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Old 09-03-2009, 11:07 PM   #1
Join Date: Jun 2009
Posts: 78

Will it hurt when you staple the mouse ears to my head? 1st Family Trip *UPDATE 9/25!

The players in our drama, a family of four living in Cincinnati, Ohio:
  • Shawn, 31, Applications Analyst, Husband, Father – Lifelong dream to see Disney World, been planning a trip in his mind for years…really antsy to get out of his cube at work and go on a trip for the first time since 2007.
  • Becky, 31, PT Project Manager/FT Mom, Wife – visited Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios as a child; loves vacations but secretly fears that Disney might not really be her scene, and might be too big and expensive an undertaking for a family with two small boys – she is hoping the family won’t have to “recover” from this potentially stressful trip - was she proven right?? Stay tuned!
  • Caden, 4, Pre-schooler. Caden has only been on one vacation, two years ago, and has been salivating ever since the announcement that we are going to Disney, though he admittedly has no clear concept of what it is – he’s excited because we are. He is charming, adventurous, very bright, active, and the word “precocious” should have his picture next to it in Websters (or at the very least Wikipedia). He loves Playhouse Disney, Mary Poppins, and Toy Story (beyond that his exposure to Disney has been pretty limited).
  • Connor, 20 months, Toddler. Connor is pretty laid back. He likes being with his brother and acting like he knows what’s going on, but we all know most of the time he doesn’t. He answers any question with a half-hearted “Yeeah” (“Connor, do you want to see Mickey?” “Yeeah.” “Do you want us to throw you off the Tower of Terror?” “Yeeah.”) But he’s super cute and so huggable and goes with the flow most of the time. He does still require a 2 to 3 hour nap every day. See note about Becky above!!

The planning:
We used to take a vacation every year before the kids were born; before we were married Shawn hadn’t really been anywhere so we really enjoy planning our vacations and seeing places together. Disney was always on “the list,” especially for Shawn, but once we had kids it just made sense to wait to see it through their eyes and really get our money’s worth. We had tentatively carved out a Disney trip for the fall of 2008, but then Becky unexpectedly lost her job and that was put on the back burner. Once a new job was secured and things began to look up, Shawn turned his thoughts back to Disney. He began skimming the internet for deals and started pitching them to Becky, who is definitely the “cheap” one in the marriage! At that point we started REALLY looking at it for the first time, and on his birthday in March, Shawn found the “4 nights get 3 free” deal. While trying to be as economical as possible, we really didn’t look at single hotel rooms as an option because we’ve done that for weekend trips and everyone is pretty miserable. The kids won’t sleep, they have no room to run, no place to nap, and we all go to bed at 8 pm. Not anyone’s idea of a good time. We were aiming to get a suite in one of the value resorts, but they were all booked – so the Disney operator suggested the cabins at Fort Wilderness, which we’d never heard of. After doing a little more research and realizing how much we’d save by using the full kitchen in the cabins instead of eating out for every meal, we booked it, and the Research Onslaught began. We are both thinkers and planners, and planning a trip is ALMOST as enjoyable for nerds like us as taking it.
The first thing to decide – fly or drive? We priced the tickets vs. gas & hotels and the drive came out slightly cheaper. AND that also gave us the benefit of having our own on-site transportation, and from our research we discovered the Disney transportation from Fort Wilderness can be a bit of a hassle, so we arranged to borrow Becky’s parents minivan (it has an entertainment system which is a MUST for kids who can’t read yet!). We briefly considered driving it straight (about 1,000 miles) overnight, but if that backfired and the kids didn’t sleep, we thought that would be a bad way to start a 7-day trip.
So the plan evolved thus:
Friday, August 7th – leave early in the morning and drive the first 180 miles to London, Kentucky, and visit with Becky’s aunt and cousins. Early on the 8th, get up and drive, with as many stops as necessary, to Savannah Georgia. Book cheap hotel through priceline.com – hope to arrive by dinner time. On the 9th, drive about 2 ½ more hours to St. Augustine, visit the Disney Outlet located there for some souvenirs, have lunch at a family favorite restaurant, see the ocean (because Ohioans can’t drive 1,000 miles to Florida and not SEE the flippin’ ocean!), and then carry on the remaining 2 hours to Orlando. We’d be there from the 9th to the 15th, and return the way we came – driving about 4 hours to Georgia after our last morning in the parks, then a day’s drive to London, spending the night and then coming home the next afternoon (the 17th).
Only Becky had been to Disney, and her last trip was about 13 years ago, so neither of us is intimately familiar with the resort. Sources we used for planning our days at Disney:
The Unofficial Guide to Disney (2009) borrowed from a friend, and its companion website www.touringplans.com
Tour guide Mike’s website: www.tourguidemike.com
We wanted to have one character meal, and chose Crystal Palace for our 1st day at Magic Kingdom. The boys both love Pooh, and we chose lunch because we weren’t sure how early we’d be able to get up and going (turns out that wasn’t a problem, but who knew that going in?). We booked that 90 days out. We also requested one of the recently refurbished loops, 2100 that was most central to the campground, and reserved a high chair and bed rails well in advance.

Our packing list (and whether or not we should have taken the items on it) is as follows:
*5-6 lightweight, summer outfits for all of us (we planned on 1 laundry day, and this was just the right amount)
*2 swimsuits each – water wings/life jacket for boys, beach towels
*Sandals/tennis shoes for all (we were told sturdy shoes would be necessary, but we all did fine in sandals, so that is one less thing that could have been packed)
*Ponchos (don’t waste your space and money in August – we welcomed any opportunity to get wet and these never left the suitcase)
*Bug candles/lantern/BBQ tools for cabin – never used them, but we might have if it hadn’t rained on the night we planned to cook out
*Potholders – YES, a must have, not supplied in cabins
*Laundry detergent (we just poured some in a shampoo bottle)
*Dixie cups for teeth brushing
*A bag of individual condiments collected a few at a time from every fast-food restaurant we went to over the summer – BEST IDEA EVER!
*Camera – we purchased a dual video/still camera to avoid taking two, since that is something we needed anyway. So glad we did!
*Food – various cereal, cookie, and chip variety pack for trip down and in parks – some bottled waters and juices, lunch meat for the way down, and 1 cooler full of frozen, ready to bake meals (we purchased dry ice)
*Some board/card games – we never got them out, maybe if the kids were older?
*Diaper bag, backpack for parks
*First aid bag – all our normal prescription medications, plus small packages of anything else we might need – ibuprofen, Pepto Bismol, NyQuil, SUNSCREEN, aloe (for the spots we might miss with sunscreen), bandaids and Neosporin, benedryl cream, mole skin, etc.)
*Safety tattoos for the boys – we got a lot of comments on these, and they last 4-5 days without wearing off (they have a “if lost call” message and then you write on your cell number). We got them at www.mom4life.com
*2 battery-powered water-bottle fans ($6 at Walmart, or $17 in the park – you decide!)
*Stroller, portable cups for boys. We really agonized about the stroller situation, but eventually decided to take 2 – our regular heavy duty stroller, and a small umbrella stroller which only Connor can ride in. The plan was to take both into the parks, and “park” the little one in a centrally located area. If Caden got exhausted and whiny, we’d go get it, put him in the big stroller and transfer Connor to the little one. We didn’t want the rental strollers due to the extra cost as well as the lack of a cup holder and storage space. In addition, we might need the stroller in the campground (we didn’t, but who knew?). The umbrella stroller took up next to no space – but we NEVER got it out of the van. Everyone has different kids of course, but Caden proved that a 4-year old is fully capable of walking EVERY step of the way in the parks (even in blazing August heat) as long as they’re not pushed to go all day. He must have walked miles but never complained once. We found that the key is to limit the activity to the earlier, less hot part of the day and get them lots of fluids and rest in the afternoon. Their euphoria at being in Mickey’s domain does the rest!
*Pack ‘n Play for Connor – even though Disney provides them, we’d need something for the trip down. We decided to pass on the bed rails for Caden and see what we could devise to keep him in bed using nothing but our wits.
*We also took the boys’ (small) air purifier to give them some “white noise” to help them sleep, and some sand buckets which were only used once – probably wouldn’t take them again.
*A potty chair was in the trunk as well for any emergencies, but Caden has a bladder like a camel, and that was never used either. Still, we’d pack it to be safe for the little ones in case there is a MOMENT they need it when you’re miles from a rest area.
*Some of the clothes were divided into an overnight bag for the trip down.
*And finally, we had a bag of travel diversions we’d accumulated slowly over the summer – new DVDs, some books that Caden could read on his own, some coloring books (Crayola Wonder markers are great), some audio books, and the grand toy of all toys, the My First Leapster. Caden didn’t know about any of these until the trip was underway, and he was utterly entertained for all 16 hours of the drive. Connor was a little harder to please since he’s not as able to do anything besides watch TV, but he did sleep some which helped. We knew this going in!

We created our own “touring plans” for each park based on our kids’ tastes, our nap limitations, and our own “must-do” ideas. We knew going in which day we’d be at which park based on both website’s crowd guides. At first we were all excited about Magic Hours but every site we read said to avoid parks with Magic Hours like the plague, so we did some rearranging, and planned the following itinerary:
Sunday the 9th (arrive around 3): Go to Hollywood Studios in the evening
10th – Epcot
11th – Animal Kingdom
12th – Magic Kingdom
13th – Day off, hang out at pool
14th – Magic Kingdom again
15th – Hollywood Studios if we didn’t fit it all in on Sunday, leave around 1 and start home
We briefly flirted with the idea of adding on the park-hopper, but we are SO GLAD we didn’t. Despite planning to be at the parks in the morning and the evening, we never went back in the evening, and never needed to. So we DEFINITELY didn’t need the ability to do two parks in one day. Thanks to all the planning we got almost everything done in the morning and were able to relax and get the boys in bed early each night. More details on how we did that on each day…

Sooo, let’s get started on THE TRIP:

T-1 day:
Both of us worked on Thursday, which is just a miserable idea if you can avoid it! The day before should be spent cleaning and packing! Becky MUST come home to a clean house or her head will shoot off her body, and no one wants to see that. She cleaned a little each day, and her dear mother surprised her by vacuuming, dusting, and mopping while she was at work on Thursday. She has the best mom EVER! And it’s a good thing, because due to all the various last-minute issues that arose – Shawn came down with a fever and had to mow the lawn anyway, no one could find the cord to the portable fridge, the van still needed to be loaded – neither of us was in bed before 11:00.

Last edited by Porphyro; 09-25-2009 at 02:18 PM.
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Old 09-03-2009, 11:16 PM   #2
I've waited my whole life for this!
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Very nice report. Will be checking back for more details.
Adorable boys.
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Old 09-03-2009, 11:34 PM   #3
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Chapter 2: The Drive Down

Friday, August 7th:
We woke up at 7:30, trying to get ahead of the kids, and put all the last-minute things in the car – medicines taken daily, the coolers, etc. Becky decided at the last minute NOT to take her purse – instead she clipped together 1 credit card, the boys’ insurance cards, and her license and put them in pocket in her back pack. That will come into play later.
Shawn went into Caden’s room at 8:00, his normal wake-up time to try to get him moving. Or so he thought. As he went in, Caden said, from beneath the covers, “Can I get up now?” Shawn told him he could and he flung back the covers and jumped into the air, fully and completely dressed. Who knows at what point in the night he decided to get ready for Disney, but someone was excited! We piled the kids into the van, and showed Caden the giant road atlas we’d brought along to help him mark the trip. We’d highlighted the route from Cincinnati to Orlando – 75 to 40 E through the Smokies, to 26 South and finally 95 to I-4 in Florida – and laminated a little red Honda Odyssey for him to move along the line as we went. He really loved that. We went to the breakfast bar at Frisch’s, a family tradition dating back to Becky’s childhood, and then stopped to pick up some dry ice for the frozen dinners to keep them frozen for the two-day trip.
About an hour into Kentucky, Shawn had the eureka moment that while we had two giant coolers of food in the back, it had never once occurred to either of us to pack the small lunch cooler we’d need to bring lunches into the park. Sheer genius. Luckily, London is the proud location of a Super Walmart, so that would be easily remedied. We didn’t get many new toys out for the 2 ½ hour drive, wanting to save the big guns for the next day, and Caden got pretty antsy on that trip, whining and complaining about not wanting to be in his seat. At this point, Becky began to have a Gob moment.
We arrived at Aunt Margie’s house around lunch time, and the boys had a good time playing with their cousins.

Shawn was unfortunately feeling crummy. We’d quarantined the boys for 7 days prior to leaving, but could not do the same for him – they’d both had croup about 10 days before we left, and generously passed it on to their father right around the time they recovered. So he decided to sleep it off while Connor napped, and Caden and Becky went to the dollar store to pick up a couple more forgotten items – barrettes for her and glow sticks for him.
We made one of our frozen meals for Margie for dinner and enjoyed some good family catch-up time before hitting the hay around 10 pm.

Saturday, August 8th - London to Savannah

Connor, who was in our room, woke up around 7, realized he could see us, and stood up shouting, “HI! HI!” He made himself hard to ignore, so we decided to take it as an omen and get an earlier start than we’d planned.
Shawn took the first leg. The plan was to try to drive 90 minutes to 2 hours at a time. We had a very serious talk with Caden about how long the drive would be, and how he would be expected to behave. He really rose to the occasion, even announcing from time to time, “Hey, Mom! I’m STILL enjoying the ride!” We were on the road by 8 am, and in the Smokies shortly thereafter. It was really beautiful. It's break taking just how true to its name the range is in the morning, when the sun is newly risen and fog floats between the peaks.
The boys watched their new videos and played with some coloring books, and were doing so well at our first planned stop (Knoxville) that we just kept on going. We got all the way into North Carolina and stopped at the welcome center around 10:30, got out some soccer balls, kicked those around a bit and played hide & seek. There’s a really great grassy area there to play, but the gnats were incredibly annoying!

Shawn was OK to keep driving, so around 11:00 we got back on the road. Neither child kicked or screamed at being strapped back in, so far, so good!
Our next stop was the South Carolina welcome center for lunch at 12:30. It wasn’t as hot as we’d expected. We ate sandwiches and chips and the boys found giant sticks. Yea!

Connor loved “digging” in the red dirt with his, and got a nice dirty backside. He also decided to chase a dog, tripped over a root and got a bloody nose, but recovered quickly. We used the break to reveal the Leapster and get Caden familiar with its controls, and were back on the road by 1:30. We didn’t hear much from him after that, and Connor passed out around 2. Right after he did, Becky realized we would need gas in the next 100 miles, and made the decision to try to fill up now rather than wake him an hour into the nap – it was a good call, he was “freshly” asleep so the stopping didn’t bother him. Mission accomplished! He slept until right around 4, waking right around the time that we passed a traffic alert warning us of an accident and “slow traffic” about 14 miles ahead. Shawn began searching the map for a detour, but we didn’t take the next exit because we saw there was 1 more before we got to the accident site and we figured we’d have time. THIS call was not so good. About 2 miles after we saw the sign, traffic ground to a halt. And we knew we had 12 more miles of this, and at least 6 before another exit. We decided to take a break at a rest stop and give it some time to clear up.

It never did. And we had been making such good time with only 2 stops so far!
So we rolled along at about 10 miles an hour for awhile and took the next available exit. Our trusty GPS, named Jill, took us along a back country road and back onto the highway a few miles south of the accident. Overall we lost about an hour. Just as the boys were starting to fuss, we got into Georgia, and a few miles later were at exit 109 Port Wentworth. We checked in at the Savannah Inn.

We liked the "Ummm" part, like they weren't really committed to the waffles.
We walked through a large parking lot to Wendys to stretch our legs. It was later than we were used to eating, so as soon as dinner was over, we walked back, bathed the boys, doped them up with Benadryl, let them do a little bed-jumping, and then turned on Finding Nemo – how lucky that it was on TV this particular night! Shawn devised “bed rails” for Caden by rolling up the sides of the bedspread under the sheet and it worked great!

Despite all being in the same room, they went to sleep with minimal fussing, and we were all knocked out by 8:30. Only a few hours of driving left!!

Sunday, August 9th – ARRIVAL DAY!!

Connor (did we mention he normally sleeps until 9) was up at 6:30. “Mum! Hi!” he called over and over, and then we heard, “Mommy, Connor is waking me up.”
Well, why lay in bed when Disney awaits? We got dressed, trooped down to the lobby for our free breakfast – not bad, there was waffle batter and grits in the fridge, 2 sugary cereals, and bread for toast, plus OJ and milk…but no place to sit. So we made a giant Belgian waffle and trooped back to the room to try and eat it there. Again, thanks to Connor-the-alarm-clock-without-a-snooze, we were on the road by 8 with Becky driving.
About 20 minutes into the drive, she said, “Hey, check the glove compartment and make sure my credit cards are all still there.” She just realized she hadn’t seen them in awhile. Shawn checked. Nada. Feeling slightly uneasy, “Well, then look in the pocket of my backpack.” Nothing.
Voice shaking now, “What do you mean they’re not there?” Now we’re talking about sick in the pit of the stomach. That moment when you realize your identity – your license, your credit cards, your kids insurance – is out there somewhere and you don’t know where. She remembered using the credit card at the dollar store in London and putting it in her back pocket. Those shorts are now in the dirty clothes bag. So we stopped at a gas station, dug through the trunk and emptied it. Shorts pocket empty. We called Margie and she ransacked her car and house to no avail. Becky was approaching the point of throwing up at this point. Shawn did a good job keeping her calm, and filled up the van while reassuring her that he’d just call and cancel the credit card, sure it would make the vacation a little more difficult, but…then she got an epiphany and began rummaging through the diaper bag that we’d taken it to Margie’s. Sure enough, they were there, still banded together. She must have stuck it in there after the dollar store…so CRISIS averted. They went into the locked glove compartment at that point and stayed there. It is amazing, however, that absolutely NOTHING bad can happen, but when you think it might have, and then realize that it didn’t…your whole outlook is changed. The sun is brighter, you love your family even more, and you feel like bursting into a Disney-copywrited song!
And we only lost about 15 minutes. As we drove through Georgia we began smelling that sulfury, swamp smell that the locals probably don’t even notice. We were in the marshes, and that can only mean Florida is close!
We got to the Florida welcome center around 9:45.

We just had to have some of that great Florida OJ! That stuff is the best OJ ever. Possibly it’s that when you drink it, you’re on vacation endorphins, but whatever! Connor is starting to get ticked off about being put back in the car now, but we are now on a non-stop drive to St. Augustine!
Here is the part where Jill, who proved her worth yesterday, fell a bit short. For some reason, she had the Prime Outlets in her little map brain in the middle of a poor residential neighborhood near downtown St. Augustine. And we, the two college-educated planners, followed her jauntily confident melody like rats followed the piper. Followed her right past the Prime Outlets that you can see from the highway. Not our proudest moment. So we lost a good 40 minutes driving to a dead-end cul-de-sac in the middle of nowhere, and then had to drive back. Sigh. And it was somewhat disappointing, because we’d so hoped to get discounted mouse ears, but all they had were Happy New Year 2008 mouse ears…which..not so much. They had a couple of cute T-shirts in Connor’s size, but nothing for Caden, and the boys were REALLY getting into everything in the store so we had to make a break for it. We got two large stuffed animals, a Pluto and an Eeyore, for $27, reasoning that 1) It was cheaper than at Disney (correct) 2) Connor wouldn’t care if his toy was different and cheaper than Caden’s (not correct). Apparently he wanted a Pluto, too (even though his Eeyore is super cute!!), if only because that’s what Caden had.
With some minor tussling over the souvenirs going on in the backseat, we drove over to Anastasia Island for lunch at our favorite eatery there, The Oasis. We each split an entrée with the kids – Caden and Becky had a crab cake sandwich, Shawn and Connor had fried flounder. The service was fast, the food good and fresh, and when they found out we visit there every so often, we got a VIP card for 10% off for life. Not too shabby!
After lunch, we were crunched for time, but we were only ½ mile from the beach. Becky had to go. So we drove down, paid the $7 for a day pass, parked, and got the kids out and all lathered up with sunscreen. It took some coaxing for either of them to even get their feet wet, but once Connor did, Caden (ever the drama King) finally decided he could too.

There was a minor freak-out when a wave moved one of his shovels, but he soon learned he could walk in the surf, even crouch in it – and of course right as he was cleaning off his shoes in the water to get back in the van – he fell in it. (So we had to change his pants right there on the beach to keep his car seat dry. We left around 1:30, all excited that our FINAL STOP WAS DISNEY!!
Connor fell asleep before we even got off the island, and Shawn dozed too while Caden played his Leapster. We got into the Orlando metro area right around 3. We had one minor delay when we got stuck in a left-hand exit only lane but found our way back on all right. We got off of I-4 at exit 68 to go in “the back way.” And at 3:30 pm, we saw Mickey’s welcoming smile. It had been a long trip, but we had arrived!! Caden was thrilled, Connor looks like he had just merely "survived" the trip. Keep in mind he was still groggy at this point!

Now the real adventure could begin!

Last edited by Porphyro; 09-07-2009 at 03:25 PM.
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Old 09-04-2009, 02:15 AM   #4
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Subscribing! Can't wait to hear all about it. Your boys are super cute.
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Old 09-04-2009, 08:25 AM   #5
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Aww..thank you! We think so too (most of the time!).
We'll try to put up another chapter tonight.
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Old 09-04-2009, 08:51 AM   #6
I WILL walk three miles in the snow, uphill, barefoot for a Pumpkin Spice Latte
I'll take the Palmettos
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YAY!!! First page!!!

My first time being on the FIRST page!

I can't wait to hear more! You're family is adorable...and those blue eyes on your boys! Ugh...talk about lady killers!
2013 Book Challenge: 25 of 25 COMPLETE!!!
Bonus book #26- Parasite(Parasitology #1) Mira Grant
2014 Reading Challenge: 35 Books
#1-Bad Monkey Carl Hiaasen, #2- Undead and Unwed MaryJanice Davidson, #3- New Year Island Paul Draker, #4- Belle de Jour: Diary of an Unlikely Call Girl Anonymous, #5-Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers Mary Roach,
#6- Undead and Unemployed MaryJanice Davidson, #7- Infected Scott Sigler, #8- Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex Mary Roach, #9- Flesh Worn Stone John Burks, #10- Uganda Be Kidding Me Chelsea Handler,
#11- The Witness Sandra Brown, #12-Midnight Crossroad Charlaine Harris, #13- Under the Dome Stephen King, #14- Monument 14 Emmy Laybourne, #15- Monument 14: Sky on Fire Emmy Laybourne, #16- The Magicians Lev Grossman, #17, #18, #19- The Strain Trilogy Guillermo Del Toro, #20- A Discovery of Witches Deborah Harkness, #21- Postmortem Patricia Cornwell, #22- The Darkest Minds Alexandra Bracken, #23- The Heist Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg, #24- The Town Bentley Little, #25- The Chase Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg, #26- Relic Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
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Old 09-04-2009, 09:10 AM   #7
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Great start and adorable little boys Can't wait to hear about your 1st Disney Trip. There is nothing else like the first one
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Old 09-04-2009, 11:10 AM   #8
Ruled by the mouse.
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We're planning our first drive down for November with three of our kids- I'm seeing a lot of foreshadowing for that trip in your TR!
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Old 09-04-2009, 11:33 AM   #9
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Joining in. Your boys are so adorable!!!! The first trip is always very exciting!! Can't wait for more.
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Old 09-04-2009, 01:12 PM   #10
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Where in Ohio are you from. Both of you look so familiar to me but I can't place where.
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Old 09-04-2009, 03:24 PM   #11
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We're both from the Cincinnati area, but have also lived in Oxford and Akron.
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Old 09-04-2009, 09:56 PM   #12
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Chapter 3: An evening in Hollywood

We entered the resort on Hotel Plaza, drove along Lake Buena Vista up to Vista, and soon we saw the sign for Fort Wilderness Campground, our home for the next week. There was a small line of traffic at the guard booth, I’m sure it FELT that we waited longer than we did! After he verified that we were on “the list” we drove over to the check in at the Outpost. I’d read something about drive-through check-in, but apparently this is only for mobile homes/campers. Us cabin folk have to WALK in, imagine! We’d done express on-line check in, which put us in our own, shorter line, but it was still a line. It was about 20 minutes and the boys were running around, knocking over Disney maps, asking other people for their snacks, and being a general nuisance, but what do you expect after two days straight in the car?
We finally got our Keys to the World and our cabin assignment – cabin 2321. Not the 2100 loop, but just the next one south. Not too bad. We headed back into the campground. The map makes the campground really easy to navigate, and it takes less than 5 minutes to pull into our loop.

We’re 6 or 7 cabins from the end, which opens onto the main road and a bus stop, so we’re close to the stop, but not right up on the road to hear the bus go by every few minutes. Perfect! There are a lot of trees, and we notice these weird roots on all the trees sticking out of the marshy ground. The cabins are pretty close to each other, but we hardly ever see another person out and about our entire trip, so privacy and noise are not issues at all. The cabin looks a little small, but bigger than a hotel room! Caden was really excited to see it, as we’d shown him the inside on youtube and promised him a top bunk. About two seconds after Shawn pulled the key card from the slot, he was clambering up the ladder in the bedroom. Becky toured a little more slowly to get a feel for the place. She was surprised - happily – to see the bathroom was outside of the bedroom. We’d thought it might be in the bedroom and that it might be difficult to get in and out of with the boys asleep, but that wouldn’t be a problem! When you walk into the cabin, you have the kitchen just in front of you and the hallway to the bath and bedroom to your left. To your immediate right is the kitchen table, with a bench seat and 2 chairs that look like they’ve been made from large sticks – but in a pretty way! It looks rustic. And then, beyond that is the living room, with a Murphy bed (or the secret bed, as Caden called it), in the far right wall. With the bed down, it’s a tight space, but when it’s up there’s plenty of room.

There is a large, floor-to-ceiling pantry in the kitchen, and empty cabinets under the TV and the two windows that flank the Murphy bed wall. In the bedroom, there’s a double bed on the left wall and bunk beds on the right. There’s also a narrow bureau with 4 shallow drawers and a TV (that we never turned on once), and an odd alcove area where the hairdryer and mirror is, that possibly could have given the bedroom more shelf or drawer space, but for some reason was solid. In between the two was a decent-sized closet partitioned with a curtain, with a shelf above it. Unfortunately a lot of the closet was taken up by mousekeeping’s vacuum cleaner. There was also a nightstand with a clock radio on it between the beds. There was just enough space between the two beds to wedge a pack & play (as we’d discover later). We'd read complaints about the lack of storage space in the bedroom, and while we didn't have a problem, we'd only brought down enough clothes for half a week and half of our party wears very miniature clothes! In a couple years it would have been really tough and we'd probably have had to live out of a suitcase - but hey, if that's the worst of it...
We unloaded the perishables – mainly food, got it in the fridge, and realized that the bedrails and high chair were not accounted for. We called the front desk and had the high chair by the time we had the food unpacked. The bed rails were dropped off by the time we returned that night. We’re not sure why they insist your request them in advance if you have to call to actually get them upon arrival, but maybe they have to earmark them for you or something.
Back in the van! Caden didn’t mind since he knew we were going to the park…I think Connor was pretty frustrated with us at this point, but luckily it was a short trip, and we bribed him with the promise that dinner was on the way. The Disney highway system is VERY clear to follow, and while the resort is huge, we honestly thought it would take longer to get from the cabin to each park. Hollywood Studios is on the southern edge of the property, and Fort Wilderness is in the northern part – but it was maybe a 10 minute drive. There were no lines at the parking lot gate. We were waved to a parking spot pretty far back in the lot, but the tram system at Disney is unparalleled. One leaves, the next pulls up. We folded up the stroller and hopped on board. Both of the boys were giddy at this point. Connor enjoyed being on a moving vehicle without being in a car seat. He didn’t want to sit in anyone’s lap and kept saying “Choo-choo!”

Riding the trams is almost as thrilling for the two of them as riding something in the park, and with no line! How good does it get?
We went through the turnstiles, and of course noticed the Sorcerer’s Hat in the center of the park ahead of us. Becky didn’t think that looked familiar and it turns out it was built the year after her last visit. Our hopes were to possibly get a fastpass for Tower of Terror for later on, possibly catch the last playhouse Disney show, and check out Toy Story Midway Mania, maybe let the kids burn off some energy in the playground. A quick glance at the showtime schedule let us know that the last Playhouse started at 5:50. It was 5:49. We ran back to the Animation Courtyard, but of course the show was full and had just started. We decided to explore the (packed) Pixar Place, but Midway Mania was experiencing technical difficulties. 0 for 2, and Caden was starting to get anxious. OK, plan B – Muppets, anyone?? Once we pushed our way through the swarming crowd in Pixar Place (also new since Becky’s last trip), the crowds thinned considerably and we followed the signs through the Streets of America.

The signs made it easy to find the cute little courtyard with the Muppet fountain. We saw there was no line for the movie, so decided to grab some dinner at Pizza Planet. Now Caden LOVES Toy Story (but is petrified of Zurg, more on that later), so he was digging this idea. Shawn ran in to wait in line while Becky snagged a table on the patio. She realized that Caden wasn’t with her and turned around to see him frozen in ecstasy, with a huge dopey grin on his face, waving frantically at the 10-foot high Buzz Lightyear that perches on the roof of the restaurant, waving at passersby. He was in utter heaven, and it wasn’t even a character he could meet yet, just a statue. That was a neat moment.
We got two small pizzas, a giant coke and a huge bottle of apple juice for the boys. At first Becky thought one would have been enough, but we polished off the two very easily. It was pretty tasty pizza, and we were hungrier than we thought!
After dinner we walked right into the pre-show for the Muppets movie. It is really clever, but most of that went over Caden’s head. He just wanted to get into the theatre, he had no concept of pre-show entertainment. The pre-show is about 10 minutes and then we filed in. We put the 3D glasses on Connor and he sat in Becky’s lap, but we figured he’d not get it. Whether or not he “got it” we’ll never know, but he was mesmerized. He didn’t reach out to touch the glasses once during the show, and he stared at the screen, not making a sound for the entire 15 minute show. That’s a long stretch of silence for a toddler! So either he loved it or he was terrified.
Caden had never experienced 3D, and was giggling and shrieking the whole time, trying to touch anything that “came near” him. At one point in the show, a character “leaves” the movie and appears as a puppet in a box seat. He started yelling, “Hey, what are you doing? You really need to get back in the movie!” Disney does a great job blurring the lines between reality and fantasy and playing to kids love of that. It’s almost as fun watching the kids as it is seeing it for yourself!
It was already after 7 when we straggled out of the theater. We decided to see if Midway Mania was up and running – it was, with a 90 minute standby line. So we ran back to the playground only to find that it closed at 7. We don’t know if this night was typical of most in the parks, but with no fastpasses left, several attractions that were done for the day, and heavy crowds, but that pretty much clued us in to the fact that evenings at the park weren’t going to work well into our plans.
But the night wasn’t a total loss. We got a feel for the layout of DHS, and on the way out got mouse-ears for the boys. We’d told Caden on the way down that we’d get mouse ears right away and he pitched a fit, yelling that he wouldn’t wear them, he didn’t want them. We were flabbergasted and chalked it up to irritability from the drive, until he said meekly, ‘OK, I’ll wear them, but will it hurt very much when you staple them to my head?’
Needless to say, he was quite relieved to learn it was just a hat with a strap, and he jumped on board with the idea then. We had to check several stores, but finally found a Youth Size and Infant Size at Mickey’s of Hollywood on Hollywood Blvd. Connor had more fun looking at his than wearing it, so most pictures we have of him with it are of him pulling it off. But Caden loved his ears, and wore them a lot. He was just about the cutest kid in mouse ears we’ve ever seen! OK, so we're biased, but still.

After that we hopped back onto the tram and we were all just basking in the glow of sunset at Disney when a group of women boarded – it looked like a middle-aged woman and 3 daughters, the youngest of which was probably 10 or 11. They were all just sitting there sullenly when they just turned as a group on the girl and started berating her, calling her a brat, and it became clear that while they had all ridden the “kiddy” rides with her, she refused to ride adult rides and so no one got to ride them. Her mom was calling her a brat and then started swearing at her. OK, first of all – maybe she was being a brat, but heard of parent swap? She doesn’t have to keep you from riding stuff. Secondly, as parents, we understand that kids can drive you to the brink, but you have to be in control of the situation and realize you are in public. No one on that tram was comfortable with what we were having to sit through. Thirdly, we’re not naïve enough to think there aren’t people out there who use choice words around and even towards their children, but we’re not part of that group, and certainly don’t appreciate having the choice of when our kids are exposed to those words made for us. We just started talking to Caden really loudly and enthusiastically to drown her out. Then the woman answered a cell phone call, and proceeded to vent (still really loudly) about the whole thing with her unfortunate caller, claiming several times that due to the girl’s attitude, they were going to give up their next 3 days of tickets/hotel and go straight back to Michigan. This did not even elicit a raised eyebrow on the part of her daughter, so she, along with everyone else on the tram, knew this was a bluff, and a terrible one at that. You ruined the day for us, so now you’re going to ruin the whole trip for us?? It was hard to suppress our own eye-roll at that one. But in the end, we used the situation to our benefit – whenever the kids were misbehaving or we were tired or cranky throughout the week and one of us was at our wits’ end, the other would turn to the less calm parent and say, “OK, that’s it. Now we have to back to Michigan!” It always broke the tension and helped remind us what our trip was supposed to be about and help us not take things too seriously.
Anyway, back at the cabin we bathed the boys and attempted to put Connor in the bottom bunk – unfortunately, two side rails don’t fit, and 1 only covers 2/3 of the bed. He immediately found the gap, despite our best efforts to jam it with a suitcase, and shimmied out of bed, grinning, thinking he had us over a barrel.
But luckily we had a Plan B, and put him the pack & play, where he slept for the week. Both boys were so tired, they went to bed with minimal fuss – they have their own rooms at home so of course Connor had to entertain himself by talking to Caden for awhile, but they were both zonked by 8:30. Becky began unpacking while Shawn drove to the Winn Dixie for more perishables – most importantly 2 giant containers of water as we can’t stand Florida tap water, as well as some egg beaters, aluminum cookie sheets, bread, butter, fruit, etc. Then we packed up our “park supplies” that we would take every day – a backpack with a few bags of chips and cookies, our touring plan, and the 2 fans, and the diaper bag with first aid supplies, diapers, and a bib. We also loaded up the little cooler with water bottles and juice. We were ready to take on Epcot!!

Last edited by Porphyro; 09-06-2009 at 09:59 PM.
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Old 09-04-2009, 10:36 PM   #13
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Join Date: Aug 2005
Location: Texas, USA
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Woo hoo!! You're there safe and sound!! What cute kiddos you have!!

We drove from central TX last year on our first trip. We didn't do the whole trip in one day either. The next trip we flew, as we are on the 21st, even though we debated driving again.

Looking forward to more updates!!

Thanks eandesmom!!!
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Old 09-05-2009, 02:44 PM   #14
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Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: Maryland
Posts: 3,071

I have to agree with you that Caden is adorable in those ears Sounds like a crazy evening at the Studios, but you got to eat at Pizza Planet. That is always a must for my boys. I'm actually looking forward to a day when we can eat somewhere else
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Old 09-05-2009, 08:06 PM   #15
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Chapter 4: Soarin' at Epcot!

We set the alarm for 7:00. We thought we’d need it, especially since the cabins were so dark (some people complain about this, but our boys are up with the sun, so we loved the fact that we could keep it out of the cabin in the mornings and at nap time).
However, the excitement of not being at home and being in the same room with us made them get up early anyway. The boys were both up shortly before 7, but rather than being groggy and frustrated, we were just as excited. We split a banana between them and let them watch cartoons while we dressed and scarfed down a bowl of cereal and put ice packs in the cooler. Then we dressed them and put them in the van, each with a no-spill bowl of sugary cereal they never get to eat at home. They were in heaven!
We had no idea how much traffic there’d be – technically this was the first week of the “off” season, but still summer, so we left around 7:45. We were in Epcot’s lot by 8, in one of the closest rows to the gate.

We walked up to the turnstiles, and parked ourselves about 3-4 families back. We got to each park at about this time every day and had similar results. We were never the first, but we were decently close to the front of the pack, and never had to wait an unbearably long time to go through the gates. But overall, this was the longest wait of each day. We used it to lather our pasty Ohio skin with sunscreen, and that did kill some time. The Epcot wait was one of the easiest also because we were under a monorail track, and Caden is obsessed with trains in all their various forms. He was so excited every time he saw one, and we promised him that at some point this week he’d get to ride one.
The turnstiles opened around 8:50. Caden LOVED feeding his pass through the machine and watching it come out the other side. Us grown-ups were fingerprinted, and then we were herded like cattle up to the “holding pen” by the Innovations West breezeway. Being at rope-drop every day is crucial to getting things done, but it makes it difficult to appreciate the beauty of each individual park. The Leave a Legacy markers are really fascinating – and our sister-in-law is in one – but we couldn’t appreciate it in the morning and were very hot and tired upon leaving! But we know we have many trips to come to appreciate these things!
Around 8:58 the Disney characters began “meeting-and-greeting” those standing at the rope. They led a count-down at 9:00 and the stampede to Soarin’ began. There’s not much of a “rope-drop” show to speak of at Epcot, but since this was our first park we didn’t know to expect one. They just played “Celebration” and let us take off. We really liked the information centers that displayed stand-by and fastpass times for the big attractions, but thought it was interesting that before the rope had even dropped, Soarin’ said 20 minutes. Must be the lowest they’ll show!
We got better and more aggressive as the week went on, but didn’t fare too well at Epcot! The stroller was especially difficult to navigate and people just mowed us down. When we got up close to the Land pavilion, we grabbed Connor and ditched the stroller, a difficult maneuver to pull off in a swarm of people. We then joined the stream going down the escalator, and even though we had no idea where we were going, the human tidal wave eventually deposited us right at the entrance of Soarin’. Now, most people grab a fastpass before jumping in the standby line to secure a second ride for later. If you have small children, and especially if you plan to not be there much later than lunch time, this is not necessary – you have Parent Swap at your disposal, which is so much cooler than Fastpass. A parent swap ticket gets you into the Fastpass line – even before it may be accepting anyone in the morning. It can be used all day, doesn’t count against your fastpass account, and multiple people can get on with 1 ticket.
They measured Caden (we were still getting jostled by the runners this whole time), handed Becky a parent swap and she and Caden ran hand-in-hand down the corridor while Shawn looked for the Living with the Land boat ride to entertain Connor. It was closed for maintenance. Yea! So he took him to a Kidcot station to color, or more appropriately, to switch up the lids on the markers for 10 minutes.
On the way down the ramp, Becky and Caden passed two people who were leaning on the rail (it was semi-dark back there) waiting for other members of their party to catch up with them. Caden paused as he approached them and stage-whispered, “Are they real?” They started cracking up, because at Disney, you never know!
We waited about 5 minutes in the corridor and then were assigned our flight row (the front most), and waited maybe another 5. Caden got a little anxious about how scary it would be, so Becky told him it’s a ride that helps you pretend to be a bird. He immediately said he’d like to be a seagull and started “cawing” like one, and forgot to be nervous. The ride was great, definitely Top 5 at Disney in general. It would be nice if some of the scenes lasted longer, but it’s just an exhilarating feeling. Caden of course loved flying over the Magic Kingdom with Tinkerbell, he just shrieked with joy. His noises didn’t seem to disturb anyone else, though, the music is loud enough to drown out other sounds.
By the time it was over, it was after 9:30 and we decided to let Shawn have a go later on, so we could get over to the Aquarium to see Crush’s first show at 10. When we found our stroller we also found a chipmunk (I don’t think he was a cast member, but maybe?) perched in the stroller next to ours, munching his way through some unsuspecting family’s snacks. Hopefully he hadn’t had a go at ours first!
We really enjoyed the ‘Mine’ birds outside of the Seas!

We opted to ride Nemo instead of walk into the aquarium, for the kids sake. They seemed to enjoy it, but not a lot to say about that ride.
By the time we got in and wandered around it was 9:50, so Becky parked herself in the Crush line while the boys looked at the fish in the room. We got into Crush with the first group, and got Caden settled on the floor while we sat on the end of the front row. It really is a neat show, and Crush has some great one-liners as he interacts with the kids. Caden waved his hand frantically but didn’t get called on. It would have been hilarious to see the two of them chat, he’s so funny even when not talking to a giant animated turtle, but maybe next time! Crush asked one kid where he was from and the answer was Philadelphia. Crush responded, “W-hoa! Philly!” Pause. “Never heard of it.” The humor there was probably aimed at the adults more than the kids, but they got to talk to a giant animated turtle, so we all win!
We spent some more time in the aquarium after that, watching the dolphins and visiting some exhibits. Connor really enjoyed this, and we knew there wasn’t a ton he’d get to do today so we let him get his fill. At 10:45, Shawn took Connor over to Test Track to pick up fast passes while Becky and Caden headed over to the Imagination Pavilion – the information board said there was no wait for the Imagination ride, and Becky had read about the leaping fountains, and thought Caden would enjoy them. Boy howdy, did he ever! He had so much fun trying to “catch” them as they jumped over the sidewalk. This might have been his favorite thing of the day - and go figure, no lines - in fact, we were the only ones there!

As the pictures show, he even crawled onto the wall to get smacked in the face. The water knocked off his hat a few times, and he was loving it! They were an awful lot of fun. Once Shawn arrived we got into the 5 minute line for Figment. This ride was less entertaining than Nemo, kind of a big “meh.” The most exciting part (and not in a good way) was when Caden realized it was a “moving floor” ride – the kind where you step onto a rotating platform to board your car. He has an unnatural fear of the moving platform – either that he won’t get on the ride before it leaves, or worse, that he will and the parent with him won’t…and then once we’re all settled, as he nears the end of the ride, the fear of nailing the dismount kicks in. I’m not sure this ride was worth the hand-wringing over the moving floor, especially coupled with Figment turning into skunk and “spraying” the riders (being sprayed by a skunk is Caden’s #2 fear, after rotating floors). And the big noise and blast of wind at the end scared the pants off both kids. We were really riding it to play with the gizmos at the end, but both boys suddenly went kind of berserk at this point. They’d been up for almost four hours, they’d narrowly survived an encounter with a moving floor, it was hot, they hadn’t eaten, and we spent most of the time chasing them around trying to contain them. We were going to send the “morphed” photos to friends, but there was a line at each station, and the two we actually got to use suddenly froze up and wouldn’t work.
We decided that our sanity was more important than this experience, and that it was time for a snack break. We headed back outside, got them settled in the shade with some juice and cookies, and let Caden play with the fountain some more. Then, since we were closer to the Land than Test Track, thought we’d stop back by there and let Shawn and Caden ride Soarin'. They did (both loved it), and we headed over to use our Test Track window. On the way we stopped at Club Cool. Caden had only recently been permitted to have pop so the idea of free samples of any pop he wanted was very appealing. We parked in front of the machine and Becky read off the different countries to him and asked which he’d like first. “Umm..Italy!” he cried. Becky gave him a cup of the Italian drink "Beverly" (unsuspectingly – she’d not researched this) and watched his face contort. She didn’t think it could be that bad, so she chugged the rest. She later heard it described as nail polish remover, and that’s a pretty accurate assessment. Here is someone else who agrees. Also some good videos dedicated to this on youtube, just type “Beverly Epcot.” After watching us, Shawn couldn’t be coaxed into it - wonder why (“Come on, it is SO nasty, you have to try it!”)? but we all enjoyed the rest. Becky really liked the vegi-infused soda from Japan, and Caden’s favorite was either the watermelon or the honey-flavored from Israel. Shawn liked the orange-y one from Germany.
Becky took Connor into Innovations to try to get him to cheer up as he was WELL past nap time at this point, hot and cranky. Unfortunately there was not a whole lot that interested him here, it’s more for older kids. Shawn and Caden rode Test Track. Even though we had fastpass, it was still a 25 minute wait, so by the time they got off (they enjoyed it, but not as much as Soarin’), it was after 1. Becky decided to forgo her turn for the sake of the family! We had planned to head over to the World Showcase and try some international food for lunch, but it was HOT at this point, around 93 degrees, and that even made the grownups tired just thinking about it, and the kids were clearly winding down. So we went with our vow to be flexible and not plan-oriented, and went back to the Land pavilion and got lunch at the food court. It was a good call – Caden was getting really obstinate at this point – he insisted on going on the escalator alone, ripped his hand from Becky’s, and immediately stepped on to two different steps and fell. Luckily he didn’t fall down the escalator, but he couldn’t stand up either, and started trying to crawl up it looking much like a hamster on a wheel - a very panicked hamster. Becky had to run up it (faster than he was crawling in order to get to him), which was a feat in and of itself. She managed to pick him up while running in place and he assured us he had learned a valuable lesson. We got him calmed down and then ordered the grilled salmon and the rotisserie chicken from Seasons (each came with 2 sides and very hearty portions) and split them with the kids. The food was REALLY good – maybe it just seems that way after hauling yourself around in the heat – and a nice alternative to burgers, chicken fingers and fries.
At that point it was definitely time to call it a day. We walked out, but did manage to find the first Disney photographer we’d seen so far, and had some pics done at the entrance (we look pretty good to be so beaten up at this point, don’t we??).

We were back in the Cabin by 2:40, and Caden was ever so excited to see what the “mice” had done while we were away. We had swan towels in our windows and a great towel alligator on the bench in the living room, that Connor immediately tore apart. Connor went down for a nap pretty easily, and Caden vegged out on the couch playing with his Leapster while Shawn made another Winn Dixie run to get some ice cream (how could we have neglected THAT??). When he got back it was close to 4:00 and Connor was still zonked, so he drove Caden up to the Contemporary so they could ride the monorail that loops around the lagoon and into the Magic Kingdom. They had a really good time! His eyes in this picture tells the whole story - can you see the joy??

Dinner that night was 3-cheese manicotti, garlic bread, and veggies, yum!
At 6 we got into our swim gear and walked to the bus stop. This was the longest wait we had for a bus, maybe 10 minutes? We went to the pool at the Meadow and the boys had a blast in the kiddy area and we got to hang out in lawn chairs and talk for a few minutes. What a luxury!
By 7:30 we were back, had the kids bathed, given them a snack, and had them settled in to bed. Tonight there was no chit-chat, just blissful silence! Overall, Day 1 was a success! Unfortunately Shawn’s cough was not improving as the boys’ had, and rather than wake us all up with his spasms, he left the bedroom and spent most of the night on the Murphy bed. He had a little adventure on this particular evening, as he was in the bathroom rummaging for cough syrup at 1 am, he saw something floating in the toilet. He assumed (go figure) that Caden had not flushed before going to bed, and went over to take care of it, when the alleged “turd” made a sudden movement, scaring him to death. It turns out a tree-frog had swum up the pipes into our toilet. He called the front desk and they said they’d send someone from horticulture, but they hadn’t come by 2 am, so HE FLUSHED IT! One day the tree frogs will have their revenge on him!
Up next - a HOT day at Animal Kingdom!

Last edited by Porphyro; 09-06-2009 at 10:03 PM. Reason: Forgot to insert pics
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