Friday, July 19, 2013

Disney Vacay Part 8: What We Learned

I know I've posted all of the amazing fun that we had on vacation.  But trust me, it was not all fun and games. There were times when I wanted to go home (or send certain family members home).  The Hubs and I definitely learned a lot from this trip that we'll keep in mind for future vacations, even if they're not to Disney.

~The biggest thing we realized is that we can't schedule too much in one day. My kids do not like to trapped in a strict schedule.  I don't know if that's because we're on summer vacation or what but they did not like having to eat at specific times, having to go to certain places on certain days, or being told they had to do what we had planned.  My OCD kicks into high gear when it comes to planning trips for my family.  I had every day planned out from the minute we woke up to the minute we went to bed.  After the first day, I realized that things were going to have to just go with the flow. The only thing that was set in stone was our dining reservations.  I think by the end of the week I was okay with waking up and letting the day unfold as it did.

~Don't push a sick kid to do more than they should.  Poor Noah said the outside of his ear hurt before we even left on vacation.  It wasn't red or anything so I thought nothing of it.  He had moments where he was a total terror.  His behavior was horrible and he just wasn't himself.  When he had his worst day on Tuesday (aka he cried all morning and asked to just go back to the hotel) we knew something was up.  Poor kid asked me to take him to a doctor.  And after 4 hours in Urgent Care, we walked out with a diagnosis of Swimmers Ear (External ear infection) and ear drops.  Now we had behavior issues the rest of the week with him but he got a little better once his ear pain started to go away.  I'm not going to sit here and say that it was all because of his ear.  That factored in a lot but he just had some challenges.  But all in all, the good behavior outweighed the bad.

~Keep in mind that you child might freak out with characters, no matter how many times you see them or how many times they say they won't.  We had 5 character dining experiences scheduled.  2 were with the princesses.  The other 3 were with the Disney classics.  Em tends to freak out with any character that isn't a person.  She wigs out when Mickey comes around.  She has no problem with Minnie or Daisy (because they're girls) but bring Mickey or Pluto around and she FREAKS!  She cried and panicked and hid for almost every meal.  Definitely something I thought it might happen but didn't expect it on that level.  She's turning 4 in a few weeks but it was still a scary experience for her.  You might want to take your child's fear level into consideration when you're scheduling character dinings.  I didn't take it into enough consideration.

~Be in the moment.  I'm guilty of being attached to my phone, attached to social media at all times.  I made a conscious effort to detach as much as I could and just enjoy my family.  I didn't take as many pictures as I normally would. I used my good camera and my phone's camera.  Am I upset about that?  Yes and no.  I'm upset because I only have like 200 pictures instead of the 1000 I expected to have.  But instead of hiding behind my camera, I was playing with the kids.  I was enjoying my family.  I was loving the time we were spending.  And I actually relaxed. It was perfect. It was what I needed.  What we needed.


Thursday, July 18, 2013

Disney Vacay Part 7: Family Fun

The best way to describe the fun we had as a family is through pics.  So again, I'm going to totally go overboard with my pictures!!!!  Enjoy!!!!
The kiddos having fun

Epcot fun
That was Noah's legit score on Buzz Lightyear.  The best possible score is 999,999
Getting ready for lunch with the Princesses
Riding on a Disney Bus for the first time.  This kid has waited all his life for this and it was his absolute favorite experience.  Pure joy in his smile!
The many faces of Em.  These poses happened in 6 pictures in a 5 minute time frame.  And who taught my 3 year old to "duck face"?
The crazy Crimella's
This picture totally sums up my family!!!!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Disney Vacay Part 6: Cinderella's Castle

If you've never been in Cinderella's Castle, you are seriously missing out.  I'm lucky enough to say that I've been inside the castle 3 times now.  The Hubs took my for dinner there for my birthday the first year we were together.  It was amazing.  Then for our anniversary last year we went again.  He managed to snag a table by the window so I could see the fireworks as we ate.  He's not a dummy that Hubs.  He's a good one!  So when we booked our vacation, we decided that we were going to celebrate our last night in Orlando in Cinderella's Castle.  We kept it a surprise from the kids for months.  I'm so proud of this!  5 months is a long time to spell "castle" around a kid that can spell now.  It's a daunting task.  

We spent all day Thursday hanging out at the hotel.  It was our "pool" day.  Then we got all dressed up and headed to our "secret dinner." Noah had fun trying to guess where we were going based on where we were on the road. He was excited for Magic Kingdom but never thought we'd be eating in the castle.  We had a minor behavior issue prior to dinner but everyone calmed down and ended up having a great time.

When you enter Cinderella's Castle, you're greeted by the princess herself!  Everyone was excited to take a picture with her and it turned out to be the only family picture that I got all week that is "wall worthy" aka I can hang it up. Both kids were smiling!  Mom win right there!!!
Our family picture from vacation
Then, in grand fashion, our name was called to head up the beautiful staircase to the dining room. Once in the dining room, we were escorted to our table where we were referred to as "Lord" and "Lady" all night long. A girl can get used to that!!!  The kids were each given a blue wishing star (to be used in a wishing ceremony later on) and a sword/fairy wand.  They were big hits!  Throughout the meal, different princesses were introduced and made their way around to every table.
I promise she's happy
Handsome man
I will be photoshopping that straw out of the picture later(and maybe Emmy's ridiculous facial expression)
Funniest story ever.....Noah tends to just talk and talk and talk to the princesses no matter how many times he says he hates meeting them.  Well this night was like none other.  Princess Jasmine stopped by our table, which made Em's entire vacation.  She's talking to the kids and Noah's being silly as usual.  Then, out of nowhere, he sticks his hand down his shirt.  We're all asking him what he's doing (Jasmine included) and he pulls out a crayon.  I have no idea how a crayon ended up in his shirt or where he actually found it or why he thought it was a good idea to do it with the princess standing next to him but the entire table lost it.  We were all hysterical, Jasmine included.  She tried so hard to stay in character but I think she laughed for a good 5 minutes.  I felt so bad for her because you could tell that she wanted to fall over laughing but had to stay in character.  Major props to her!!!
Poor girl didn't stand a chance.  And notice how funny Noah thinks he is.  Priceless moment. 
I won't even begin to talk about the food.  It's amazing!  Hands down, one of the best places to eat at Disney. 3 courses of amazing flavors.  The Hubs dreams of the steak he's had there.  And the kids get to create their own cupcakes. How cool is that?!?!?
He caught me sneaking a pic of him
And the silliness continues
Admiring his creation
She loved hers!!!
Between the amazing food, the beautiful Princesses, and the outstanding decor, everyone should experience a meal in Cinderella's Castle!  You can have breakfast, lunch or dinner.  I've only been for dinner but I can only imagine how nice breakfast is.  Plus, if you get a reservation before the park opens, you have the opportunity to get amazing pictures.  No crowds on Main Street or in front of the castle...what more could you ask for?  There's the opportunity to get pictures in front of the castle with just you, your family, and the most iconic place in all of Disney.  Don't think that this isn't on my agenda next!  If you're there for dinner, try to get a reservation during the fireworks display and ask for a window table. It's definitely a magical experience. Either way, make sure you get your reservations early.  The Castle tends to fill up months in advance (you can make reservations 180 days in advance) so make sure you get your table.  Although you could get lucky like we did once and get a reservation the day before we headed up there. 
Love this view

It's a magical place and an experience that you'll never forget.  I'm so excited that the Hubs and I could share this with our kids and we have the best memories from that night. I know they  loved it and won't forget it.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Disney Vacay Part 5: Characters

Prepare for photo overload!  The best way to describe our vacation in regards to the characters is through pictures.  We had tons of character dining experiences that were unforgettable.

Chef Mickey's

Magic Kingdom

Crystal Palace
Princess Storybook Lunch
Play N Dine
Wreck It Ralph
Tusker House

Monday, July 15, 2013

Disney Vacay Part 4: Gluten Free Eating

I know I talked about our food experiences already but I didn't give gluten free dining the attention it deserved.  I casually brushed over it for the sake of getting all of it in one post.  But since it's a huge part of my life, and a huge part of our vacation, here goes......

When we booked our hotel and dining plan, I had not figured out that gluten was the cause of all my health issues.  So we loaded our vacation up with character buffets and awesome restaurants. I follow the Disney Food Blog and get daily updates on the amazing food that Disney has to offer.  And I won't lie...I love good food.  It's probably the reason I'm the size that I am. Oh and the fact that I love bread.  Rolls, breadsticks, biscuits, you name it, I love it!  I was so excited to eat my way through vacation!  Then we figured out my gluten intolerance :/

I was no longer excited for our vacation because what would I eat? Everyone would be enjoying the food and I'd be stuck eating the same thing over and over.  The anxiety I had was enormous.  I hate drawing attention to my allergy as it is.  I hate being an inconvenience to anyone.  And I also hate being one of those people who special order like crazy at restaurants.  So I sulked for a while. Eventually I added my allergy to our dining reservations so they'd be on file.  That was a huge step for me.

All of that changed the minute I found Sarah's blog.  I love reading blogs on the gluten free life but her's was perfect for me.  I finally found another person who loves Disney as much as I do and deals with allergies like I do (although the poor girl has to stay away from dairy too).  After reading her blog posts and emailing back and forth with her, I became more and more comfortable with the idea of ordering according to my allergy.  I gave it a trial run on a weekend trip to Disney with the Hubs.  It definitely broke my stage fright since I had to ask them to call the chef for me.  Since I survived that experience, I was ready for vacation!

When we got to our hotel and headed for lunch, I got my first taste at how the week would be.  I decided what I wanted and waited for the chef to come talk to me.  She was a little abrasive at first but she definitely steered me in the right direction. She told me that they had GF buns but they were extremely tiny so she suggested I order my pulled pork on sandwich bread that was charred.  She was so right!  The bread was HUGE!!!!  Every dining experience I had in the hotel was great!  All the chefs were awesome.  One even carried my tray for me because I was trying to juggle myself and a very unhappy Emmy would was refusing to walk.
Chicken burger on the sandwich bread with allergy fries
The restaurant I was most nervous about eating at was Tony's in Magic Kingdom.  Put a gluten allergy in an Italian restaurant and there might be a problem.  I had reviewed the menu online a few times and had come to terms with the fact that I probably wasn't getting pasta for dinner.  When we were being seated, like any of our other reservations, they made a point to say that the chef would be called to the table to discuss my allergy.  Then the server would say the same thing.  I loved that every cast member there was very aware of the allergy.  The chef came out (I can't remember his name....I was really bad at that.  Next time I need to make a note of the names) and reviewed the menu with me.  He even said they could do a pasta dish for me!!!  It was settled....seafood pasta for this girl!!!!  He made sure GF rolls came out too!!!  My dinner was probably the best GF pasta I've ever tasted!  I really couldn't tell the difference.  It was so big that I didn't even finish it (which I felt bad about).  Dessert was ok.  I had the pistachio creme brulee.  I'm not a huge creme brulee fan but it was okay. I also really liked the fact that the chef was the one to bring my food out to me.  It made me feel just a little bit safer knowing that he was handling the food.
Seafood pasta with GF pasta, shrimp, clams, mussels, scallops and calamari
I had similar experiences at Coral Reef and Akershus Royal Banquet Hall in Epcot and Cinderella's Royal Table in Magic Kingdom.

We had 3 buffet meals on vacation.  We ate breakfast at Chef Mickey's at the Contemporary and Play N Dine at Hollywood Studios.  We had lunch at Tusker House at Animal Kingdom.  Our first meal outside of the hotel was at Chef Mickey's.  It was also our first buffet experience.  We got seated, everyone made a point to let me know the chef would come out, then the Hubs went to get his food.  Well wouldn't you know the chef would come out and want to walk the buffet while he was gone.  He was nice enough to say he'd come back so I didn't have to leave my kids alone at the table. When he did come back, he walked me along the buffet line, reviewing each dish available stating whether it was GF or not.  He also said they could make Mickey waffles for me if I wanted.  I, of course, accepted those!  We went back and enjoyed our breakfast.  The down side was my waffles never came out!  I was totally bummed but I survived.  It was crazy busy and he came out to every table that was in our area I think.  I was amazed at how many people have food allergies!  Strength in numbers I guess.

I thoroughly enjoyed every dining experience I had.  I wish desserts would have been a little better (you can only have so much sorbet while others are eating gorgeous cakes and desserts) but I was so impressed.
Strawberry Mousse in a chocolate shell from Tusker House.  Only 1 of 3 desserts I had that wasn't sorbet
The care that the chefs put into the dining experiences is top notch.  Allergies are embraced not looked down upon.  I never once felt bad about having to eat something other than what was on the menu.  I also never felt like I was missing out on something.  That was a big deal for me because until this trip, I looked at my gluten issue as more of a "Scarlett Letter" kind of thing. I had never accepted it.  But after this vacation, and knowing that I can eat amazing food not having to sacrifice my stomach or health, has made me more confident in my eating.  I don't dread going out to eat as much. I don't have a problem asking a server to check with the chef to see if I can eat something. It's helped me truly realize that this is what I need to do to be healthy and I deserve to get what I need.

Thank you Disney Chefs for the amazing gluten free dishes you've created (and those extra pounds I gained)!!!


Friday, July 12, 2013

Disney Vacay Part 3: The Pools

Let's be real's not a Florida vacation unless you are poolside or ocean side at some point during your trip.  We're fortunate enough to live about 10 minutes from the beach and 5 minutes from the Hubs's dad who has a pool.  We love being in the pool (well I love being in a lounge chair on the deck) and I was determined to have a "Pool Day" during our vacation.  One day where we could just hang out at the pool all day long with no agenda.

Nice thing about Art of Animation.....they have 3 pools!! Yes I said 3!!! We had plans to go to all of the pools but we always ended up at the Big Blue Pool.  We did stop by the Flippin' Fins pool in the Little Mermaid area a few times (it was just so close to our room) but never made it down to the Cars area to go to the Cozy Cone Pool.  It gives us something to look forward to doing when we go back (hint hint Hubs....let's go back soon!!!)

Flippin' Fins Pool
View from the 4th floor of our building...We had the best weather!
This was a nice little pool.  It was right in the middle of our area so it was very convenient.  Em loved it because there were underwater stairs at one end that she could jump off.  She's still hesitant to jump of the side of the pool so this was a nice way to try to get her over that fear.  It never was too crowded and you could always find a chair.  Noah and I spent a few minutes there before having to leave due to an "unexpected cleaning." Not exactly what you want to hear.  But we headed down to the Big Blue Pool for the rest of our pool time.  The Hubs took Em there while I spent 4 hours at Urgent Care with Noah one afternoon (he had a really bad case of Otitis Externa, or an outer ear infection, aka swimmers ear).

Cozy Cone Pool
This was the pool we never made it to.  We had every intention of spending our Pool Day at this pool. Themed after Sally's Cozy Cone Motel, it's a circular pool with cone cabanas.  The cabanas are first come, first serve and we had plans of snagging one for the day.  But once we got finished with breakfast, the kids decided not to go there but to the Big Blue Pool.  One day I'll  be lounging in the sun with the kids and the Hubs playing in the pool and cone cabana.

Big Blue Pool
The Big Blue Pool
Em's running into it (she's in the bright yellow suit with red swimmies)
This is by far the coolest pool I've ever been to!  It's the largest pool at any Disney Resort and the most state of the art!  It's in the Finding Nemo area so it's themed that way. It's a zero entry pool which means you enter it like you would the ocean.  You just walk right in!  I loved that it had an ocean feel to it. The kids loved that they could just run in and out of it.  Besides the zero entry, this pool features underwater speakers so when you go under the water, music is playing.  I had read about this before so I knew what to expect.  Noah had no idea and it was just priceless to see his reaction to hearing the music under the water. There's a poolside bar that we didn't get to take advantage of this time. They also had a Sprayground that Em couldn't get enough of.  All of Nemo's friends were there and she would just run round and round, weaving in and out of the water.  She did seem to be fascinated by the octopus but I think that's because it was pink.
She couldn't get enough!!!
Running like a wild woman
They also have tons of activities every day on the pool deck.  Noah never wanted to participate in them until the last day.  They also do movies in the pool every night.  Our first night at the hotel, we headed down to the pool to catch "Toy Story" for a bit.  The kids thought it was cool but ended up enjoying the pool more.
On our pool day, we nabbed a table and a lounge chair and set up camp.  We figured we'd spend as many hours at the pool as the kids wanted because the only thing we had planned was our surprise dinner at Cinderella's Castle.  We brought our lunches out to the table and even participated in a round of Disney Trivia, where I am proud to say that we were the champions!!!  The kids were so excited to hear our name announced as the winner and headed up to get our prize.
Waiting for the next trivia question
Having fun!
Shouldn't everyone have a lounge chair poolside???
If I've said it once, I've said it a million times.  Disney knows how to make things magical.  I feel like a walking advertisement but Art of Animation is phenomenal!  The pools alone should be a selling point for the resort.  I could spend all day, every day at these pools.  Ooohhhh....maybe that's what we should do next!  Get a room for a few days and just stay at the pool! Let's get on it, Hubs!!!!

I can't decide what should come next so I guess the next recap will be a surprise!!!!
Catch up on Part 1 and Part 2!