about 62 degrees, all three boys jumped right in! The laughed and splashed for quite a while. We all sat down together for a well earned meal and it wasn't long before it was time to head back to the park for the fire works extravaganza. Here lies the site of Boate family drama number 2. We had been talking to Nate for a few days about the fact that there would be lots of fire works at Disney, it's one of the things they are known for, he still was not prepared. Even before the show started he was cowering on the ground with a sweatshirt over his head. The rest of us oohed and ahhed as the show lit up the night sky. Truly the people of Disney are masters of creating shows like none other. All was well until I noticed Will was also on the ground with his hands over his brother's ears. I knelt down to see what was happening and Nate was crying and crying, he had had enough and Will was trying to comfort him. It's these moments that I try to burn into my brain, my boys loving and taking care of each other. Even when I told Will he could go back to watching the show, I would take care of Nate, Will said to me, "Mommy, I'm worried about Nate." I love my boys, deeply and profoundly, they never cease to amaze me.

After a very crowded walk out of the park we boarded the Ferry and headed back to the parking lot. The boys were not in the car for 60 seconds before falling asleep. Once we were home we poured them into bed. Ken and I had a lovely evening sitting out in the screened in pool deck drinking wine and enjoying the soft warm evening breeze. Tomorrow a new adventure awaits, the Animal Kingdom, hopefully we'll achieve a day with out terrorizing either one of the boys!

Friday, December 30, 2011

The Boate Team's Newest Adventure!

This adventure began nearly a year ago. About a week or so after we returned from our last Florida vacation Ken and I decided that this Christmas would be the perfect Christmas for a big Disney surprise. Will is almost seven and Nate just turned 5, last March we thought those would be the prefect ages for Disney. We immediately began researching and we hatched a plan. Will has been obsessed with the Disney ships since he was 2 years old so we knew a cruise had to be part of the plan. Then Ken's Mom Jane mentioned that she would like to take the boys to Disney, the other half of our plan was born. We would spend 4 days at the Disney Parks followed by a 5 night cruise on the Disney Dream. Ken and I plotted our adventure all year. We revealed our grand plan to the boys Christmas morning. They each had a giant present waiting for them at the back of the tree. When they opened them, Will's initial response was, "it's a giant thingamajig!" What he had opened was a piece of carry on luggage. Inside the bag were clues to our destinations, mickey mouse ears, a model air plane, a Disney stuffy and a sign about the cruise. With a little help Will put the pieces together and when I revealed the whole plan we got that great Disney moment reaction. Nate on the other hand remained basically oblivious to what was going on. It took him the whole day to process the information. It wasn't until I was tucking him in Christmas night that he said to me, while tightly clutching his Goofy, "Mommy, I can't wait to go on the Disney Dreams!"

The following few days passed quickly in a blurr of preparation. Finally, December 29th arrived, Ken awoke first at 6:00am, he couldn't contain himself, he was up and ready to get the day underway. The boys followed and I stayed in bed until the last moment knowing that it would be a very long day. The first leg of the trip was a 4 hour drive to Detroit. Thankfully, all our travel plans fell into place and we had a mostly stress free trip through 3 air ports! Our first flight was Will and Nate's first time on a plane. Excitement and nerves were high as we taxied down the run way. Will had been so excited to fly, but, his first comment to me once we reached cruising altitude was, "we shouldn't be so high up." Over time, his comfort level grew and he enjoyed looking out at the towns and lights below us. We landed in Atlanta, had a very quick supper and boarded flight number 2. This was another very smooth flight and we landed in the land of sun and palm trees at about 10:30 pm. The final stretch of our journey was an hour and a half car ride from the Melbourne air port to our rented home in Kissimee. Luckily, the boys had slept through most of the second flight and were more then happy to fall directly back to sleep as soon as we were in the car. Jane and Eric (Ken's Brother) greeted us at about 12:30 and after a much needed glass of wine we were all off to bed for what promised to be a very busy day. December 30th is the day we are headed to the Magic Kingdom!