Sunday, October 27, 2013

Walt Disney World 2013, Day 1--Magic Kingdom

I've finally got all the photos loaded, almost 2 months after our trip.  Hopefully this week I can catch up with the events of the past couple months.  I have just posted some photos from our Travel Day, and have also made a long blog post about Disney Planning.  Now I'll start with our first day at Magic Kingdom on Saturday, September 7th, 2013.  

We were up early and ready to catch the bus and to get to our 8:20am breakfast reservation.  The park didn't open until 9:00am that day, so we were some of the first to arrive!

I think we missed the first bus that day due to running back to grab something from our room.  The kids still look a bit tired and my camera was fuzzy from the morning fog.

Just in the gate and not so happy about a photo op right then!

Posing by the fall decorations.  I tried to ask other families if I could take their picture.  I think it's a nice act of kindness, since most families would like a photo of all the members, and also they'll tend to repay the favor, which is always nice!

Thomas is doing this in almost all our family photos.  He was not into picture-taking, except in a few instances.

Then we walked closer to the castle for some more pictures.  The same family from the pumpkin pics took these photos, too.  We probably should've gone off to the side so that the Walt Disney statue wouldn't be in the middle, but oh well!  At least Thomas is looking this time, even though SJ is pouting!

 8:20am Breakfast at Crystal Palace with Pooh and Friends was a big success!  It was the typical breakfast buffet fare and nothing we would rave about, but I think it was a great choice for our first morning at Disney.  There were several characters that came to our table to give autographs and take photos.  Pooh was first!

Gotta love the breakfast choices here.  Ellie has bacon, strawberries, a cinnamon roll, and Fruit Loops!

Tommy showing off his strawberry!

Next was Tigger.  He has some issue with Mr. Steven Joseph right here!

Peek-a-boo with Tommy!

Tigger signing the girls' autograph book.  I'm frustrated that iPhoto won't let me edit and crop any of these photos, but at least I can load them now!

The kids and me with Tigger and a cast member at the side...

A happy Steven Joseph with his missing front tooth!

Piglet arrives next, and Tommy is still not interested in visiting.

So just the big kids take a picture with Piglet.

After breakfast, we rushed over to Space Mountain.  It had a short line, and Tommy and I played in the nearby arcade while the others got to experience their first big Disney rollercoaster!

Thomas could have stayed in here all day.  He loves arcades, and I don't even have to put money in!

We headed over to Fantasyland next, including a ride on the carousel and It's a Small World, one of my favorites (although I think I liked the Disneyland one better).

Then it was time for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Splash Mountain for the big kids in Frontierland.  They loved those coasters.  I think Big Thunder Mountain may have been most of the kids' favorite ride.  Tommy and I watched from the side and spent some time in a gift store.

We watched the Country Bear Jamboree (wouldn't recommend), and the kids went with Steven into a little shooting range.  There was a little street dancing party going on, and Ellie got asked to dance with a cast member.  Here are some fun shots...

Then the girls wanted to ride one of the coasters again, so I took both the boys to Pirates of the Caribbean.  They were scared and the ride stopped for a few minutes!  Not a good ride to get stuck on!  Tommy still talks about not liking the pirate ride.  Soon the roller coaster-riders were done, and we headed nearby for some Dole Whip ice cream snacks.

Next we went back to Fantasyland, and while Tommy was napping, the big kids and I watched Mickey's Philharmagic (this was one of my favorite shows, it's 3-D), and then they went on the Dumbo ride.  It was getting really hot, and there was an indoor playground near the Dumbo ride, so we went in there for a bit and woke Thomas up to play.

We got a snack for some of the kids at Cosmic Rays in Fantasyland where Steven Joseph fell asleep at the table, and then headed to the train to ride around the park and then back to the front to leave.  The train wasn't worth the heat and the time, so I wouldn't recommend it (again, the Disneyland one was better).  We loaded the bus to head back to our hotel around 2:00pm.  We figured we had another day at Magic Kingdom and didn't want to overdo it.  Plus it was just starting to rain and the park would be closing early that night with no firework show.

Here are the girls by our hotel room.  Thankfully it was just a couple minute walk from the bus stop, because it was a LONG walk to the hotel lobby (10 minutes)!  We loved having the MagicBands bracelets to get into our room without a key.

We had a nice rest and cool down, and then loaded back up again to head out for the ferry ride to Downtown Disney for dinner!

Here's a picture of our building.  The resort included over 60 of these, plus several other larger buildings with more rooms.  The Port Orleans Riverside is one of the largest resorts with over 2000 rooms!

These next two photos show the main area with the dining hall/food court, a nicer restaurant, the gift shop, and the lobby.  We never even checked out the arcade, there was so much to do! You can see they offered carriage rides, too.

The ferry would be reopening shortly after the rain, so the kids had fun playing a bean bag game while we waited.

Those bikes would be fun to rent, too!

Mary Clare waiting for the boat.

The ferry ride to Downtown Disney was a bit slow, but it was a fun change from the usual shuttle bus.

I didn't get any photos at Downtown Disney, but we ate at Wolfgang Puck Express, which was delicious and one of my favorite meals of the trip (rotisserie chicken and mashed potatoes)!  We went to the Christmas store, the Lego store, and the huge Disney store, and then caught a bus back to the hotel.  We got a good night's sleep that night, for sure!  Sunday would be our trip to the Shrine of Our Lady of the Universe for Mass and then Hollywood Studios.

Walt Disney World Vacation 2013--Travel Day

I thought I'd start with a few iPhone photos from our first day of travel, and share a bit about what it's like to take four children on vacation!  I've already done an extensive post about Planning our Disney Vacation, for any who are interested in the small details.  Next, I have Day 1 at Disney ready to post!

As I've shared before, we had initially planned to drive from South Texas to Orlando, which is an almost 20 hour drive, but we found some great deals for flights on Southwest over the summer.  It ended up costing just a little more than we had budgeted for four days of driving (two there and two back), plus hotel stays and food on the road.

So on Friday, September 6th (Steven's birthday!), we woke and finished packing the car.  We got on the road around 9:00am for the 3 1/2 hour drive to the airport in Austin.  The drive went smoothly; we only had a bit of a hard time finding a place for lunch near the airport.  We should have stopped earlier on the trip, or gotten something at the airport.  The kids were happy with Sonic, though!

We ended up using the airport park and shuttle, after looking into parking at a local hotel.  The price would have been cheaper, but the convenience factor of the airport parking won out. We got to the airport about 2 1/2 hours before our flight, so it was quite a long wait for the kids!  They kept busy looking out for our plane and making some Rainbow Loom bracelets.

Tommy was ready to find our plane!

Rainbow Looms were great to have for the waiting time; if only Steven's case didn't keep breaking.  There was one point where we had all the luggage and were trucking through the airport, when his case fell, with rubber bands everywhere!

Finally we got on the airplane!  It was Tommy's first flight, and Steven's first that he could remember.  Our last plane trip was to California over three years ago.  Tommy brought his stuffed "Puppy" along with us :)

SJ was ready to fly!  The boys sat by me and the girls by Steven, but they still switched around throughout the flights.  We wished we would've checked in early, so we could've gotten on the plane earlier for better seats (we had a wing-view), but we got better ones on the flight home.  Other things we forgot were gum/candy for their ears (we ended up tearing apart fruit snacks), and it would've been nice to download some videos to my iPhone or Steven's tablet, because they did get a bit antsy.  Activity/sticker books would've been a good idea, too, but I was trying to pack light!

Our flight left around 4:10pm central and arrived around 7:30pm eastern, with the time change.  It seemed so late when we finally got there.  We were exhausted and hungry, but ready to get to our hotel.  A morning flight would've been much better, but the good fares were for the later flights, so that's how it worked out.

 The parade down the airport hallway!

Here we are waiting in line with our luggage for the Disney Magical Express Shuttle.  It's a nice comfy bus that drives to several different hotels.  The lines for each shuttle were quite long, and the kids were quite tired.

 The drive from the airport to the Disney resort area was over 30 minutes, and then I think we were the last resort to be dropped off.  It was nearly 10:00pm when we finally got to Port Orleans Riverside! At least they had some movies to watch while we drove.

And finally it was time for check-in!  They had a nice little area with small chairs for the kids to watch movies while the parents handled check-in.

Getting all the info!

We were happy to be in the trial run for the "MagicBands" bracelets that hold all of your Disney reservations and information.  They even acted as a room key!  Each of us had a different color, and our names were printed inside.  I was able to make FastPass reservations for the rides from our home computer or from my iPhone while we were there.  So convenient!

What wasn't so convenient was the 10 minute walk from the hotel lobby to our room.  The resort has dozens of buildings spread out over many acres.  We still had to drop off our bags and walk back to the dining hall to eat!  It was almost 11:00pm when we finally ate!

So it was a long day of traveling, but we arrived safe and sound and ready for five full days in the Disney parks!  Day 1, Magic Kingdom, to come!

Thursday, October 24, 2013


We are happy that our home will be welcoming a little more pink!  Baby girl looks healthy and is measuring just a couple days past her gestational age. Now it's starting to feel more real; this baby has an identity, we can more easily brainstorm names, and I can even start to look at some precious baby girl clothes!

After my appointment on Monday morning, we picked up some pink balloons and arrived back to my parents' house to yelling and jumping. Steven Joseph was proud to be the first to see the pink in the car, and he ran inside to tell the girls.  Mary Clare had been on pins and needles counting down for days, so she was relieved to finally know that she did have the baby sister she had been hoping for. 

Tommy is ready to hold his baby sister right now, and Steven Joseph is accepting it. Mary Clare is claiming all baby duties as her own, "because I was the one who prayed for a baby sister." The girls think it has been the best year ever...a trip to Disneyworld, being cast as Party Girls for the Nutcracker, and now their dream of a baby sister has come true! 

After the appointment and making it back here for ballet class in a rainstorm, we left the dance studio to see a beautiful rainbow in the sky.  The girls said the day couldn't get any better. A true symbol of how my sweet girls were feeling that day!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Seven Quick Takes: Some long weeks...

1.  It's been a long two weeks.  The kids have been really "off."  Not sure if it's the changing weather or what, but we have been quite a mess over here!  I think the main issue is that I'm backing up the computer, so it has to be on 24 hours a day for 16 days (2 days left!), so the kids are sneaking on the computer to watch Netflix and Nick Jr shows at all hours and it has been a constant battle that I have pretty much given up on.  Normally, our computer is turned off until schoolwork is done.  I just have not been consistent enough with harsh enough punishments, I guess.  Schoolwork is not getting done until late afternoon each day (sometimes finishing while at the ballet studio), and everyone is so irritable with too much screen time!

SJ not happy to have to do Kindergarten in the car while the girls were in ballet!

2. BOY OR GIRL?  Monday is my big ultrasound and I think that has also got me feeling a bit emotional and anxious.  Not only does it seem like a huge deal to actually know the identity of this little one, but I also worry about the ultrasound itself...will everything be okay?  And on top of that, being halfway through my pregnancy makes me that much closer to the dreaded c-section.

Yesterday I got a call that my doctor has to go to a funeral on Monday morning, so I'll have to see his nurse practitioner.  I was so upset I was starting to panic and was breathing really fast.  This shouldn't be a big deal; I don't have any big complications at the moment, but it made me feel helpless that I can't talk to my doctor for another month or longer.  And I think that's the gist of it...I feel so helpless in pregnancy and delivery, so every little change or complication just exaggerates it.  It pretty much ruined my day and I spent the evening crying on and off.  Look out for the emotional pregnant woman!

3. Yummy meals!  I guess my appetite has come in full-force this 2nd trimester, too.  I have done a lot of home cooking this past week with some meals that most members of the family have enjoyed!  I've been prepping or even making dinner at lunchtime so that things are ready to eat after ballet or soccer or whatever is going on in the evenings.  I've made most of these before, except the first two.  These have been the big hits (not healthy meals at all, but at least it's not fast food!)...
Copycat Chick-fil-a Nuggets
Pioneer Woman's Perfect French Fries
Cream Cheese Crockpot Chicken
White Chicken Enchiladas
Chicken Parmesan Bake

 4.  Tommy is nearly potty-trained!  Our big three year-old has been doing great the past couple weeks, thanks to SKITTLES!  One for #1 and five for #2 and he is hardly having any accidents and even staying dry at night.  This is a huge feat that didn't seem like it would happen anytime soon.  It'll be so nice to have a break from diapers and then only one in diapers once the baby arrives.  I think that will be a first!  This will be our biggest spacing at almost 3 1/2 years apart, so I'm hoping that getting Thomas out of diapers and working on his behavior issues now will help us to have an easier transition when the little one arrives.  I still need to write up his birthday post.  Two more days until this computer thing is hopefully solved for awhile and I can delete old photos and download the new ones, especially his birthday and the Disney photos!

5.  Gig 'Em Aggies!  Tomorrow is the Texas A&M/Auburn Game and we're planning to go up to College Station for some game day fun!  St. Mary's Catholic Center (where we met) is hosting a tailgate party, and we're hoping to watch the March-In of the Corps of Cadets, walk around campus a bit, and visit St. Mary's.  I've been wanting to go up on a game weekend for several years (the last game we attended was 5 yrs ago).  It's a bit out-of-the-way for our Houston trip this weekend, but hopefully it'll be a fun family day, with a possible quick stop to say hello to the Godparents on the farm, before heading into Houston for some weekend time with family.  I'm so happy that Steven will be driving on this road trip.  The past few I've driven alone and it's not easy!  We're hoping to get back in time for ballet on Monday evening; we'll see how it all goes.

6.  Busy bees.  The photo above is from the first St. Francis Nature Club of the new school year last week.  It was hot and bugs were attacking us, but it was a much-needed time out of the house!  I'm grateful that another mom has taken over the nature club this year, which gives me one less thing to worry about, since I'm heading up the co-op.  The girls have ballet three nights a week, and in another week they will start Saturday practices for The Nutcracker, Steven Joseph usually has soccer one or two days a week, the three youngest all attend the Atrium on Friday afternoons (and MC sometimes helps), and the busy season of 4-H has begun.  The girls will be doing the 4-H Food Challenge next month and are having weekly practices for that.  I also just got them registered for their homemaking entries for the County Livestock Show in January.  I hope I can figure out how to slow our days down a little more, so that all these activities don't overwhelm me.  I'm already starting to feel a bit crampy here and there, so I know I need to turn things down a notch!

7.  I had a very early morning today.  I woke at 4:30am and couldn't get back to sleep, so I decided to go to Walmart at 6:00am.  Blair the Night Owl is not usually a morning shopper, but it was great to get that done this morning so we had a few food items in the house and some much-needed laundry detergent.  Our road trip will begin early tomorrow morning, so I'd better get some rest.  This post has taken me all day to write!  One day I'll get better at blogging again.

Hope you all have a lovely fall weekend!

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