Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Beach!

     We ended our vacation at the beach.  Disney might be the happiest place on Earth, but being ocean side makes my heart happy.  I was born, and still live, in landlocked Indiana, but I am at peace near the ocean.  The sounds, smells, and sights of the water quiet my mind and soothe my soul.  I haven't been to the ocean in six has been a long six years!

     Jim found a small hotel in Ormond-by-the-Sea.  It wasn't fancy, but it was clean.  There were two beds, a small microwave and fridge, a television, a table and chairs, a bathroom, all the necessary things in a hotel room!  I am leaving out the best feature of this older, small hotel room.  It has a small balcony with a direct view of the ocean.  I was happy.

     We went for a walk on the beach...just to get our toes wet and feel the sand between our feet.  The water was cold, but beautiful.  The kids loved it.  They kept inching out farther into the water, regardless of what Jim and I said.  It wasn't long before they both "fell" in the water and were soaked.  But it was all good, we were in the ocean!  We decided that it was time to take of practical!  We got the kids showered and changed, then headed to the grocery store to stock up for the next day.  We had a quick bite of deli food and then headed out to explore the area.  We drove down the road to Daytona Beach.  We walked along the boardwalk and took in the sights.  As the rain started to roll in, we headed back to the hotel for bed!

     Friday morning, my early bird Delainey woke me up and we went for an early walk on the beach.  She and I snuck out to watch the sunrise, collect shells, and enjoy the morning.  It was an almost perfect morning!  We woke the boys up for breakfast and then it was beach time.  We loaded up on sunscreen and went out. Jim found a vendor who rents out chairs and umbrellas on the beach.  I want her job one day....sitting by the water, putting out chairs and umbrellas for tourists!  We spent a good part of the day playing in the water, having a beach picnic, and enjoying ourselves!  We decided that it was time to head in so that none of us got burnt.  We headed out for an afternoon trip!
     The kids fell asleep in the car, so Jim and I decided to head to St Augustine, FL, about an hour away.  We ended up at a lighthouse and decided to make the trip to the top!  Bryce didn't want to stop, but once he saw the lighthouse, he was good.  Delainey wanted to stop, but once she saw 219 steps, she didn't want to go.  She and I went very slowly and stopped on each landing to overcome her fear of heights.  It was awesome to finally reach the top!  Jim and I wanted to spend time walking around St Augustine, but the kids were done.  We stopped to eat on our way back to the hotel and watched a little tv to unwind for bedtime.  Jim and I had a drink to celebrate our 10th anniversary.

     Saturday morning, we packed up early, and headed down to the beach for a final walk.  I was sad, but it was a beautiful morning for a walk.  And then we drove...and drove....and drove....  Jim decided that he was going to drive until he was tired.  When we got to Louisville, he started to get sleepy, but we were only an hour away, so he kept driving.  We finally go home around 11 or so.  The kids were sleepy, but happy to see Granny and Grampy Bob at our house!  Vacation is great, but as Dorthy says "There's no place like home"!

Friday, June 28, 2013

The Parks!

     I don't know that I have the words to describe the parks at Disney, but I am going to make an attempt!

     We spent our first and last days at the Magic Kingdom.  It truly was a magical place.  My highlight of the Magic Kingdom was our lunch in Cinderella's Castle.  I was weepy watching my baby get to hug the princesses.  She was so worried that she wouldn't see them all, but they all stopped by, hugged her, and gave her an autograph.  I know that this was a meal that she will never forget.  We all enjoyed Splash Mountain...since it was already raining, we didn't mind getting even more wet!  Bryce wasn't sure about going to Enchanted Tales with Belle, until he was picked to play Beast.  He got to dance with Belle and the look on his face was priceless!  Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Monster's, Inc were all big hits with us.

     We spent our second day at Epcot.  It was hot, we were cranky, and we probably enjoyed this day the least, although we still had fun.  It was Jim's birthday, so it was very cool to hear all the cast members tell him happy birthday all day.  We missed a lot of Epcot because we were just so hot.  We loved Soarin', Turtle Talk, and The Seas with Nemo.  We spent some time in the Around the World area, but not enough.  We tried the missions with Agent P, but I don't know if it was us, the heat, or what, but we didn't enjoy the process.  I can see where it would be cool, but we just wanted to be done!  We chose to leave after our meal at the Garden Grill (great food while spinning around) because we all were cranky.  We went back to the resort and spent time at the pool which was much better for our family.

     Up next was Animal Kingdom.  We enjoyed the atmosphere, but we depended on maps to get around the park because the park is so large.  The Kilimanjaro Safari was so much fun...I want to be one of the drivers on that ride, I don't think that I would ever get tired of seeing the animals.  We all love Expedition Everest...Delainey is a Big Foot fan, so a ride about Yeti is pretty cool to her!  We left plenty on the table for us to do next time.  We left early so that we could check out Downtown Disney.  I wanted to shop and I drug the family along with me!  We got gifts for our family and a cool ornament for our Christmas tree.

     Hollywood Studios seemed like it was the hardest park to navigate.  I felt like we were walking the wrong direction so often.  There were times that we were the only ones walking down a street, which seems odd in place like Disney.  Tower of Terror was worth the trip.  Delainey saw it once on tv and she couldn't wait...until she was on the ride.  She was in tears when the ride was over, but now is ready to go again.  Luckily, we got a fastpass for Toy Story Mania, it was crazy how long the wait was for the ride and fastpasses.  It was fun and we would have liked to do it again, but the lines were crazy.  The weather caused our biggest disappointment  of the day.  Bryce was looking forward to Jedi training.  We ran through the park to get in line to make sure that we were able to a time for the kids.  When it was time, we were eager for the kids to face Darth Vador.  Just as they were ready to go out on stage, the sky opened up and it poured.  We were canceled.  We did get to get pictures taken with Darth and some Storm Troopers, but it wasn't the same.

     We missed a bunch of things that were on my lists, but we adjusted to what worked best for the four of us.  I have been told that it is best to go to Disney with a plan, but be willing to adjust the plan if needed.  We did that each day.  It just means that we need to go back in a few years to do all the things that we skipped this time!


Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Trip...Stage One!

     When Jim and I decided to go to Disney, we decided that we would surprise Delainey and Bryce (my nephew) with the destination.  We let them think we were going to Marco Island, FL...going as far as picking out a condo to show them.  We also decided that we would break the drive there into shorter trips since we weren't sure how the kids would travel together.  Jim was in charge of the pre and post Disney events.  My only qualification is that I needed to spend at least a day by the ocean.

     Jim planned our first stop in Chattanooga, TN.  We both looked at things to do there...the top three were Ruby Falls, Rock City, and the Incline Railway.  After much debate, research, and Facebook opinion polls, we decided to go to Ruby Falls and Rock City.  Ruby Falls was beautiful, but it was a struggle for me.  I don't like being in enclosed underground waterfall is pretty enclosed, but it was well worth my stress!  The guide that we had was great...she made everyone laugh, kept us moving, and was very informative.  The waterfall is amazing as is the journey to get there!

D and Bryce looking at the Fall.

     After we left Ruby Falls, we went to Rock City.  I had no clue what Rock City was, even after all my research.  We walked through various rock formations, garden areas, and even over a suspension bridge.  There were some cheesy areas that were fun...sculptures painted and lite up with black lights, lots of gnomes that freaked Bryce out, and fairy tale scenes that Delainey loved.  There is a spot that you can see 7 different states, although I am not sure how you can tell.  We enjoyed the trip, but since we go on hikes whenever possible, it wasn't something "special" to us.  I am glad that we did it, but don't need to do it again.

Getting ready to head into "Fat Mans Squeeze

     We left early Saturday morning with nothing planned except making it to Ocala, FL for the night.  It was a long drive, with construction traffic in Atlanta.  The kids were troopers.  When we made it to Ocala, we checked in, had a great bbq dinner, and then went swimming.  Jim took the kids down to swim while I got things ready for the the reveal.  It was hard to contain my excitement while the kids showered and got ready for bed.  We told them we had some news for them...I gave them a postcard from Mickey Mouse.  He told the kids that he couldn't wait to see them.  It took a minute for everything to sink in, but when it did, there were screams!  It was a great moment for Jim and I!
That says it all!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Vacation Time

     Jim and I decided very early in our relationship that vacations were really important to us.  Jim has great memories of trips that he took with his parents.  I don't have as many memories, but I wanted to build those for our family.  We have been blessed that we have been able to take some great vacations in the ten years of our marriage.  We have several ways of saving money on our trips, but we still have a great time.  We tend to travel to places that are "off-season".  We stay in condos or cabins where we are able to make our own meals at home.  We are car travelers rather than fliers...we like the journey just as much as the destination.

     Our first trip was our honeymoon in Key West.  It was off season, we stayed at a bed and breakfast.  We had a great time.  We will be back one day.  A couple of years later, we took the boys and rented a cabin in Gatlinburg, TN.  We had meals at the cabin and did lots of hiking. Our next big trip was Marco Island, FL.  Again, it was off season, so we had a great condo at an even better price.  We drove and it was a tight fit with both boys and D in her car seat.  It was an amazing relaxing and peaceful.  We have rented cabins in Wisconsin and Michigan as well.  All the trips have been pretty budget friendly, relaxing, and just what we needed at the time.

     This year, we went way outside our comfort zone and planed an all out Disney.  Our first step was to call Abbi at Hi Ho Vacations to make some decisions.  We knew a few things we wanted (a meal at Cinderella's castle, a meal with Winne the Pooh), so we told her and then let her do her magic.  When she got back with us, she had a wonderful trip planned....4 nights, 5 days, meals planned, room booked.  All that was left for us to do was sign our contract and send her some money!  It was so easy to let Abbi handle all the details, any time I had a question, she got an answer for me, even when we were at the parks!

     We had an incredible time at Disney!  So much so, that we are already planning our return trip (hopefully 2015).  Disney is truly a magical place...I can't begin to explain how much we loved this vacation (although I plan to try in the next few posts that I write).

Jim, Nancy, Delainey, and Bryce
entering the Magic Kingdom for the first time!