Sunday, October 30, 2011

Make-A-Wish Trip, Day 6: To the Beach!

We ended our week in Florida by staying away from the theme parks and heading to the ocean. But...we had to start the day with a dose of toon with Scooby Doo at the Give Kids the World village.

It was an hour drive to the Atlantic. Along the way, Julia did homework while I looked for gators on the flat Florida landscape. She got her work done, but I didn't see any reptiles. We passed a cruise ship after driving over one of the causeways leading to Cocoa Beach, our sandy destination. Near the pier at the beach was a good place to spend the afternoon; it had bathrooms, a couple of restaurants, and beach umbrella rentals.

Amanda and I weren't sure what the kids would think. Julia has twice visited the Pacific on the Oregon coast, but those shorelines are rocky and picturesque rather than the sunny and sandy one we had just arrived at. Finn had never seen either coastline.

Needless to say, they loved it. They were happy running in and out of the surf, digging holes in the sand watching the tide fill them, and finding seashells.

Since we stayed longer than we had planned, our snacks weren't sufficient to feed us. We took advantage of one of the restaurants on the pier and got some food to go and ate it on our towels on the sand, sitting under our rented umbrella.

Like my daughter, I've been to the Pacific coast a number of times, but haven't really had an opportunity to swim and submerge myself in the salty water. I was thrilled to get that opportunity this time. I'm not a big swimmer and have little interest in most water activities, but there has always been something about the ocean that has drawn me to it. The endlessness and the all-natural cacophony. The unthinkable amount of water, while what we see from the shore has a feeling of sparseness of life, the pieces of shells give hints about the life that's there.

Several times I went out a ways and floated on my back. It was pretty amazing, slowly moving as the waves lifted me up and gently lowered me back down. It was interesting comparing that sort of ease of movement compared to standing upright and feeling those same waves shoving me towards the shore.

Julia had a fun idea and added shells to the outside of one of her sand creations.

Eventually we gathered up the kids, washed off as much sand as we could and headed back to central Florida. That evening at GKTW, there was a princesses and pirates party. There were activities, dancing, and pirates and princesses everywhere. Finn got his picture taken with a very exciting pirate.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Make-A-Wish Trip, Day 5: Breakfast with the Princesses

I'm determined to finish with the last few days of our trip. I'm using this as a record so we can look back and have a little bit of verbiage to go with the pictures, but I understand if you've gotten enough of it already.

Thursday morning at Give Kids the World we started off again with some characters. Goofy and pre-princess Belle were hanging out on the streets to greet the kids.

Goofy got a hold of Finn's plastic sword and poked around with it.

Julia was really fond of Mayor Clayton's house that was located near the middle of the village near the koi pond and the garden. It was almost big enough for me to stand up in, which meant it allowed for some fun pictures of Julia.

We headed for our second stop at Epcot for our scheduled breakfast with the princesses. Because of our trip to the park a few days earlier, we had most of the attractions out of the way that we were interested in. That didn't stop us from running into a few characters that the kids hadn't seen. This time it was Daisy and Stitch.

Before we were seated at the table, we got to see the post-princess Belle.

The breakfast consisted of a buffet of appetizers and then a platter filled with heaps of hot food. The kids were a little disturbed by the amount of bacon I ate. Julia waited patiently for things to get going after having eaten her fill.

When the princesses came out, they first did a processional through the dining area. Each princess gathered a line of kids and paraded around while the parents looked on with flashing and recording cameras. Cinderella had Julia follow right behind her and gave Julia her bouquet of flowers to hold.

Afterward, the princesses walked from table to table, chatting, signing things, and posing for pictures. We were impressed when Cinderella clearly remembered Julia from three days earlier (and how many hundreds of kids?) and Julia was pretty thrilled about it too.

Aurora, Snow White, and Ariel followed next.

After that experience was finished, we wandered back around the big pond and stopped to see some interesting looking exhibits at some of the countries. We walked by some drums and I encouraged the kids to run over and start beating them (we had walked past them a few nights earlier and kids were playing them, so I was reasonably sure it was allowed). Soon after, other kids were joining in too.

Amanda wanted to stop in the Germany store to pick up something for herself. We all voted on the hat, but she chose a t-shirt of the mice in lederhosen instead.

We timed our walk to come across Jasmine and Aladdin and then shortly after came across Alice.

We turned down a hardly traveled alley and came upon a hedge maze. The kids and I thoroughly enjoyed ourselves! It was fun to find things that people who hurried by might have missed.

A building on that same side street had a little shop with Pooh and Tigger in the back.

Instead of driving or taking the monorail from Epcot to Magic Kingdom (to go through the one section we didn't get to on Monday), we took the ferry.

Adventureland was the portion we needed to walk through yet, so we headed right there. Julia really wanted to see Tink, so we went straight for another character meeting. Besides the famous fairy, one of her friends was there too. Vidia plays a sort of antagonist to the spunky Tinker Bell and it was great seeing how true to the character she was. She was sarcastic and referred to her fairy partner as "Stinker Bell" and "Tinker Smell". She was still friendly, but not overly so and wasn't interested in hugging the kids.

Tinker Bell told Julia that she looked familiar, but we hadn't met her before. After we left, I told Julia it was probably because their hair looked the same and so Tinker Bell was reminded of herself. Julia burst my feel-good bubble by letting me know that Tink's hair really isn't short, it was just up.

The Swiss Family Robinson tree house was closed for some reason, so we were disappointed not to be able to see that. We did see the Enchanted Tiki Room and ride on the the Jungle Cruise and Pirates and the Caribbean. Don't ask Julia about the last one, she kept her head down with her hands over it the entire ride. Finn was brave enough to watch tentatively and just hide when needed. Like I said before, it's hard to get decent pictures on the rides and still enjoy them, so you're stuck with more characters.

Tiana and Naveen are probably the two newest characters at the parks. They verbally played well off of each other.

And definitely not a new one, Peter Pan drew a line of people to meet him.

As we headed for the exit, we veered over toward the castle and watched a play on the stage. Another example of getting pulled in to something unexpected but magical.

Meanwhile, that evening at GKTW...
It was their weekly Christmas party! The place was decorated and Santa was there. Each kid go tot pick out a toy - Julia chose a Rubki's cube and Finn picked a transformer. The kids got to meet Ms. Merry (Mayor Clayton's wife) and the big bunny mayor himself.

We topped off this long day with snow cones and ice cream. Friday we planned on putting the theme parks aside to head for the ocean.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Make-A-Wish Trip, Day 4: Sea World

Wednesday morning started out with horseback riding at GKTW. Twice every week they bring in horses and let the kids saddle up and ride around the circle. They each got a cowboy hat to commemorate the event.

After that, we headed to a non-Disney attraction: Sea World.

The first thing we checked out was the tank filled with stingrays. Both kids commented on how they looked like they were flying. You could reach in and touch them as they swam around and around the tank, flapping their fins gracefully under the water and sometimes above which gave a big splash.

The one thing we were really excited about was feeding the dolphins. We found the place where it was happening and since we had a long time before they let more people in, we wandered around past some sea turtles and some smaller aquariums. Finn particularly liked seeing the stingrays from underneath.

When it getting close to the dolphin feeding time, we headed back in that direction. The kids were pretty excited about it at first. Then they saw the raw fish.

Then they saw how big (and hungry) the dolphins looked up close.

Julia and Finn were pretty nervous about feeding and touching them, but I think they enjoyed it. Amanda and I certainly did!

Since Sea World is known for dolphins and killer whales and we had already played with the dolphins, it was time to move onto the orcas. We walked to the other side of the park to see the Shamu Killer Whale show. I was expecting an orca an two, so I was surprised when there were at least seven of the trained whales. It was pretty amazing seeing them perform and only being able to imagine all the time and energy put in by the trainer and whales.

We headed back to our villa after the show and did a little late afternoon relaxing.

GKTW is able to get many other tickets to attractions at reduced rates for the families staying there. We took advantage and the four of us went to Medieval Times. The kids got a kick out of the whole atmosphere and the idea that we had to cheer for the Green Knight while the story progressed and the knights jousted and fought. At home Julia sometimes gets scolded for not using silverware, so she thought it was funny that they don't give you any silverware to eat with when they give you your food. It turned out that the Green Knight was the villain, which meant he last til the end, but wasn't the champion. At the end we got him to sign our green flag we had been waving. Unfortunately, through some sort of medieval magic, all the pictures I took from there disappeared (I goofed and deleted them).

It was late and the busyness of the week was definitely dragging on us at this point. We slept well and got ready for a breakfast with the princesses in the morning.