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Old 01-07-2009, 02:01 PM   #31
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Quote:
Originally Posted by twinmom View Post
I was just about to say you should write a book........
Aww! Thanks! If I can find a publisher that feels the same way, I will be over the moon.
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Old 01-07-2009, 02:05 PM   #32
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Originally Posted by addictedtothemouse View Post
I found you ...again! Now I need to get caught up.
Hooray! I was afraid that I would lose my original crowd when I discovered that I had to repost everything. I hope more of ya'll find me . . . again! LOL.

I've got to attend to some house and kid stuff right now. As much as I love to sit here and post all day long, I can't. But I'll be back to add the rest.
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Old 01-07-2009, 02:59 PM   #33
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Found a bit more time, so here we go . . . .
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Old 01-07-2009, 03:02 PM   #34
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Places For Power Naps

PLACES FOR POWER NAPS

Our herd journeys to Adventureland® at this point. This is the last day before Pirates of the Caribbean will close for refurbishment, so covering this area of the park is absolutely necessary.

The Magic Carpets of Aladdin is the first ride we seek out, and we endure the beatings of the punishing sun in the unprotected queque line. It is amusing to teeter-totter on our carpets, but the sweltering sunlight blinds us and beats us as it reflects off the gold camels and shiny metal construction of the exhibit.

The Enchanted Tiki Room is our next destination. The heat is intense at this hour, so DH grabs an infamous Dole Whip to savor as we wait for passage into the exotic aviary. He does this in memory of a great personality on the Dis Unplugged podcast crew, Bob, who has recently passed on into the greatest Kingdom of all. One of Bob’s legacies was his love affair with Disney Dole Whips, and since he is no longer able to indulge in this exceptional sweet, DH obliges to pick-up the tradition. He suffers from “brain freeze” as he downs the icy dessert and realizes that on future trips he will need to approach this new tradition with more caution.

Once we enter the attraction, The Enchanted Tiki Room is received with mixed reactions. DD8 and DS6 find it quite entertaining. DD3 is rather frightened at the appearance of the Tiki goddess. And DH discovers that the cool but tropical room makes for a great power-nap.

The Jungle Cruise is next. To my surprise, my trip around the river is quite entertaining. I basically have the entire Jungle Cruise narration memorized, so the corny jokes delivered on this ride don’t usually amuse me. However, Erin, our skipper, throws in a few of her own, personal zingers, and I find myself snickering as we pass the various jungle antics one encounters on this cruise. When we enter the creepy, ancient temple on the river, Erin sings “It’s A Small World” in morbid, haunting tones, and I think I may keel over because I am laughing so hard.

When we come to the end of our jungle excursion, I sympathize with DD3 and her desire to repeat attractions. I, too, feel like saying, “I want to ride that again,” but a schedule is a schedule. I know deep down that we must press on.

The Swiss Family Treehouse and Pirates of the Caribbean are taken in stride. DD3 now seems to have the hang of entering and exiting attractions with grace and style. And while DD8 and DS6 have selected a few attractions for their “favorites” list, DD3 is not shy about stating that she likes every ride best.

We backtrack through Frontierland® for the Country Bear Jamboree. The children love witnessing this variety show, but DH finds it suits him better as background music for another power-nap.
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Old 01-07-2009, 03:06 PM   #35
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The Death Of A Disney Dream

THE DEATH OF A DISNEY DREAM

We now head to Cinderella’s Castle for lunch. On the way, we stop by Mickey’s PhilharMagic in Fantasyland® for FastPasses. A friendly cast member offers to take the FastPasses that we have just withdrawn from the kiosk and swap them for FastPasses to the show that is about to begin. Looking at the time, we see that we can—indeed-- squeeze in an immediate viewing of the 3-D movie before our designated lunchtime.

Once we are in the FastPass line, another chipper cast member selects our harmonious group to be the opening musical act for the show. I am beyond ecstatic that we-once again-have been selected for a special park experience.

This Mickey’s PhilharMagic sweetie leads us to a pile of instruments and asks each family member to select one. Unbeknownst to me, selfishness has overtaken my little band. Quite unexpectedly, I find myself trying to mediate a bitter argument over the possession of the triangle instrument. Meanwhile, I am also trying to communicate to DH—who appears clueless--that he should ready the video camera.

The triangle war reaches a stalemate. No one will relinquish his or her assumed right to the coveted, percussion instrument as the debate escalates. DH cannot hear my video instructions over the children’s raucous, so I find myself yelling to be heard. Pandemonium has broken loose, and the patient, Mickey’s PhilharMagic madam has a helpless expression on her face.

Finally, I decide to get control over this crazy scene. I declare that I will pick the triangle percussionist. DD3 is handed the bongo drums; DS6 is handed the cymbals, and DD8 is awarded the triangle. Such decisive action quiets the troubled percussion section, and DH is now prepared to commence with his recording duties. I turn to the defeated-looking, Mickey’s PhilharMagic cutie and announce that we are now prepared for our debut. She begins to apologize and points to the audience who is moving beyond the place where we were meant to entertain them and entering the viewing area for the spectacular 3-D performance.

I have missed my chance at Disney-wide fame. The green-eyed monster of greed has stolen it right out of my hands, and there is nothing that can be done about it. I cannot believe I have met such a fate in the heart of Walt Disney World® where dreams come true, and I begin to despair.

The Mickey’s PhilharMagic dear tries to comfort me and ease my pain. She offers up a certificate to document our failed attempt as Mickey’s favored instrumentalists, and she awards us another golden front-of-the-line ticket even though we are undeserving. I humbly thank her for her generous gift, and—with a melancholy demeanor--proceed into the theater as a mere audience member rather than the chosen star I was meant to be.
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Old 01-07-2009, 03:18 PM   #36
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Star Struck

STAR STRUCK

Surely, a good meal will brighten my spirits. So after a whirlwind performance by Mickey and all his iconic companions, we head straight to Cinderella’s Royal Table for a banquet.

We pass by the memorable sword in the stone on our way to the Cinderella’s Royal Table. Three teen-age boys are combining their strengths in an attempt to pull the sword from the anvil, but it is in vain. I point in their direction and say to DS6, “See! All those boys are pulling on the sword together, and they still can’t get it out. Only the “Prince of the Day” is able to do it.” DS6 smirks with conceit and sticks out his robust chest as he takes on a manly strut towards our lunch engagement.

Due to the nature of my children’s digestive disorder, I have spent much time prior to our trip corresponding by phone and e-mail with the few chefs that will feed us during our Magic Kingdom® days. All have been given detailed information about our circumstances as well as explicit descriptions of the consequences my children suffer in cases of dietary infractions. Prearranged menus and instructions for food preparation have been documented prior to our arrival, and I have been assured that my children’s health is in good hands.

Our two days in the Magic Kingdom® are the only days of the entire year that my children will actually eat in a restaurant, so this reservation holds more meaning for our family than it does for most others. It is an incredible expense, but since the kids do not eat out at any other time, DH and I rationalize the cost.

My little prince and princesses enter the castle waiting room in awe of its royal décor. I am pleased with their reaction, and I note that they are inspired by the tiniest details of the majestic space without my prompting. They truly are becoming Disney fanatics in their own right. What more could a NDM ask for?

We are ushered to Cinderella’s side for a quick photo-shoot. While the younger nobility of our clan are cute enough for the occasion, DH and I are in no shape for such an event. The indescribable heat and frantic pace of our day has left us looking incredibly haggard. However, for the sake of posterity, we consent to having our unsightly presence contrasted with the flawless princess in a memorable but uncomely photograph.

After that, my prince is given a sword because no prince is complete without one, and my princesses are handed glittering wands. We are then escorted up the royal staircase and into the dining hall.

The room is very regal with crest-bearing banners hanging from the ceiling and large, stained-glass windows. We are seated at a sturdy table and given menus. The children gush over some rubbery “wishing stars” that have been placed at their seats, and I notify the waitress that I need to talk with the chef.

The chef promptly arrives at our table. We briefly recap the details of our prearrangement for the children, order meals for DH and I, and off she goes back into the kitchen.

Soon, our table begins receiving some very special guests . . . all of the Disney princesses. DS6 is not so very interested, although he does enjoy showing them his new sword and honorable “Prince of the Day” sticker. DD3 can hardly retain any sense of propriety, for the excitement of being in the same room as ALL the princesses is more than she can take. But DD8 has managed to adapt the gracefulness that is becoming of nobility. She now displays elegant mannerisms and an air of sophistication that impresses each royale that approaches our dining area.

But where is Belle? DD8 has a specific love for this princess, for Belle and she have a great many things in common. First of all, Belle is the one that has the closest physical resemblance to DD8. But more importantly, Belle is practical while also retaining the ability to dream and imagine a romantic life beyond the one she lives. Belle loves books, and she is extremely intelligent. And DD8 hopes to find her true love one day just as Belle did. Although her NDM prays that DD8 doesn’t have to discover him within a beast.

Belle is the last one to visit with our adoring group. DD8 immediately strikes up a conversation with her so that Belle will understand that they are meant to be kindred spirits. Belle clearly senses the common ground she holds with DD8 and begins a small book group discussion. But before Belle can go very much in depth with her literary analysis, she is called away by the menacing, character manager.

Belle graciously bids farewell to my regal offspring. Then she winks and blows a kiss to DH. I am a little rattled by this unsuspected pass that has been made at DH. So while DD8 regrets seeing her most beloved princess dragged away by other pressing duties, I am grateful that the DH-snatcher has taken leave. After all, Disney is not the only thing that I can be neurotic about.

Suddenly, a grand, trumpeting fanfare fills the room. It grabs the attention of our entire noble family, for we sense that something important is about to take place. Jiminy Cricket’s voice is then broadcast. He announces that it is time to wish upon a star. He petitions all the little princes and princesses in the room to take hold of the rubbery, “wishing star” that was placed at their seat as well as their sword or wand that they were given. Then, he says that they are to hold them up and make a wish.

DD3 is the first one to hold up her wand and star. She closes her eyes as tightly as she can and scrunches her nose, and with great intensity, she releases her wish out into the great expanse of the room. DS6 raises his eyes toward the ceiling and completely extends both of his arms (which also hold his sword and star) towards the sky as if he is receiving a great, spiritual power from on high. DD8 has taken a more cultic approach to this task. She holds her head in one hand as if her massive concentration has now caused a headache. Her “wishing star” is placed in the center of her placemat, and with her other hand, she waves her wand over the star in a circular motion much like a witch stirring her cauldron.

Apparently, all the methods of wishing are successful because the room then explodes into great flashes tempered with tiny, twinkling lights projected above. Also, the delicate sound that pixie dust makes when it falls can be heard.

Our waitress appears with our food just as the last dust particle settles. As we eat, I find I am happily surprised that my meal does taste good. I have consistently seen negative reviews of Cinderella’s Royal Table in relation to its food, so I wasn’t sure what I should expect from this reservation. However, my shepard’s pie—while not being what I would consider “fit for a king”—seems quite adequate for a duke or a duchess.

Once the meal is finished, a quick stop is made to the royal throne of an entirely different nature. The throne room is surprisingly small for such a grand castle, and we have trouble maneuvering around the other nobility in need of evacuating. Perhaps, Cinderella should put this on her list of house projects. With some agility, however, we muddle through the bathroom population and, sadly, say goodbye to the lovely castle.
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Old 01-07-2009, 03:24 PM   #37
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The Ndm Way Or The Highway

THE NDM WAY OR THE HIGHWAY

It seems it is time to venture to Tom Sawyer Island. I must confess that even though I am a NDM, this small island has only ever held minimal interest for me. It seems that this small plot of land could be better suited as The Lost City of Atlantis or as Tarzan’s Rain Forest. Nevertheless, Tom Sawyer Island it is, and for my little Huck Finns to get the full Magic Kingdom® experience, at least one visit is warranted.

All three troublemakers are anxious to jump on a raft and float to this intriguing place, inspired by Mark Twain. DH is interested as well since I have always made him skip this oasis due to time restrictions. So we hop on a raft with a straw-hat toting river guide, who expertly lands us on the opposite side of the river.

Shockingly, Tom Sawyer Island is enjoyable. We are ahead of schedule at this point. Our golden tickets and FastPasses have put us up in our game, and there is not a pressing need to be somewhere else. I find myself slightly enjoying the lax-a-daisy environment of Tom and Huck’s stomping grounds.

The entire family laughs as we stumble over barrel bridges and explore dark caverns. A fort provides an ideal setting for shooting rifles, and various mills and other buildings give chance for more discoveries. But, inevitably, our jaunting in Dixieland begins to lose its charm, and we grow a bit tired.

A trip around the island on the Liberty Square Riverboat seems like a good idea. So after arriving back on the mainland, we board the huge water vessel. But we discover in the heat of the late afternoon—a time reserved for naps on most days—the big ferry does not provide refreshment.

The kids are increasingly irritable. Their hair is matted with sweat; their cheeks are rosy from their body heat; their eyes and their smiles are drooping. I, myself, can also feel the drag that is expected at this hour.

I recall the advice touted by the wise sage, Bob, on the Dis Unplugged podcast crew. He boldly campaigned for naps when visiting Disney theme parks. In fact, this is another legacy that Bob left behind for all who were willing to take him at his words.

I glance at DD3. She apparently is a firm believer in Bob’s way of thinking. She has unashamedly stuck her thumb in her mouth, laid her head on DH’s shoulder, and left the world of consciousness for another one that will provide her weary body with relief.

I consider that maybe it is time to hang up the gloves and throw in the towel. Maybe we should return to the comfort of our villa. I faintly remember the promise I made to myself on the rickety pier to work relaxation around the demanding Sacred Seven. I also remember that one of the reasons we joined the Disney Vacation Club was to help me release my inbred, “blitzkrieg” ways.

But while a chameleon has the ability to change its colors instantaneously, a NDM does not. In the years ahead, I may reach a point when I won’t mind leaving the Magic Kingdom® for a mid-day nap. But I am not at that point yet. The “blitzkrieg” blood flows true-blue in my veins, and so I stick with what is most familiar. In the end, I rationalize that we must not give in. This would be admitting defeat. There is still fun to be squeezed out of our day at the Magic Kingdom®. We must push through this temporary lull of energy to find our second wind. We must press on!

We seek refuge in the air-conditioned quarters of The Hall of Presidents. DH says he has finally found his favorite attraction. The cool climate, the cushioned seats and the subdued, lengthy show provide the ultimate conditions for a nap. He wastes no time reclining in his seat and pursuing REMs. DD8, DS6, DD3 and I don’t rest to the extent that DH does, but the atmosphere is refreshing enough to restore some of our energy and sustain us a bit more while simultaneously injecting our spirits with a greater sense of patriotism.
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Old 01-07-2009, 03:29 PM   #38
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Maturity And Meatballs

MATURITY AND MEATBALLS

Renewed, we cautiously approach The Haunted Mansion. So far, the kids have enjoyed the mildly scary rides such as Snow White’s Scary Adventures and Pirates of the Caribbean, but admittedly The Haunted Mansion is a tad more macabre. My little ghostbusters insist that they are up for the experience, though. And since it is still daylight, this may be an ideal time to test these waters.

I carry DD3 during the beginning walk-through. This way she will feel more secure, and it will also keep her from being trampled during the cattle herding that takes place as everyone boards their doom buggies. DD8 and DS6 each take one of DH hands, and I pray that this is enough to keep them from panicking if they get scared.

The ride is quite an experience. DD3 and I have our own doom buggy, and DH has taken the elder spook investigators in the buggy next to ours. In our cart, DD3 is fascinated with all the supernatural happenings she sees. She says that the ghosts are “crazy” or “silly” and laughs at their attempts to frighten her. I take solace in her brave composure because, frankly, I am a little creeped out by the new effects that have been added in the last refurbishment. It’s a good thing that I have someone to make me feel protected in our buggy of doom.

I can’t help but wonder how DD8 is managing this scenario. Of all my children, she is the least adventurous. To top this off, she tends to be a drama queen when something upsets her. If I am internally disturbed by what I see, I can only imagine what DH is dealing with in the doom buggy ahead of us. This may not be pretty.

But shockingly, both my girls emerge from the house of death completely stimulated and giddy over the fun they had. DS6 seems a bit shaken-up, but he puts his best foot forward so as to appear no less courageous than the female persons of our group.

Well, time has flown by. We need to head towards Main Street, U.S.A.® again. Our dinner reservations are at Tony’s Town Square, and I am particularly excited about this destination.

In addition to Tom Sawyer Island, Main Street, U.S.A.® was usually skimmed over during my “blitzkrieg” years. Yet, I came to regret that as I aged. The carefree mood of the street is very appealing, and in my late teens, I began to wish I had more time to look in all of its shops and exhibits. Tony’s Town Square, a Lady and the Tramp-themed Italian Restaurant, specifically drew my attention because of its elegant exterior and interesting location.

While we are waiting for our meals, DH remarks that he should have ordered the spaghetti with meatballs. Then we could share the noodles and he could push a meatball over to my side of the table with his nose just like Tramp does for Lady in the sentimental moment they share. I am touched by this romantic thought, and I am also relieved that his affections still lie with me and not promiscuous princesses who shall remain nameless. As I blush, I playfully elbow him and say, “Not in front of the kids . . .” He flirtatiously winks at me, and I wonder where all this banter may eventually lead.

The food arrives. Over our meal, I engage my ladies and tramp in conversation about our day. I ask them what their favorite exhibition is. DD8 takes a jab at DS6 by saying that his favorite ride is The Haunted Mansion. I guess that DS6’s attempt at appearing fearless failed because DD8, obviously, picked up on her position of superiority in this instance. DS6’s feathers are immediately ruffled, and he answers that DD8’s favorite ride is Splash Mountain® and that she definitely wants to ride again. The hair on DD8 bristles, but DD3 interrupts this increasingly ugly scene with her own declaration that she still likes ALL the rides. I am thankful for the command my littlest lady has taken in our conversation. She has corrected the ungracious intentions of her elder siblings by making the neurotic Disney spirit the focus of our discussion once again. I can’t help but notice that her Disney maturity is advanced for a three-year-old.

We all conclude that our day has been a good one. We covered much more ground than was planned, and now we find that we have a few more hours to do spontaneous activities. It is unanimous that we should venture toward Space Mountain®.

The check is paid, and we wander back out into Main Street, U.S.A.®. A large crowd has gathered at the hub for the “SpectroMagic” Parade. It quickly becomes evident that we will be unable to move our troops and double stroller through the dense sea of people. The only option is for us to try to find a spot where we can enjoy the parade as well.
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Old 01-07-2009, 03:34 PM   #39
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My Wild Child

MY WILD CHILD

The parade is about to begin. I chance to see the smallest break in onlookers with prime property right up in front, wedged in between two strollers. There is only enough room for a small child to stand, so I place DD3 there and line DS6 and DD8 single file behind her. DH and I stand a little further back so that we don’t interrupt the view of the adults that staked out their territory before us.

A very kind woman standing near my children offers me her position so that I can be closer to my kids. I decline and tell her that I would never consider allowing this when we have only just arrived. But she insists, stating that she comes to the Magic Kingdom® multiple times a year and has seen this parade more times than she can remember. Given these details, I accept her gift and take my place behind the children.

The parade appears. Instantaneously, DD3 goes crazy with excitement. I thought that I had seen the extent of her frenzied behaviors when we first arrived on Main Street, U.S.A.® that morning and again at Cinderella’s Royal Table. Apparently, I hadn’t even scratched the surface.

As floats pass by, she is simply delirious with delight. She is behaving like a pubescent teen girl at a Jonas’ Brothers rock concert, and her enthusiasm makes the event the most exciting one I have ever been a part of. Once again, her uninhibited expressions are contagious, and I find myself fighting the urge to yell, cheer and wave frantically at the lit characters crossing in front of us.

DD3’s antics are, apparently, noticeable to all. The parents surrounding us seem to take more pleasure in watching DD3 than the more subdued reactions of their own children. Also, due to the spectacle she is creating, many of the parade participants grant DD3 special attentions as they move past her position. Even Prince Charming takes notice of her and blows her a kiss from his dazzling carriage.

At one point, a rather large and intimidating Ursula rolls right up to DD3, looks her in the eye and delivers a wicked speech along with frightening movements. I fear this will be the end of DD3’s enthusiasm and she will want to retreat to a less vulnerable spot for parade viewing. But after Ursula rolls away, DD3 turns around to me and ecstatically proclaims, “Mommy! Ursula talked to me!” I reply, “She did? Did you like it?” She cheerfully screams, “Yes! She was really scary!” She then turns right back around and continues her frenzied, rock-concert behaviors.

By the time the parade ends, I find that all the excitement has left me fairly exhausted. I never expected to expend so much energy by “passively” watching a parade. And, yet, this is the magic that I am blessed with by accompanying my little pixie in the Magic Kingdom® for her first time. I would not trade this for anything.
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Old 01-07-2009, 03:40 PM   #40
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Ending Today With Tomorrow

ENDING TODAY WITH TOMORROW

The crowd begins to disperse. DD8 sees her chance to bolt for Space Mountain®. She leads our tired group toward the hypnotic glow of Tommorowland®. Once we arrive, we pull out our undeserved, golden ticket and divide up in the same manner as we have for the other mountain ranges of the Magic Kingdom®. I accompany DS6 while DD8 waits patiently for a turn with DH.

After the ride, DS6 has mixed feelings about his orbit in space. But DD8 completely loves the rush of this ride. Is it possible that they swapped personalities in The Haunted Mansion? It appears that my little boy’s adventurous spirit took up residence in the spirit-friendly mansion, leaving him without much desire to explore new frontiers in space. In contrast, my big girl has turned in her cowardice for thrill-seeking passion. I am a little puzzled by these changes, but I am happy that my timid Piglet is now feeling more along the lines of a Mufasa.

Our space trips are wrapped up, and we find the Wishes™ Nighttime Spectacular fireworks show taking place. Fireworks usually terrify DD3. She completely goes to pieces when the sparkling theatrics appear to shower us with deafening, explosive bangs. So for her sake, we don’t draw undue attention to the lightshow occurring in the near distance. Instead, we take advantage of the diminished population in Tomorrowland® and stand in line for Astro Orbiter, which is enjoyable at night due to the glowing planets that whiz past as you ride.

DH bows out. He is unable to withstand most repetitive, circular rides, so I chaperone all of my space explorers for this attraction alone. My social astronauts make friends with two college girls in front of us, who each offer to take one of my elder kids in a space ship with them so that I can focus on holding onto my littlest space ranger. I find this quite agreeable since the rockets tend to tip at an angle that is rather precarious.

A few rotations around the planets of tomorrow, tightly gripping DD3 so that she doesn’t fall out of the rocket, and our mission is complete. The two college girls insist on taking some pictures with my little astronauts to save the memory of their cute company. Then we rejoin DH.

It is decided that for our final attraction, we should enjoy the relaxing transportation provided by the Tomorrowland® Transit Authority. This proves to be a wise decision. The steady speed with a non-demanding mood provides a great atmosphere for relaxing and recounting all the memorable moments the day held. Every family member has some little piece of fun that they want to relive through verbal retelling of it, and many laughs are shared as we glide throughout Tomorrowland®’s landscape.

By the time we reach our place of departure, a satisfying sense of closure envelopes us. The Magic Kingdom® is shutting down, and it is time for our happy team to make our exit from the beautiful park to our welcoming beds. We have, yet, another demanding day ahead of us. Not one that requires physical stamina for conquering a vast territory but one that requires emotional stamina for enduring exhausting relatives.
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Old 01-07-2009, 04:01 PM   #41
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Frying Pans Not Included

DAY 6
FRYING PANS NOT INCLUDED

Our family has only a precious few vacation days each year, and we have collectively decided that these are best spent in Walt Disney World®. But there is one person who does not share our opinion . . . my mother who is also known as Grammy. Even though Grammy is perfectly welcome to visit our home in VA, she complains year round about not having enough time with our family.

In an attempt to “band-aid” this dilemma, we invite Grammy to visit us today at our villa in the lodge. She lives a few hours away from Walt Disney World®, so this seems like a reasonable way to squeeze in the all-important “Grammy Time.” She agrees to come, and she informs us that she will also bring my sister and my sister’s three children. I have doubts about such an arrangement since we only have a 1 bedroom villa and are already exceeding the room’s capacity by a person. But I have little ground for resistance since I have no other viable alternatives to offer that would please Grammy.

Grammy calls the morning of Day 6. She states that her traveling entourage is behind schedule. My sister, who is affectionately called “Auntie,” is running into difficulties. My nephew, Buddy, who is 9 years old, is doing all he can to help because he is anxious to see his cousins. However, the twins (Angel and Pooter) have not been very cooperative during the preparations. This is not surprising considering that they are merely 2 years old, but—for some reason—they have been unusually difficult today.

I assure her that this is not a problem. Our family plans to just hang out around the lodge. So if we are not already in our room when they arrive, a quick call to DH’s cell phone will locate us at a close distance.

As I hang up the phone, I say a quick prayer of thanks. Between the constant remarks that Grammy makes about us not meeting her expectations and the wild behaviors of Angel and Pooter, I am usually exhausted in the presence of these personalities. I was uncertain how I would manage a day-long visit in such close quarters with our expected company. Now I will only have to survive a half-day.

My little brood has already gone through the morning rituals of dressing and eating. They are now enjoying an episode of “Cory in the House” while they wait for the day’s itinerary. I inform them that Grammy will be late, so I will take DD8 and DS6 to hunt for Hidden Mickeys while DD3 gets in some exclusive time with DH.

When learning about the Disney’s Wilderness Lodge on the internet, I found a list of options available to those seeking extracurricular activities. Among them was a hunt for Hidden Mickeys throughout the resort. The Concierge Desk provides a list of riddles and clues. And from the list, the challenge is to deduce the location of a secretly-placed and cleverly-disguised Mickey head and then spot it. It sounds like a fantastic adventure that is perfect for a NDM and her active explorers. So I can hardly wait to begin.

As expected, the Concierge Desk is very happy to satisfy our request for a Hidden Mickey clue sheet. They warn us that the hunt is a very challenging one, and they are not permitted to give the answers. But if we feel that we need further assistance, we can return to the desk for more clues.

I am not swayed by this caution. While this hunt may prove challenging for the average Disney guest, I am a NDM. I eat Disney trivia for breakfast. I overcome Disney obstacles in a single bound. I have a sixth sense that instinctually guides me in all Disney matters. This Mickey hunt is the type of thing I was born to do. I surely will wrap up this “challenge” within half-an-hour and amaze the Concierge Desk with my impressive skills.

DD8, DS6 and I have a promising start. Right away, I cleverly deduce the location of many of our clues. The first one clearly indicates that a Mickey head is hidden within a red stone on the great fireplace. Fantastic! We skip over to the fireplace and search for this camouflaged impression.

For at least 15 minutes, we look intently at every stone on the fireplace. Our examination is so scrutable that the normal irregularities of these rocks begin to take on strange shapes much like clouds do if you watch them too closely.

I spot a peculiar looking red stone above the fireplace screen. Does that stone host the Mickey head? If you look at it from a specific angle, cross your eyes and hit yourself on the head with a frying pan, it vaguely resembles the famous thrice-circular symbol. That must be it. There is no other visible possibility. It is a good thing that I am a NDM because the average visitor would NEVER be able to extract that image from the rock. But my Disney super powers include being able to see Disney images that escape the natural vision of others. We check off that clue on the list, and I declare proudly to DD8 and DS6 that we have undoubtedly spotted the first Hidden Mickey.

The next clue indicates that there is a Hidden Mickey near the geyser. As I walk towards the new location, studying my list of clues with children in tow, I am called to attention by a comment directed at me. “Ah! We know what you are doing!” I look up and see another mom with two teenage daughters who are holding their own clue list. “Oh, yes,” I reply, waving my paper in admission. She responds, “I hope you are having better luck than we are. Have you spotted the Mickey for clue #4?” “Well, we have only started,” I offer as an excuse for only having checked off clue #1, “but I suspect that clue #4 is near the boat rental shack.” “Hmmm,” she considers, “that is probably right. You are very good at this. I suppose you have already found the Mickey head on the red stone next to the bottom supporting beam on the extreme right side of the fireplace.” “Of course,” I remark. But I inwardly rationalize she must have been imagining her Mickey. The Mickey image that I saw was centrally located on the fireplace—not to the right of it.

“This is really difficult,” the woman continues, “My girls are a little annoyed that this is taking so long.” I observe her two companions. They are none too amused to be standing next to their mom while she conversates over the trials of the Mickey search. I suspect they are feeling the call of the teenager destination, Disney Quest. “We have had to ask cast members to show us where some of these Mickeys are because we are just not finding them on our own,” she laments.

I sympathize with the woman and tell her that they can provide her with more specific clues at the Concierge Desk. Then I wish her well as we go our separate ways. I think about the disparaging, floundering mother. It must be terrible to attempt this search without the innate ability to sniff Mickey out like a hound dog on a fox hunt. Thankfully, I will never know that helpless feeling.

We arrive at the geyser, which is temporarily dormant. The sun is scorching every molecule in our bodies. DD8 and DS6 groan as they perspire. Why is the weather so unbearable this week? I grew up in FL, so I am aware of its tropical conditions. However, this is really beyond anything that I remember in my youth. But since there is nothing that can be done about the heat, the best plan is to ignore it and go about our business. We are out seeking Mickey heads, and proceed we must.

I look over the railing in front of the geyser where the familiar branding surely is and see . . . nothing. In confusion, I ask DD8 and DS6 to look upon the rock that surrounds the geyser and tell me if they happen to view the Hidden Mickey. Nope! They can’t see anything except the beads of sweat dropping off their eyebrows and into their eyes.

Maybe it is on the railing. I diligently examine every inch of railing in the vicinity. Nothing! I reconsider that the Mickey head must be on the geyser rock. The clue clearly implies it is on the geyser rock. So—once again—I scrutinize the entire rock. Where is it?

Back in the early 90’s, the optical illusion/3-D posters and postcards were in vogue. So that I could appreciate this trendy art, I developed the skill of “relaxing” my eyes. Once I had finally learned to tell my brain to stop focusing my vision, I was able to see all manner of images emerge from the cluttered pictures before developing incredible headaches and dizziness. It occurs to me that this Hidden Mickey search must require the same technique in order to be accomplished. So after I instruct my brain to unfocus my eyes, everything becomes blurry and surreal. I see it! I see it! I finally can make out the faint form of a Mickey head, floating across one area of the geyser rock. Yes! We can now check off that clue on our list.

DD8 and DS6 look doubtful when I claim that we have found the Mickey head in question. But, being a NDM, I always know best in these matters, so they cast aside their uncertainty and follow me in our detective investigation.

I decide that since we are already outside, it would be best to skip clue #3 and pursue clue #4, which I am certain indicates a location near the boat rental shack. “Mom,” DS6 says with a slightest hint of whine, “Do we have to keep looking for these Mickeys?” “Of course,” I reply, “Aren’t you having fun?” “Not really,” he admits with some hesitation, “It is really hot out. And I can’t see any of the Mickeys you show us. I just want to go back to our room.”

Poor DS6’s Mickey-senses have not entirely matured. But they never will if I don’t push him to use them. In his best interest, I insist that DS6 “buck-up”. I assure him that he will see the next Hidden Mickey if he remains patient, and I lecture him about not giving up so easily.

I am extremely deliberate in my efforts to unveil the next camouflaged Mickey. The sidewalk that we travel is carefully analyzed. Each board on the pool-side eatery as well as each shingle on the boat rental shack is looked over. I even begin to scrutinize the shape of the petals on the flowers we pass. But there is nothing that resembles a Mickey head--not even with the help of my head-striking, frying pan.

I come to a point where I realize there are no other alternatives. In order to continue this hunt I must apply the one fail-proof method for success . . . cheating!

I approach the attendant at the boat rental shack and ask her if she knows of a near-by Hidden Mickey. She smiles pleasantly and says, “Yes.” I explain the desperation of our situation and beg her to simply take us to it so that we can skip the agony of searching. She agrees and calls to her assistant-in-training, “C’mon. You are going to need to know where this is too because a lot of people are going to ask you this question.”

The benevolent, boat rental lady leads us around a bend to a corner of the lodge’s vast structure. “Do you see it up there,” she implores as she points up in the sky. I shield my eyes so that I am not struck blind by the sun as I try to follow her direction. What is she pointing at? A cloud? A roof? A hallucination? “I am having trouble,” I finally confess. “Right there. On the beam next to the balcony on the fourth floor,” she declares. I count four floors up, look at the supporting beam to the right of the balcony and there it is—plain as a bow on Minnie’s head. The imprint is so clear that it looks as if someone has taken a hot iron and branded the beam. No frying pan is required to view that image. If this hidden Mickey is so easily seen once you have found its actual location, is it possible that my hazy images conjured by exceptional Mickey senses were not actually the designated Hidden Mickeys?

The revelation is a bit alarming to me, but I thank the boat personnel for her assistance and recall the conversation with the other Mickey-searching mother. Did she say she saw the figure to the right of the fireplace? I must go back to make sure that I didn’t miss something.

DD8, DS6 and I backtrack to the fireplace. Sure enough, there it is on a red stone to the right of the fireplace near the bottom jutting beam of the second floor. Again, no frying pan required. I feel disillusioned by the apparent failure of my Hidden Mickey abilities. How will I ever recover from this crushing blow to my Disney-inclined ego?

I lead my group over to the Concierge Desk, shamefully admitting defeat to the pitying clerk. She sympathetically pulls out a three-ring binder, turns to a particular section and looks over what appears to be the answer key to my impossible quiz. “May I have that sheet,” I petition. With a look of dismay at the unethical proposition, the Concierge countess responds, “No. I’m sorry. We are not permitted to release the answers. We can only try to give you more direction.” I plead with the policy-adhering clerk to just hand over the answers so that we can finish our mission, but she remains resolute.

The mean, ogre-like clerk gets summoned to take a phone call and leaves the open three-ring binder on the counter. I consider grabbing the answer sheet and making a run for it. But the thought of getting caught in such a demeaning act is horrific, and I can’t bring myself to reach across the counter and swipe the remedy for my afflicted condition.

Had I understood the unrealistic standard set for this hunt, I would have done extensive research on it prior to our trip. Surely somewhere on the internet, someone has found all of these distressing locations, possibly even posted actual pictures of them, enabling wretched souls such as myself to find the answers they so passionately seek. And if they haven’t . . . well, they should. Right about now I would be agreeable to forking over a few bucks to buy a copy of “Hidden Mickeys for Dummies” (if there was such a thing).

At this point, I call off the hunt. So much time has been lost on this hopeless affair. I feel frustrated, dejected and a seed of bitterness is planted in the depths of my NDM soul. The only thing that could top this miserable event would be a visit from my insane family, and I am fortunate enough to have that very thing as a follow-up to this bruising of my self-esteem.

As we drudge back to our villa, DD8 and DS6 are grateful that the Hidden Mickey escapade has finally come to an end. I recede into a great depression and desire only to curl up in my wilderness bed and cry myself to sleep. But alas, for the sake of the family, I paint a happy smile on my face and tell my small detectives how appreciative I am of their company during our morning excursion.
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Old 01-07-2009, 08:02 PM   #42
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Is There A Priest In The House?

IS THERE A PRIEST IN THE HOUSE?
Shortly after we return to our villa from the painful and depressing Hidden Mickey hunt, there is a knock on our door. All three of my little people look at each other, look at me and then scream, “Grammy!”

As much as Grammy nags me, she dotes on my kids. They love her and always look forward to spending time with her. So it is no surprise that they get up and dart towards the door at the sound of her knock. When they open the swinging barrier, a whirlwind descends upon my previously peaceful villa. My family is instantly attacked by an onslaught of loud, kissing, hyperactive relatives.

No time is wasted. Coolers of food are brought in. Boxes of consignment store treasures are piled up. Backpacks full of diapers, sippy cups, towels, bathing suits, and other necessities are propped on the couch, and toys are immediately strewn across the entire living room.

Auntie grabs all my well-behaved children and leads them in yelling and jumping in excitement. Buddy finds his spot on the couch and turns up the volume on the TV. Angel and Pooter make a bee-line for the bedroom to rummage through my underwear, and Grammy yells her greetings above the commotion.

It is lunchtime, so I suggest immediately serving the mid-day meal. This way we can be done with it and leave the villa as soon as possible. In my mind, the sooner that we get Angel and Pooter out of our place, the safer my underwear will be.

As we rush through a quick lunch, Grammy begins passing out presents that she has gathered from thrift stores all across South Florida. But rather than have us dally in the villa with our new thrift store treasures, I suggest a number of options for afternoon activities—all of them outside of our room.

Auntie believes that a boat ride to Disney’s Contemporary Resort and tour of all the monorail hotels is the best immediate choice. Her opinion is that Angel and Pooter will find this plan soothing, and she confesses that she has never seen these hotels. Shocked that any sibling of mine has thus far led a life absent of monorail resort exposure, I confirm that we must visit these dormitories. After that we will get in some pool time at the lodge.

We are nearly ready to depart the madness of our cramped quarters when my ears are pierced by a blood-curling scream. It is the type of scream that stops you dead in your tracks. It is the type of scream that makes your hair stand on end. It is the type of scream that makes you fear someone has lost a limb.

I turn toward the source of the scream just in time to see Angel throw herself upon the living room floor in a tantrum. But this is not just any normal tantrum. This tantrum consists of growling, screaming, thrashing, gnashing, flailing, flopping and other behaviors that indicate demon possession. At any moment I expect Angel to roll her eyes into the back of her head, start speaking in some ancient Babylonian language, have her head turn a full 360°, vomit green foam and float off the ground.

I am at a loss in understanding the trigger for this other-worldly happening, but—undoubtedly—something has rubbed Angel the wrong way. Auntie is trying to get a hold on the situation, but it seems there is little she can do. I look at Auntie with a quizzical expression. She tells me that it would be best for us all to leave the villa while she handles the problem and that she and Angel will join us in the atrium as soon as the demon has been exorcised.

We all obediently head down to the atrium. I guess this may be the best time to explore that room with the checkers and chess tables, so I lead the group there. I worry about Auntie. Is it wise to leave a beloved sibling alone in the presence of such a horrific and dangerous creature? She seemed certain that she could subdue the uncontrollable Angel, and—for the sake of us all—I hope she is right.

As I consider what could have caused Angel’s outburst, I acknowledge that at least it happened within the privacy of the villa. Had it happened in public, it could have made for a very uncomfortable situation.

Auntie and Angel finally meet up with us. My hope is that Angel got it all out of her system. It seems that she has, so we drive our cattle herd down to the marina. A blue-flagged boat appears. The welcoming horn blows. And all the children giggle with delight.

When we board, we find that the boat is almost at full capacity. There is not enough room for us to sit together, so our group splits up into three sections. I take the hands of Buddy, DD8 and DS6 and head toward the front of the boat near the skipper. The other members of our party find scattered seats in the back of the boat.

Once we get out in the middle of the water, Buddy tells me how happy he is that he came to see us because he is having such a good time. I start to tell him how glad I am as well when I am interrupted by another harrowing scream. Because of my seat’s angle, I am unable to turn toward the sound. But since I am now familiar with the situation, I don’t feel the need to look at it again. In fact, I am inclined to pretend that I don’t have any connection to the insurrection taking place, and I reconsider whether I truly am glad that Auntie and her family came.

Buddy and I look at one another. There isn’t much point in trying to speak over the shrill pitches, so we try to wait it out. But the shrieking doesn’t end. Indeed, it escalates to a point where I am certain that every passenger is ready to jump ship. Surely wrestling the alligators of Bay Lake would be less painful than enduring one more second of Angel’s tantrum.

After many agonizing minutes, the boat docks at Disney’s Contemporary Resort. I watch the passengers deboard at the speed of a bullet train. I begin to envy the other people that get to escape Angel’s company now that the boat ride is over. Unfortunately, the termination of our nautical trip does not provide me with the same benefit.

I am now able to see that Grammy is trying to calm Angel, but this only worsens Angel’s behavior as we walk toward the resort. Auntie finally gets fed up and temporarily forbids Grammy from coming near Angel. She declares that Grammy reinforces these inappropriate tactics since Grammy delivers whatever Angel desires when she behaves this way. They both are verbally reprimanded by Auntie and separated for the time being. I feel rather embarrassed for having witnessed this scene and desperately wish to be transported to another time and place.

Auntie is somehow able to make Angel get control of herself by the time we get to the hotel door. This is much to my relief because I don’t know how to appear unassociated while holding hands with children who refer to Auntie as “Mommy.”
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Old 01-07-2009, 09:33 PM   #43
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NDM#1 View Post
Back in the early 90’s, the optical illusion/3-D posters and postcards were in vogue. So that I could appreciate this trendy art, I developed the skill of “relaxing” my eyes. Once I had finally learned to tell my brain to stop focusing my vision, I was able to see all manner of images emerge from the cluttered pictures before developing incredible headaches and dizziness.
I remember those posters. It took me forever to train my eyes to see them!

I have been sitting here reading the whole report, much to the dismay of my animals who are now giving me the evil eye Guess it's a little past their dinner time Love the trip report. I agree with the other poster, you should write a book.
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Old 01-07-2009, 10:11 PM   #44
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I didnt make it through all the posts tonight, but great job! I'm hookred.


I'll be Back!
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Old 01-08-2009, 08:26 AM   #45
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Pirates Of The Polynesian

PIRATES OF THE POLYNESIAN

We manage to arrive at Disney’s Polynesian Resort without further incident and wander through the many gift shops and pass a couple restaurants. Then we take an elevator to a lower level where there are beautiful waterfalls and exotic gardens. This is the floor of the main entrance and check-in area. Here we find a group of new employees being taught a Hawaiian hula dance for the amusement of Polynesian guests.

All seems to be going fairly smoothly when Grammy spots the children’s area for guests who are in the process of either checking in or checking out. It is stocked with coloring sheets, crayons, and leis for the high-paying, tropical occupants—an area ripe for the picking in Grammy’s eyes.

As previously mentioned, the notion of “value” is of highest priority in Grammy’s home. The only thing that can trump “value” is a “bargain.” And you cannot find a better bargain than items that are free. The type of item is irrelevant. The need for the item is also irrelevant. Your interest in the item is irrelevant as well. And whether the free items were meant for someone else is the least relevant factor of all. All that is relevant is that there are items to be taken, and one should take as many of these items as possible. To not take full advantage of such a bargain is a sin worthy of irrevocable condemnation.

Needless to say, Grammy hurries all her little followers over to this bountiful paradise. She commands each of them to sit and begin coloring a picture. They are only too happy to oblige, and they color as they watch Pluto on the flat panel screen hung in front of them. Then, while the children are coloring, Grammy begins stashing pages and pages of coloring sheets into her backpack. When I ask her for an explanation, she relays that the children will need extra pictures to color when they have finished the one they are working on. I tell her that I can understand taking one extra page per child but that 10 extra pages per child seems to be a bit much, especially considering that there are six children in our group. But Grammy is undeterred. She will lift these coloring pages with or without my approval.

The rationale for this behavior is lost on me. Is the $2.35 for a Mickey Mouse coloring book really that much of a financial burden? Or better yet, why would anyone suffer this embarrassment when the same coloring pages can be printed for free from the Disney website?

I beg Grammy to leave some pages for the little ones who are actually staying at Disney’s Polynesian Resort--the ones that these free items were meant to keep busy. She agrees to this and leaves a couple sheets for a maximum of two children.

Once she has confiscated enough coloring pages to supply a whole daycare center, Grammy moves to the stack of leis on a nearby table. It is a given that each member of our group will now be adorned with a lei regardless of their desire for one. But I do find myself a little shocked when she proceeds to take all the remaining leis on the table (except for two . . . most likely for the same two children that are lucky enough to be left a coloring page). What does she plan to do with all these leis? Will she be giving them out as Christmas presents this year?

I am baffled, but I remain quiet at this point. Maybe with my new lei, I can slip unnoticed into the group of dancing hula girls to escape my embarrassment and shame. As lovely as the idea is, it isn’t likely to work, and I acknowledge that I must find a way to get Grammy out of this place. Her “free item radar” is on full-alert at this juncture, and I fear she will begin taking anything that isn’t nailed down.

Pooter, however, decides to interfere with my exit plan. In his diaper, he produces a bowel movement so foul that Hazmat is almost called upon to handle the situation. Auntie tells everyone to get themselves comfortable. Pooter will need to be escorted to the lobby bathroom if the Polynesian population is to be rescued from the deathly stench that is extending throughout the great room. She attests that she has dealt with this scenario before and that it may take a while for her to appropriate her aromatically offensive son. And with that, any hopes of a quick exit dissipate.

DH pulls an unexpected move, though, when he addresses our group as a whole. “Ya know,” he announces, “It is getting a little late. Why don’t I take Buddy, DD8 and DS6 back to our resort? This way they can have plenty of time swimming. You can catch up later with the little ones. We’ll see you there.” Doh! Why hadn’t I thought of that? DH is apparently a bit more clever than I usually give him credit for.

As he exits with the eldest kids of our group, I feel like I am stuck to a “tar baby” in the same fashion as Brer Rabbit—the harder I try to get out of this mess, the more stuck I get. Where is Auntie? Did she drop Pooter in the toilet? The need to get Grammy out of the children’s area seems urgent as I see her eyeing the bowl of free crayons placed on the coloring table.

After at least 20 minutes, Auntie finally returns with Pooter. She tells us that she has been looking everywhere for us. I wonder how this could be because we haven’t moved since her departure. Confused as I am, I concede that it doesn’t matter. The children’s check-in fun center stopped being fun a long time ago, and the only thing on my mind is leaving.

Once back in the monorail, we suffer through yet another one of Angel’s demonic episodes. At this point I glance out the window and regret that my super Mickey powers do not include becoming invisible in awkward Disney moments.

We arrive at Disney’s Grand Floridin Resort & Spa. The opened doors of the monorail and the new scenery of the Victorian resort intrigues Angel, so she forgets about her tantrum for the time being and walks into the posh hotel with great dignity. I take DD3 by the hand and try to put as much distance between Angel and us as I can without being obvious about disowning my family. I am mildly successful in this endeavor and temporarily forget about the awkward group we are visiting with . . . that is until I hear another scream coming from the opposite side of the lobby. This situation is quickly going from bad to worse.

When Angel’s temper is pacified, I approach the group again and suggest that we head back to the lodge for some swimming. Everyone agrees since the very “proper” atmosphere of Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa is not well suited for demonic presentations. We pass the children’s area on our way out to the monorail. I see Grammy’s eyes squint as she searches for loot. Fortunately, though, there is not a single coloring page, crayon, balloon or any other welcoming paraphernalia in sight. I suspect the aristocratic management was notified of our impending arrival when we left Disney’s Polynesian Resort and cleverly removed these items to a safe place beyond Grammy’s kleptic grasp.

Our arrival back at the lodge does not come a second too soon for me. As we all climb out of our blue-flagged ship, I feel as if I have been tortured for the last hour and a half. The agony of our afternoon trip has left me with only a desire to tie a big rock around my neck and jump into Bay Lake. Does Auntie endure this on a daily basis? If she does, I am unable to imagine how she has kept herself from being institutionalized. I have a new sense of appreciation for her survival skills. Surely, they supercede my own.

When we get to the pool, Grammy and Auntie set up their camp near the baby pool. Angel and Pooter happily leap into the water. They have finally found an activity that meets their expectations and keeps them content. What a relief!

DD3 and I join the other half of our group in the big pool. Since DD3 cannot be kept from the waterslide, this provides me with a viable excuse to leave my patient sibling, well-mannered mother, charming niece and aromatic nephew for a time. I can feel my muscles relax and my headache wane with each step that I take away from their location.

In combination with the cool water, the blaring sun takes on a soothing quality. DH is expertly managing the supervision of our little ducklings and Buddy, so I bob around the water on my own. The feeling of buoyancy is so refreshing after being emotionally weighted down all day.

In time, I notice that my little VA pale-faces are turning pink. It is time for us to go inside, or our roasted hides will make for miserable circumstances when we return to the Magic Kingdom® tomorrow. Grammy and her traveling companions have FL tans that permit them to remain in the sunshine much longer, so they opt to stay at the pool. As I gather my school of fish and head back to our villa, I note that next year when my extended family visits us we should just plan on spending the entire time at the pool. Live and learn.

As usual, entrance into our villa provides a sense of solace that is particularly needed after my brutal day. I collapse on the couch, completely exhausted, and my family’s affair fades into the background of my mind.

The next thing I know, Auntie is waking me with a kiss on the cheek. What happened? DH, in a very compassionate tone, says that I fell into a great sleep that rendered me unconscious for a couple hours. He has been merciful to me and managed our young so that I could find revival upon waking. It has worked. I feel very refreshed.

Auntie tells me that Grammy and the rest of her crew are making their exit. Dinnertime is quickly approaching, so they are going to get on the road and eat on the way. I find that the return of my energy has also brought a change of heart. Suddenly it seems regrettable that Auntie and the rest have to leave so soon. However, I remind myself that my Disney Vacation Club contract lasts for the next 50 years, so I will have many more chances to redeem this day.

DD8 and I walk Grammy, Auntie and all the cousins out to the lodge parking lot. The hottest part of the day is done, and we feel a gentle breeze brush us as we wave good-bye and blow kisses to our insane but beloved family. Their SUV drives past the lodge, around the bend and out of sight. With that, DD8 and I heave big sighs, hold hands and skip back to the comfort of our lovely villa. It is a little sad to watch my family drive off, but I am very thankful we are not the ones leaving this fantastic place.
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