Welcome Readers! Id like to invite you to join me in a tale of adventure. A two week extravaganza that included 3 resorts, a Grand Gathering, meetings with old friends, health scares, airline drama, thievery, a trip to the dark side to see a boy wizard, far (far) too much food and drink, and some serious DOH moments. It was also a trip of firsts. Of never dones. Of never seens, never beens. A trip of misses. Missed meals, sights and sleep. A trip of things we wished we could have done, or done better but also things we did do that surprised and delighted even the most jaded of us. It was sprinkled with some over the top magic that touched even the too cool for school, been there done that teens. At times. It was a trip of togetherness and separation. Of freedom and flexibility and the occasional frustration that comes with trying to give the first two Fs. It had romance, rain and very few rules. It was an amazing journey and I hope youll join me to hear our tale. But first, of course, we must introduce ourselves and tell how this adventure came to be. This tale of adventure was born about a year ago, after a health scare with my BIL and it struck us that life really was too short to hold off on things. Wed missed out on a big trip in the summer of 2009, letting the soccer gods dictate our schedule and had vowed not to let that happen again. WDW was not really in the plan. Wed been to the world in Feb of 09, using up our normal summer big trip in the middle of winter instead to better work with school (which you can read about here and chuckle at the challenge with teens on west coast time How EMH Saved our Trip) and my DH Jeff was thinking 2011 would be soon enough for him. I of course had a different idea. And with his oldest facing his senior year in college, his mom REALLY wanting a family trip with she and her DH, this trip, which seemed to have something for all, was born. If you werent along for that journey, one of the longest (time span anyways) PTRs ever, 11 months I think in the making, you can read about it here, Lifes too short to never sleep in a treehouse. For those of you that put up with all my changes and drama, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. It would not have been half the trip it was without all your input and support and wise advice! It was originally intended to be a group of nine, which included my immediate family who you will meet shortly. We include: myself aka Cynthia, DH Jeff, DSS Taylor- 17, DSD Kendall 14, DS Evan -11 and DS Eric 9. Also in the original plan was my MIL Sandie, her DH Paul and my BIL Doug. Sadly, due to work reasons, my BIL who was the catalyst for the trip, had to bow out. We missed having him there tremendously. We have a mixed history with trips to the world. Ive been the most, logging in 5 trips now. 1992, 1998, 2004, 2008 and 2010. DH Jeff and the 2 younger kids are at 3 each, the older two at 2. My MIL had NEVER been so she gets newbie status and her DH Paul had been, but not for some time and Im not sure how often. Still, I certainly qualify as the fanatic of the household though Ive a sneaking suspicion that my DH has been converted, somehow for an every three years expressed viewpoint hes managed to log in 3 trips in 18 months, 2 to WDW and one to DCA. Go figure. The Es (as we call them) are pretty big fans and the teens well, are teens. Im not sure they are a fan of anything except sleep these days. I wouldnt say they are anti Disney, not by a long stretch and I would say that both Jeff and I (and Sandie and Paul for that matter) all feel it wouldnt have mattered where we went or if we stayed home, their lack of enthusiasm would have been the same. Normal teen crud. Jeff and I agree we were both as bad. Not that they were awful, they werent and there were, as I mentioned, there were some magical moments. But it is what it is. Or was what it was. Just setting the stage. First at bat. Moi. I work full time in marketing and sales for a company thats kind of like CSI meets Mythbusters. I love my job. I also love the DISers that saw me through my job search and the ups and downs that go with it as I made a big industry change last year. I have recently lessened my involvement at the kids schools given my increased workload but try to do what I can. Hard when you have 4 schools for 4 kids. More on that later. Other than that I love to read, dabble in graphic design, cook, camp and hike and plan everything to death. There is another word for that that Jeff uses. My favorite character is Belle. By a landslide. Even down to my favorite color, yellow. I dont have many pictures of me, Im always the one taking them! And somehow, whomever is taking them often catches me in weird facial expressions. Pretty huh. Next up, DH Jeff. Jeff is an Aerospace Engineer who lives for planes. He plans to build one in the garage, specifically a seaplane. Again, my thanks to the disers who bear with me as I alternatively grumble and laugh and rejoice with him during the process. I was blessed to find Jeff 7 years ago as a single mom and weve been doing the Brady Bunch thing with surprising success for over 5 years now. He cant decide between Scrooge and Grumpy but in reality, his favorite pin is his Mickey Aviator wings. His bark is worse than his bite, the grumpy is ALL show. Hes got a VERY silly side. Taylor, 17. Taylor is Jeffs oldest and our budding rock star. He is all teenage boy right now. Knows everything, we know nothing but is very quiet, more often than not we just dont know whats going on up there. Jeff does a great impression of Taylor happy, excited, sad or mad. Its the same face. He is a great kid who plays a mean mean guitar and we have some really wonderful music conversations but he is a bit at that lost stage right now. He slept a lot on the trip. He did running start last year for most of his classes, with one at the HS, this year its flipped with most at the HS and one at running start. Taylor had some good grandparent time with Sandie and Paul on this trip, for which we are grateful. He might not have appreciated it quite as much as Sandie did but I know it meant a lot to her. The jury is out for us on the whole running start thing. Beyond the guitar he loves to skateboard and snowboard and started his first job this year. Hell have his own car this fall which scares us to death. He makes some interesting fashion choices. Favorite character is Taylor. LOL Kendall, 14. Kendall is the lone girl in the bunch and she has turned into 100% teenage girl over the past year, complete with sulking, hair flipping to the point of insanity, short shorts and too much makeup. Ok its not really too much makeup but I did find it amusing that it was on her 100% of the time with her eyes fully done even right before heading to a water park or the pool. She is the jock of the bunch, playing select soccer and volleyball. Recently she was faced with a hard decision, soccer or VB for HS. Soccer won and she is in the midst of tryouts as we speak. She was quite a bit more engaged than Taylor this trip, but very concerned about what to wear. I am blessed to have a close relationship with both of my stepchildren, but with Kendall in particular. We had a lot of fun sneaking off and doing girl things here and there and I know Sandie loved having some Kendall time as well. In the past, Tink has been her gal, which suits her to a t. She didnt seem as engaged with Tink as in the past but did seem to have a new fondness for Mickey. And Prince Charming. She likes to take self portraits with the camera which can lead to some interesting results. Evan, 11. Evan is all boy, all energy, class clown and all backtalk/pushback. He keeps me on my toes. Probably, no definitely, the strongest personality in the bunch. Hes going into 6th grade and is at the age where hugs arent cool and screams dont take my picture but still lights up when he sees his favorite character. Evan is a black belt in TaeKwonDo and between his class schedule, studying to become a 2nd degree and his work on the competition team, I drive him around, a LOT. He might be cool, and is certainly into the clothes but Ill tell you, when hes sick he still wants to snuggle and have his hair played with by his mama. Much as I hate them getting sick, I dont mind that part at all! Favorite character. Goofy. He really should be an actor, hed be amazing. Eric, 9 Eric is our scholar. Hes in the highly capable program and is what moves us into the 4 school category as he is in a self contained program thats at a different school in our district. The older kids are in a different district but even if they werent, at their ages, wed be at 4 schools. He loves cub scouts, his stuffed bears and dogs and Harry Potter. He burns if you look at him and so this trip, in August, was a concern on that front. He is one white boy! Eric lives in his own world most of the time. Its a lovely place if you are in there but can frustrate the rest of us at times. He is all sweetness and love. Unless things dont go his way, Erics world is a very black and white place. Eric, oddly enough, is our thrill junkie. He has decided, as of this trip, he wants to be an Imagineer when he grows up. I wouldnt put it past him. Favorite Character, Pluto. Sandie My beloved Mother in Law. This was Sandies first trip to the world and what she saw of it, she seemed to embrace and enjoy. Sandie and Paul had their share of stress leading up to the trip but really seemed to let it all go and just enjoy the moment. Once they arrived. Sandie is a retired head hunter who works part time in a florists shop, loves to entertain, is very involved in her local arts and church community and is quite the fashion maven. She also takes the longest to get ready. Followed by Kendall. While Sandie really wanted to spend time with all of us, she especially wanted to spend time with Kendall on the trip and Im happy to say I think she came away feeling really good about their interaction. I dont know that she has a favorite character but she certainly found some favorite rides! Paul Paul is Sandies DH and is a retired Episcopalian priest. Im not sure I buy the retired part as he seems to work constantly and is in a jazz band on the side. He is a ton of fun and the kids just adore him. A bit hard of hearing which the kids seemed to forget constantly but he takes it all in stride with a smile. He was a trooper and a half on this trip..and paid for it later. Paul doesnt need a favorite character. He is one! And the whole gang, plus Doug! The Big Fat Plan for our trip went like this 8/10 Red Eye for the 6 of us to Orlando 8/11 Wilderness Lodge 8/14 Move to the Yacht Club, Sandie and Paul join us 8/19 Move to the Hard Rock Hotel, at Universal 8/21 Sandie and Paul head home 8/22 Jeff and Kendall head home 8/23 Cynthia, Taylor, Evan and Eric head home I hope you enjoy the ride as much as we did!