Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Fun With Elevators

by: LaLa

After an afternoon spent doing nothing and everything all at once, we rounded up all of our gear and headed back into the Yacht Club.

While there are a million reasons to love staying at deluxe resorts, there is also one pretty big reason to loathe staying at deluxe resorts. For us anyway.

Around these here parts, we like to call it The Walk of Shame.

No matter how hard I try not to, I always feel a little sheepish walking back into a resort from the pool. Looking like a hot mess. With pool hair. Eyes burned crimson red from the chlorine. Fingers pruned to such an extent that it’s hard to keep a grip on anything, let alone a six foot long wet noodle. Dripping wet and carrying all of our pool crap (and extra towels we swiped from the pool area) as others are mingling around the lobby, dressed for dinner.

Fresh. Rested. Perfectly coiffed. Adequately perfumed. Possessing all their teeth. Dry. Wearing heels.

And slipping in our wake as we cut a trail from one end of the lobby to the other. Loaded down with an armful of wet pool paraphernalia and looking like something the cat drug in.

Feels very Clampett-ish to me. Which is a very unfamiliar feeling. To us. In Opposite World.

Some families come from the pool looking as though they’ve just stepped off Parenting magazine’s July issue cover shoot. They're dry, they carry nothing in their hands, and not one hair is out of place. I hate those people. And by ‘hate‘, I mean ‘strongly dislike’. What I really mean is: I’ve never understood those people. In contrast, we’re messy, we’re hot, we’re wet, we’re sweaty, we’re louder than we probably should be, our bag is overpacked, (duh!) and so are our arms.

In other words: we’re as real as it gets. Or…as redneck as it gets.

Especially when you factor in four huge soaking wet bright red and blue pool noodles. The ones we made the boy carry.

At the time, it seemed like a perfect plan. Make him more responsible. Make the boy earn his keep. “Here, son. Take these four pool noodles that are EVERY BIT as big as you are and tote them for us a ways. It’ll toughen you up. Make you grow some hair on your chest”. We said.

Looking back, that might not have been the BEST option. Considering all the breakables around.

And so it was that we schlepped and slid our way across the shiny hardwood floor that anchors the stoic Yacht Club lobby that day. Laughing loudly. At ourselves, mostly. We eventually arrived at the elevator and found two very well dressed older gentlemen already waiting inside. They were well coiffed. Well groomed. Fresh. Rested. Dry. Not possessing all their teeth. Looking for Grey Poupon. They eyed us with concern as we showed up in their lives behind Door Number Two, this motley crew who had OBVIOUSLY been having entirely too much fun for entirely too long at the pool. You could see the wheels turning as they weighed their options. But they knew it as well as we did: they were trapped. They’d have to share an elevator with the Clampetts and all their pool crap.

"Jolly Good Show!", they said to each other. Sarcastically. With their dorkalicious braided nose hair.

We greeted them warmly but were ignored. For the life of me, I can’t imagine why. Thankfully, the ride up was swift and smooth and as we arrived at our floor, we bid them adieu.

In the way that only a true LaLa can.

The door opens and Mr. Newfound Responsibility steps forward. Carrying with him the still soaking wet pool noodles. All four of them. As he does, he turns around, then doubles back and bends over to pick up something. Then stands up again and turns around. And in the process, he unintentionally smacks both men square in the face with the noodles.

Two men. Four noodles to the face each. It was a soaking wet jackslap in rapid fire succession. If you’ve ever seen the Price is Right wheel being spun and watched the big red triangular pointer slapping those numbers as they speed by, you’ve witnessed The Elevator Pool Noodle Incident.

Only with people. And noodles.


It was like something from the Three Stooges.

I felt bad for the men and worse for the boy, who was MORTIFIED for a few minutes. Until the silent shaking laughter took over. Once the doors closed behind him. Because that was, hands down, one of the funniest sights I think I’ve ever seen. Even though they CLEARLY did not care for the unjust treatment they received.

I believe we may have even knocked a toupe loose.

Of course we apologized profusely and I did feel bad. A little bit. Not a whole lot though. Because it was so stinkin’ hilarious. And because my line of thinking is that if you’re wearing a toupe, you deserve to have it knocked off your head by a wet noodle in a Disney elevator. I mean, c’mon! You’re not fooling anybody with that thing.

I’m looking at you, ZZUB.

And that one incident was the catalyst for so many of our jokes for the remainder of the week. Most of them revolving around us being forced out of the Yacht Club and being shipped back to "The Pop Cent’r-eh". Where we belong. We’d do something stupid and one of the kids would yell, “There’s the bus, come to take us back to The Pop Cent-reh!”

And we’d all laugh ourselves silly. Knowing they weren’t getting’ rid of us THAT easy.

After yet another Elevator Incident to add to the LaLa Family Book of Unforgettable Disney Moments, we made our way back to our room in order to get ready for our dinner that night.

Since it was DH’s actual birthday, he chose our park and dinner destination for the evening. He could’ve gone anywhere and done anything, but the man chose Epicot and Le Cellier to ring in his birthday proper. And there was no other place I would’ve rather been that night. Love me some Mr. LaLa and his line of thinking.

The word on the street lately has been that Le Cellier will soon be listed as a Signature restaurant on the Dining Plan. I discovered this shortly before we went and gave DH the 411. I have to say, we’re both pretty bummed about it because we really enjoy Le Cellier. We don’t normally eat at Signature restaurants on the Dining Plan. I just hate spending two credits on one meal, even if the food rocks. Just doesn’t seem worth it to me for some reason. So for months, we had really been looking forward to what might turn out to be our last meal at Le Cellier for a really long time.

We cleaned up and headed out, anxious to get the night started.

On our walk toward the elevators, we noticed (again) that we seemed to be the only ones around. There's something about having the whole floor to yourself (or at least feeling that way) that lends itself to some serious tomfoolery. And since it was DH's birthday and he was feeling awfully peppy that night, he proposed a few elevator shenanigans. In the form of a game.

Basically, there are four elevators and four LaLas. So we each pick one set of elevator doors and stand in front of it, then push the button. At the same time. That part is crucial. The person whose doors slide open first wins the prize.

Although, and here's the catch: the prize is always a mystery prize. At DH's sole discretion. It's like Forest Gump and his box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get.

The winner that night happened to be Yours Truly. As I did a little victory dance, I was swept up by my husband. Evidently, the prize that night was some unexpected, shameless PDA. I even got dipped at the end of the kiss so you KNOW the man was feeling about twenty instead of forty that night! I may have lifted an eyebrow and given him a look afterwards. Indicating I appreciated the gesture.

Our kids, who were looking on with disgust, however....did not appreciate the gesture! Even though they both giggled AFTER they finished telling us how wrong that was. And how gross we were.

We are now, officially, our parents.

Tomfoolery behind us, we got on with the business of getting over to Epicot. Our Epicot.

This would be the first time we would ever walk to Epcot from our resort (!!!) and we enjoyed it immensely. On the way over. Not so much later that night on the way back.

But more on that later.

The walk is a very easy one and although we kinda missed having Spaceship Earth all up in our grill, it was SO DADGUM cool to just waltz in the back door of Epcot. Once we arrived, we scanned from east to west and tried our hardest to let our eyes linger on everything in between. We took in the sights and listened to that familiar music that we love so much. We stood around and just breathed in the atmosphere for a little bit. With smiles all around.

Man, I LOVE me some World Showcase. It totally rocks.

We made our way over to Le Cellier in plenty of time for our ADR.

Once we arrive at the check in counter, DH is greeted with a round of enthusiastic “HAPPY BIRTHDAY!s” from the girls on duty that night. He immediately goes into recon mode and pokes his finger, that one big finger, their way. “How old do you think I am?”, he shoots. Putting them on the spot. The smiles slowly fade from their faces and they seem confused. As the seconds tick by. Loudly. Slowly.

Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.

Their brows furrow and the smiles return to their faces. This time, a little more plastic than the last.





“Oh, I mean….uhm……23?”

“That’s better. Now g’on and scare us up a table. Because I’m 40 today and I’m ready to eat, dadgummit!”

And eat we did. Le Cellier still ranks right up there as one of our all time favorite restaurants in the World Showcase. We were not disappointed. For us, it’s about the food and the atmosphere.

For the kids, it’s all about the milkshakes and smoothies. And the fact that the servers tend to play it a little fast and loose with the dining plan requirements there. Guiding us on how to get the most bang for our credits. Yet another reason to love Le Cellier.

DH got a little birthday love to boot as he was treated to a table decorated for his birthday.

Because we'd already had a big 40th surprise party for him and I'd sprung for an awesome cake at home, I didn't order a cake here. Although I was tempted, because Disney makes some fine lookin' cakes. But when they brought his creme brulee out for his desert, it was decorated appropriately and he seemed to like it. Very nice.

Once dinner was over, we rolled ourselves out the door and strolled around the serene lagoon at sunset. Giddy as could be.

We had plans to take in Illuminations that night and by our watch, we still had plenty of time left before we needed to grab a seat and settle in for the show of all shows. So because it was STILL my husband’s birthday (what is he, eighty now? I feel like we’ve been celebrating this for MONTHS) and Test Track is probably his favorite ride in all of Epcot, we headed in that direction. Thinking that, by some miracle, there might not be a line and we might be able to take a quick spin before gathering around the fire to watch a true adventure emerge.

An hour and a half later, we’d watched a true adventure emerge, alright.

But it wasn’t exactly the one we had in mind.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Phase Two: The Actual Vacation

By NicoleMarie

Met the LaLas? Check.

Ridden our first Disney ride? Check.

Checked into our villa at Kidani? Check.

As much as I love the First Day Excitement – pulling under The Arches, checking into the resort, riding the first ride – there’s a part of the vacation that comes in a close second, and that’s Phase Two: The Actual Vacation. This part of the vacation can only start after the bags are unpacked and we’re sitched.

Which is why this installment comes right after the installment titled “Gettin’ Sitched.” I’m smart like that, friends.

But y’all know what I mean. There’s literally a moment that Phase Two kicks in, and you know you’re there. For at least a solid 24 hours prior to that moment – likely a full week if you’re Vacation Head of Household – you’ve been going ninety to nothin’. Gettin’ it done to get out of town. Traveling. Checking in. But all of a sudden, you’re all checked in, the last bag is unpacked, everyone has claimed their sleeping quarters and corresponding storage space, the toiletries line the countertops, the snacks fill the cabinets, and all that’s left to do is relax and enjoy your vacation. And for what is likely the only time during your vacation, your hotel room or villa is REALLY organized and everything is nice and clean.

Quick aside: This would be a good time to take pics. It is also a good time to pull out the bottle of Clorox and run it through the jets in the bathtub. And while that’s running, Lysol all the remotes and phone handsets. Your bed bug check should already be done, as EVERYONE knows it is far too late to find bedbugs if you’ve already unpacked. Those suckers are hitching a ride home with you by then.

I’m not saying the NMs are such neurotic germaphobes that we would actually do any of that nonsense, but if you ARE gonna do it, right before entering Phase Two of the vacation is the time. Cause who can relax when there are unchecked germs all over the place? I mean, WE could…but you might not be able to.


It was about 3 pm when we entered Phase Two. We had a 7 pm ADR at Coral Reef, which was perfect timing for a pre-dinner visit to the Kidani Pool. Everyone changed into their swimsuits, put on a little suncreen, and headed out the door.

The pool at Kidani Village was the primary reason we had chosen to stay there. We had checked it out on our Thanksgiving trip, and the kids were so impressed with it, there was no other place to stay even on their radar. It did not disappoint. It’s not huge, but strangely enough, it never felt crowded. The splash play area was tons of fun for every member of our party, (yes, even Roger and I) and we all love a zero entry.

So to the pool we headed. And we knew good fun as ahead. Because most of the time, I’m that Mama who is REALLY aware of what my kids are doing that might annoy the folks around us. I tell my kids that good manners show others that you value them. I believe good manners are a requisite behavior for people who love the Lord. And although we don’t always succeed, the NMs try to be those kinds of people who show a little bit of grace and mercy to folks around us. I don’t let my kids talk loudly in hotel corridors, I make sure they use nice manners in restaurants and other public places, and I really don’t believe there is any good excuse for being unkind to someone. Even when you think you’ve been wronged. In fact, especially when you think you’ve been wronged.

What does that have to do with the swimming pool? Hear this: In the swimming pool, all bets are off. We’re gonna get rowdy. If you’re hanging out by a swimming pool at Disney World, and the NMs are around, you are either gonna get splashed, get hit with a tennis ball, or hear my son’s laughter and smack talk no matter how far away from him you are. If you want an upscale pool experience, I can recommend some really nice places in Orlando where they’ll bring you a chilled towel and some fruity water while they spritz your face with a cool mist. The music is soothing and nice, and the fountains in the pool provide a pleasant sound track to the relaxation you feel as you lie in the sun. And the best part? The NMs won’t be there. Because we’re too busy being crazy at Kidani.

We’re on the slide. We’re in the zero entry playing baseball with a tennis ball. We’re in the shallow end playing Monkey in the Middle. We’re in the splash zone firing water cannons at each other. We’re everywhere. We are your relaxing afternoon at the pool’s worst nightmare.

It never fails that we draw a crowd, though. We catch the eye of all the kids who have polite parents that make them use good manners at the pool. We bring those kids into the fold, and we have a hootin’ and hollerin’ good time the whole time we’re there.

And that’s how we spent the first couple of hours of Phase Two: The Actual Vacation.

To the relief of many, we finally left the Kidani pool to head back to the villa for a little rest time before our dinner ADR at Coral Reef.

I love the downtime between the afternoon swim and the evening plans. (Yes, I realize that this is about the 14th thing I’ve said “I love” about a Disney trip, but would I be here if that wasn’t the case?) We pull the drapes closed, make sure the AC is pumpin’ some good, cold air, and settle into our various spots to slow it down for a little while. Usually, we all end up catching a few zzzzs. In real life, I’m not a napper. None of us are. But at Disney World, we can go to sleep faster than the Georgia Bulldogs can tank their football program.

We woke from our naps refreshed and ready to go. After we made ourselves presentable for an evening at Epcot, we packed our bags with the necessities and headed down the hall to the magic elevator that would take us right to our car. Said car would be parked in the shady garage and therefore not at all brutally hot. LOVE me some Kidani Village.

Arriving at Epcot is always a treat. We walked through the turnstiles and heard the Soarin’ soundtrack, saw Spaceship Earth towering overhead, and felt the warm humidity of a June night in Florida. We stopped and took some pics in front of the LaLas’ picture in the Legacy Garden, and then made our way back to Coral Reef.

We love Coral Reef – more for the atmosphere than the food – and we had a very nice dinner there. Until our waiter spilled an entire drink in Roger’s lap. But good ole Roger, ever the nice guy, just laughed and said it was OK. And that he was sure some VIP Fastpasses would make up for his trouble.

Sure enough, a few minutes later our waiter appeared with some Fastpasses, and as he walked away, we all high-fived one another and planned our next move. A quick spin on Test Track before Illuminations started would be the perfect way to end our first day.

So that’s what we did. As the sun was setting over Epcot, we took a 65 mile per hour spin around the Test Track. Screaming and laughing and hair flying. We disembarked the ride, walked over to our favorite spot to watch Illuminations, (Showcase Plaza), and pulled up to the front row. The cool pre-Illuminations music was playing, and before we knew it, the deep, melodic voice of the Illuminations narrator was introducing the show.

“Good evening, on behalf of Walt Disney World, the place where dreams come true, we welcome all of you to Epcot and World Showcase. We've gathered here tonight, around the fire, as people of all lands have gathered for thousands and thousands of years before us; to share the light and to share a story. An amazing story, as old as time itself but still being written. And though each of us has our own individual stories to tell, a true adventure emerges when we bring them all together as one. We hope you enjoy our story tonight; Reflections of Earth."

Then the sound of the torches being blown out. Then the steady drum beat. Getting faster and faster until it’s stopped by the first squeal of the Illuminations soundtrack, and the one arc of light that starts the show.

I couldn’t tell you how many Disney trips we’ve started in this exact way. Ten? Fifteen? I don’t know. But this time was no less exciting than that very first trip. And in some ways, it was MORE exciting. There was so much to look forward to. Traditions we’ve established at Disney that we can’t wait to do together. New things to experience this time – things we’ve still not done in ten or fifteen Disney trips.

Yes, here we were again. In our favorite spot. Literally and figuratively. Life moving forward so quickly that it makes our heads spin. But slowing down so that we can enjoy these next ten days together in our happy place. Phase Two has begun, and we are so blessed.

I prayed a prayer of thanks right then and there, and then put my arms around my family and sat back to enjoy the show.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Battle for my Wallet VII: Lost and Found

Chapter One: Throw the Stick

This is not a sad story.

It is not a story of loss and renewal. If it was, then this would be the Battle for my Wallet: Been There, Done That.

Which we have.

This will not make you numb. Still, the story of our trip began with the loss of our dog, our friend. I felt a lot of guilt after Stafford died. I just had not spent as much time playing with him in the last few years as I wished I had. Had not taken him on enough big boy rides. It was the consequence of being too busy. And by saying yes to some things, I necessarily said no to others. Like playing with Stafford.

In the days right after he left us, I wrestled with a lot of things. But mainly I felt bad I hadn’t played with him enough. I realized I could never have that back. And I had not spent enough time making him happy. Not lately. I'd been too busy making money, building my practice, chasing other things. How many times did he want me to throw a stick? Roughhouse with him? Put him in the Jeep and take off to the store. To anywhere. I didn't give him enough time because I didn’t have enough time and anyway I thought there'd be more time. And then one day there wasn't anymore. Time. And on one ironically sunny day, he left me. Missing him terribly.

In the week after he died, I filled in the holes in the backyard, put bark dust over where he used to play, but I can still see him there. I don’t know why I thought changing the landscape would change the movie in my mind. The memories of a dog I loved so much.

I look at my back yard and I see him there and I vow not to make that mistake again. It's too late to give him my time. But it's not too late with my wife and the girls. There will be time enough for other things but there will never be another day like today and I want this day with my family.

We need fun time, and because a Disney vacation is six months before and six months after, and because we all have fun there, it IS worth the money. For us. Maybe one day I'll be poor again and we won't be able to take an annual vacation. If that happens, we’ll find other ways to have fun. But I'm not going to worry about what ifs. I'm going to enjoy this day with my wife and daughters.  If one of them leaves me first, I am not going to feel guilty that I hadn't been there enough.

And because my mom and dad are getting on in years and because they live in Florida, we'll go to WDW and see them. I want to make sure I get to love them and love on them. It's cliché, but nevertheless true: we can't change yesterday; we can't undo lost time. But we CAN in the power of the Holy Spirit, change how we walk out today. I want to be a man who blesses my wife and daughters. And because my family LOVES us some fun times in Disney World, I'll work hard and save my money for that.

I’ve come back to this again and again. I’d get annoyed by how much money we spend on vacation. Think we should find something else to do. Something better. But the plain and simple fact is, we like Disney World. We like it because we KNOW it. We know how to plan for it, what to do there, when to go, where to eat. And even though we yearn to add some new wrinkle, maybe stay at a different resort, it's still the same basic package. There are a host of other reasons too. But it's the familiar thing. And there’s a lot to be said for the familiar.

I've stopped fighting it. I've been at war with it in my head for several years now. I may have even written about it a time or six. Feeling like I spend WAY too much money on a week's vacation. And the experience is always a mixed bag. Great rides, great food, great shows v. unclean rooms, smelly tourists, slow Monorails, broken rides, refurb walls, etc. But. We love it. The six months before. The entire trip. The six months after. It's who we are. The point here? I stopped raging against what I couldn't change. And with Disney World, I'm no longer trying to find another way or another place. We like it. I don't know how long we will, but as long as we do, as long as my family has fun in the planning, the partying and the post-game, I'm not changing our destination. Could that money be better spent? No. Yes, it could be appropriated elsewhere. I could find places to spend that money, or put it in the bank even. But it wouldn't be better spent. We don't NEED anything as much as we NEED a fun vacation to look forward to and enjoy. Turns out, we need to make time to go play. And I'm not apologizing for it anymore.

But like I said, this is not a sad story. Not an introspective one either. This is just why we headed to Walt Disney World again instead of Disneyland where we vacationed last summer. Context is key.

So is having an emergency bathroom staked out at your hotel in the event two of you “need” the facilities at the same time. But I’m really getting ahead of myself.

Foreshadowing a poop cramp? Oh yes I did. This is, after all a ZZUB trip report.

Our August trip to Disney World was filled with the kinds of things that makes the ZZUBs the ZZUBs. So if you don’t have the stomach for another one of these, then take your Prilosec, because the Battle for my Wallet VII is on. Some highlights you can expect to read about:

A room so filthy, you’ll vomit just reading about it. The room credit and VIP cleaning (whatever the heck that is) we received because of it;

The surprise which came at the outset of our trip and how that has affected all trips which will come later;

What the Contemporary Resort looks like at 5:00 in the am;

Bird poop or cigarette butts; does it really matter?

ZZUBY losing a croc to the escalator in the CR (and darn near losing a toe);

My morning long search for our bag of ponchos and sitting on hold with lost and found for 23 minutes;

ZZUBY losing her camera then finding it again, deleting her pictures and then getting them restored!

Me leaving my camera behind but not even fretting none about it;

The moment Mrs. Z said, "Disney ZZUB has arrived;”

The moment Mrs. Z said, "It's time to go, ZZUB’s getting raged up," and what prompted her to say that;

That it took MUCH longer than usual for the rage to show up;

What “MaLouba” is and where you can find it;

To whom I said, "Do you really want to argue with me over whether that's a bar?!"

The Monorail Incident that caused us to miss most of the morning extra magic hour at MK and why it didn’t provoke a rage in me;

My first altercation with people from a southern continent which caused me to exclaim, "You go ahead of us, that way you can't bump into us again;"

My second altercation with people from a southern continent, "Excuse me! You've rammed into us for the last time. Now all of you either get in front of us or behind us, but you are NOT going to keep pushing into us. You got THAT?!"

What caused me to say to a cast member at Pirates, "I can't take a picture here? Right here?! I really can't take a picture HERE?"

The reason I asked the front desk manager, Joey, to "do me a solid;"

What the solid was I asked for and received;

Why I channeled Mr. LaLa on Mainstreet, USA;

Why we still LOVE Electric Umbrella;

What our first, second and third favorite meals were;

Why I NEVER ate a funnel cake, despite the fact, they now sell funnel cakes EVERYWHERE;

Why a CM told me I had "good energy," and why I thought it was a compliment;

Who told me I had “good form;”

Where we spent our decompress day, what a decompress day is and why the place we stayed was perfect for what it was;

Disney food bingo;

Who "Mike" was and what he was doing in the fridge;
And what provoked me to tell a CM on the phone, "well then, this has been a colossal waste of time for everyone involved. You have a magical day!" And why we've created the Disney exception to the golden rule, "Treat others they way you want to be treated. Unless they've really pissed you off."

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Hearty Cheers and Roasted Ears

By Great Biscuit

When last we left off, I had procured some souvenir mugs in an attempt to compensate for the sauna of the afternoon sun. Of the many elements that are common to seemingly all Disney Trip Reports, weather tops the list. While a few wintertime travelers are taken aback by a stray cold front, the overwhelming majority report on the grueling heat and oppressive humidity. The summertime weather in San Antonio can be woefully similar. Thus while we were grateful for the shade afforded us that June evening in Sea Lion Stadium, we were still in dire need of a restorative.

Luckily, a hearty of helping of Mug root beer did the trick. Thus properly refreshed, we were enjoying a rousing performance of the Cannery Row Caper. As I mentioned at the close of the last chapter, the first half of the show went hunky dory. (Whatever that means.) We were all enjoying the cheesey dialog and corny plotline when suddenly tragedy befell us.

The two sea lions in the show were supposed to swim out to the glass, lean up on it and do that barking noise that their species is so well known for. One of them did it just as rehearsed. The other got too much spruce in its caboose and went flying over the wall and into the audience. Luckily there is a wide walkway between the front row and the tank and there was no one right there close.

Two pages immediately blocked the aisle, and the trainer ran down and gave a hand signal. Apparently the critter understood as it leaned up on the wall and pulled itself right back into the tank. The entire thing was over in about 20 seconds. (Approximately 3 seconds less time than it takes to put down your souvenir mug of root beer, reopen the backpack and pull out, power up and focus the camera that you stowed before the show having rationalized that you've seen it before, have plenty of pictures already and just want to sit and enjoy it.).

The trainer seemed a bit rattled and gave us a “That’s never happened!” The animal was immediately sent backstage to be looked after. We were all a little nervous when the critter did not appear in the rest of the show. There was however a hearty cheer from the crowd when it did come back out for the final bow and seemed wholly recovered. (Or wholly swapped out backstage with a different seal lion, it’s hard to say which.) Anyway, there were two of them at the end and both were in good spirits and that seemed to be agreeable to the audience. 

With this show now off the list, we headed out to the catch the water ski show which was about 5 min away from starting. I knew we wouldn’t make it to the first couple of minutes of the show, but come on, it’s a ski show. There isn’t much plot line to catch up on, and by “much” I mean there is none.

Once upon a wonder year, the show’s water borne performers had an entire stage show that went along with their aquatic acrobatics. (Anyone else remember Beach Blanket Ski Party?) There were costumes, musical numbers, corny yet humorous plot lines, the whole nine yards. That ain’t so any more.

You get a narrator.

Some dude, standing in the center of the beach saying things like, “And now Brad’s going to do a triple Hungarian Butt Spritzel with a half twist!” To which an overheated crowd would give a half hearted “woo”.

Go Brad...I should have followed my first instinct and left the camera in the bag again.

That was pretty much the entire show. Narrator dude tells us who’s coming out and what they are going to do and then we watch them do it. Wow. Hope the writing team didn’t stress themselves out too much there.


Luckily I had stopped to refill our mugs on the way into the stadium so at least we had the entertainment of sipping our beverages.

After being fully underwhelmed, we backtracked slightly and took in the Penguin house. Because there is apparently nothing that quite lifts the spirits like the olfactory stimulation that is wafted out of a building after it has been wholly sullied with penguin poo. This of course led to a desire for corn, namely of the grilled variety, and thus the Roasted Corn stand with its buttery ears and founts of bubbly refreshment became our next stop.

After our third round of refills and some golden grilled heaven were properly dispatched, we headed over to our final stop of the evening: Shamu Stadium. I had hoped to catch Believe, but the traffic debaucle on 410 had rendered that plan inoperative. Thus we settled on Shamu 2.0, also known as Shamu Rocks. It’s not a bad show, it’s just got a different vibe than Believe. BUT, we were cool with it and managed to score a spot well above the splash zone. While we waited for the show to start, my fame was recognized and I found myself on the Jumbotron.

Can you spot this Biscuit in this picture?

The show itself was good, but I had forgotten about the “no trainer in the water” policy that was adopted after the Orlando incident. Not that I would wish someone to risk life and limb for my entertainment value. But it does change the dynamic of the show. It still has some good moments though.

Notice how the angle of the sun striking the stadium interacted with the shower
of whale spit to create an almost angelic aura about this creatures head.

With our Sea World dance card thus filled, we headed out to meet my parents for dinner. Of course we didn’t make it out of the park before finding our way into a gift shop and spending thirty minuets playing the “I can’t decide” game with the girls. Thankfully, we did finally manage to procure a couple of mementos and then booked it out to the car.

We were staying at the Comfort Suites just off of I-10 near Six Flags Fiesta Texas. Not so coincidentally there was a Zio’s a couple of blocks away and it was there that we met up with Nana and Papa. In typically Biscuit tradition there was much joyous greeting and a few moments of seat shuffling before all were settled and ready to get down to bidness.

For starters, we ordered up a Baked Formaggio (described in the menu as: “A blend of five cheeses and Italian herbs baked in our brick oven, topped with kalamata olive relish and served with grilled Italian bread.”) For an entre, the girls both got the kids Fettuccine Alfredo while First Lady Biscuit and I split the Chicken Alfredo. (Mushrooms on the side as FLB doesn’t care for them, but I’m not willing to give them up. After all they don’t reduce the price of the dish if you cut them out and I figure if a feller’s paying for some ‘shrooms, he ought to get to eat ‘em.) It was nifty as always and we topped the meal off with an Oreo Mountain dessert.

It was mighty fine and tasty all the way around.

Upon returning to the motel, the girls got ready for bed and then we headed over to Nana’s room to have her read them their devotions. Having thanked our Lord for a fun day together and invoked His provision over our next day’s activities, we bid Nana and Papa goodnight and headed off to bed.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

On This Day

It's easy to get caught up in other things.  It's easy to think today is just another day.  It's football season.  Bama is playing Penn State.  Miami is at Ohio State.  Michigan is at Notre Dame.  It's easy to focus on the leaves that started falling.  The political season has arrived.  The car needs an oil change.  We talk about Disney trips.  We talk about bread pudding.  We get busy with the busyness.

But there are 2900 families who aren't busy today. 

They aren't thinking about pigskin or politics. 

I imagine they would love for today to be just another day.  A Monster Saturday in football.  A day when their daughter cheers in her first game.  A day when their toughest decision will be cool ranch or nacho cheese.  I suppose in some small way it's a tribute to the memory of our lost brothers and sisters that nine years on, we've returned to the trivial.  Life went on.  The terrorists didn't win.

But if returning to normal, if living our lives, is the measure of our strength, than at least in our living we should pause from time to time.  Remember That Day.  Remember the images and the people. 

I pause today and give thanks to Our Father for protecting our country.  For giving stength to Stanley Prainmath and Brian Clark who walked out of the south tower; to Tom Burnett and Todd Beamer who fought back on Flight 93; to Welles Crowther who rescued other people and perished while doing so.  For giving strength to the firemen and the policemen.  For giving courage to Betty Ong the brave flight attendant.  And I ask God to heal the widows and widowers.  To comfort the children whose daddies and mommies didn't come home.

And on this day, when we say God Bless America.  We mean it.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Arrival Day Times Two

by: LaLa

School. Work. Meetings. Homework.

Supper. Dishes. Laundry. Football practice.

Dance class. School projects. More laundry. More dishes.

Milkin’ cows.

These are the things that my days are made of lately.

Since school and the kids’ extracurricular activities are in full swing once again in our neck of the woods, it seems like our lives have been turned upside down with barely a minute to spare. Because this year, moreso than any in recent memory, we’re always on the go and rushing around like chickens with our heads cut off.

Which is a freaky little Nightmare To Go if you actually picture it.

On second thought, don’t. It’s too weird.

I know the routine will become old hat (whatever that means) soon enough and we will adjust to the crazy schedule that has become our lives for the next nine months. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. Even in the craziness of it all, every time I turn on the TV and see another tropical sumpthinother spinning off the coast of Africa, I am reminded of just how blessed we are to be able to have laundry and dishes that need cleaning. And a comfortable home to do it all in. We are blessed BEYOND MEASURE. And I will never forget that. But it’s these crazy, ‘don’t have a minute to spare’ days that bring back fond memories of a simpler time not too long ago. Where the only thing awaiting my attention was my family. And a big ole hunk of School Bread. In a place where we had all the time in the World. Or at least, enough of it to spare a minute or two doing absolutely nothing. And everything. All at the same time.

It was on one of those such days that we fell in love. With the Yacht Club.

You could say it was love at first sight, I suppose. We’d definitely gotten to know each other pretty well prior to our first date, and even though we’d never laid eyes on each other or spent even five minutes alone together, I felt pretty sure we wouldn‘t be disappointed. Or end up hauling tail and calling my sister and asking her to pick us up after we ended the date prematurely. For good reason. Like that one time before.

No, this would be no sophomoric crush gone bad. Of that I was sure.

As we unloaded the van and made our way into the joint for the first time, we were some kind of happy. Yellow, even. And with each new discovery that we made that week, each moment spent relishing the relaxed atmosphere, the close proximity to our favorite park, every night spent swimming in the pristine (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!) waters of the best pool on property, we fell that much harder.

In short: we’d totally marry the Yacht Club. If that wasn’t…like…all weird and stuff.

As we entered the YC lobby that morning, we noticed that although the lobby itself isn’t as big and impressive as the AKL or WL, there was something pretty cool going on towards the back of the joint that none of those other places had. Past the biggest globe of all time. Through the doors that overlooked Crescent Lake, the boat dock, and the walkway to Epicot. Our Epicot. It was the hint of fun times yet to come and it made us all completely giddy.

As we approached the front desk that morning, one of the CMs noticed my husband’s birthday pin and wished him a Happy Birthday. Loudly. My man, seizing the opportunity, immediately cocked his finger and pointed it at her (so as to REALLY put her on the spot) and threw back, “How old do you think I am?”

This would be a recurring theme for us for the rest of the day. They always came with the cheery “HAPPY BIRTHDAY!“ and then immediately fell silent when put on the spot. With the finger. As my husband waited.

She stammered for a second or two and eventually came back with some number that was completely bogus. Like twelve. Pleased with himself, he announced, “Actually, I’m forty today.“ And then he smiled. As his shiny teeth sparkled and made the “ding!” sound. Like a Colgate commercial. Knowing he’s lookin’ good at forty. She acted appropriately flabbergasted, as did everyone within earshot, and all was well with the world.

With that out of the way, we got down to bidness.

We were given our little packet of paperwork goodness and once our room assignment was complete (we opted for a room with a daybed at her suggestion because “there are children in our party”...and she was right, the girl dug having the daybed and the boy thought having his own queen bed on vacation was the bomb diggity), we were surprised to hear that our room was ready. We were checking in well before lunch and had fully expected to have some time to waste before The Annual Jumping on the Beds Celebration. But we were thrilled to hear otherwise.

So we turned around, shimmied off toward our wing, snagged way too many cups of ice cold water (for FREEEE!!!) while avoiding eye contact with the uppity CM sitting near the water jug, took the elevator on up to the 4th floor, found our room.... and did the Hoedown Throwdown.

We were in a perfect location, just across from the elevator, in a corner section. For the length of the trip, we barely saw anyone in our neck of the woods. Gave us the feeling that we had the whole place to ourselves. Which we LOVED. Because when you spend most of your days in a theme park rubbing shoulders with the tired, the poor, the unwashed huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of others’ teeming shores, coming back to a resort where you’re under the illusion that your family could very well be the only family on the entire floor is a very welcome change of pace.

Plus no one’s there to witness you acting your goofiest en route to the elevator each day. Except the other goofballs you either married or gave birth to. And unfortunately (for them), they’re stuck with you.

The room itself wasn’t too shabby. And the beds would turn out to be the most comfortable we've ever experienced at Disney. Loved those stinkin' beds!

The kids zeroed in on this spiffy little lamp on the desk and thought it was the coolest thing ever...

One of DH’s favorite features: the slightly strange but extremely useful mini shelf.

He unloaded the contents of his pockets and laid his watch to rest on it every night. For some reason, that’s just coolness personified to him. A dedicated space to store his loose change and pocket knife (because you never know when you may need to peel an apple or clean your toenails on the run) makes his socks go up and down.

Then again, he is twelve.

We immediately kicked off our flip flops, rubbed our feet on the hard carpet and deemed it satisfactory. We then turned on the TV just to hear Stacy’s voice as we explored (while cursing ourselves for it) and found ourselves shocked at how much bigger this room seemed than any of the other ones we’d stayed in to date. The storage space was WAY more than we were used to. There seemed to be so much extra room, and although we were initially bummed with the view from the balcony (a big magnolia tree), oddly enough, we grew to love it because it completed the secluded vibe we loved about that room location. Plus the balcony area was huge! It was easily twice the size of the balconies at AKL.

Cool little snack shelves...

Plenty of storage space in the dresser...

Man, I miss that room!

Once we had everything sitchated, we donned our pool gear, grabbed the beach bag and our beloved Keys to the Food and headed downstairs to find some grub and finally get our Stormalong Bay groove on.

But not before stopping long enough to check out the gift shop and admire this little sweetheart...

For MONTHS the boy (aka: my partner in crime) and I had watched videos of the resort as we shared a few giggles and oohed and ahhhed and dreamed about what it would be like to actually be there. Shoving our toes into the sand on the bottom of the pool and dominating Waterslide Olympics on a pirate ship.

During that time of anticipation, one of our favorite things to do was watch a slideshow of Stormalong Bay. It’s set to a Caribbean sounding beat and we spent many a day watching that slideshow and being impressed with photos of the place. You can find some pretty amazing shots of the pool area that the Yacht and Beach Club share. I know. I believe we saw just about every one there was to be seen in the months leading up to our trip. But I’m here to tell you: there’s no way any of those pictures do it justice. The place is massive, impeccably themed, downright gorgeous, and the architecture just screams classic Disney to me. Plus, with all the different themed areas, it’s more fun than a barrel of monkeys.

It took a ton of restraint, but after we showed our room key and received our wristbands and towels at the entrance to the pool, we kept our minds focused on the pursuit of food instead of the pursuit of another gold medal. Hi ZZUB!

We strolled over to Hurricane Hanna’s and grabbed a table beside the walkway to Epcot.

The food at Hurricane Hanna’s is your typical CS meal. It's okay, but nothing to write a trip report about, really. The kids and my husband enjoyed their burgers while I enjoyed my salad.

But what’s not typical about H2 is the experience. There aren’t very many times that you can enjoy a meal with your family while being sandwiched between some of the prettiest scenery around. To the left of us was SAB with its expertly landscaped and aqua blue coolness...

... and to our right lay Crescent Lake, the pirate ship, and the walkway to Epcot.

We sat in between, in our swimsuit cover ups and flip flops. Alternately enjoying both views and our meal together while singing along to Jimmy Buffet’s “Margaritaville” (the ultimate two minute vacation), watching a family of ducks casually making their way between families riding surrey bikes on the walkway, feeling the breeze blow through our hair, looking forward to the rest of our trip, and just downright enjoying the heck out of life.

While enjoying a few of these....

Once we finished eating and tore ourselves away from the relaxed atmosphere along the walkway, we decided to Cupid Shuffle on over and shove our feet in some sand.

We hit the lazy river first and spent a LONG time floating around on our noodles. The ones we’d brought from home that measured roughly one foot in circumference. No wimpy noodles for the LaLas! Go big or go home. Either they spiked the beverage refill station at H2’s or we were Full On Vacation Giddy that day because I don’t remember a time when the four of us have acted so darn….silly. And given absolutely no thought to what we must have looked like to others. Well, not in recent memory anyway. The man was in rare form for his 40th and had all of us rolling with laughter as we floated around the lazy river.

Trying to be lazy. But not succeeding.

Case in point.

It was about this time that I notice a young boy swimming in the middle of the 8 foot section. He wasn’t anywhere near his family, his head was bobbing in and out of the water and he was quietly calling for help. In a barely audible, jagged voice. Probably because of that whole Mama thing, every nerve ending I have came alive and after eyeing him for a second and assessing the situation, I sprang into action. Convinced this kid is drowning and so weak he‘s not able to work up the energy to yell loud enough for his parents to hear, I take off across the pool, make it to him in two strokes, grab his arm and guide him onto my Titanic sized pool noodle. It’s at this point that he dissolves into a fit of laughter and I hear his parents behind me yell, “JEFFREY! STOP PLAYING AROUND AND GET OVER HERE!“ He giggles again and swims off. Like Michael Freakin’ Phelps! Leaving me and my red Baywatch noodle, wide eyed and confused, in his wake.

I believe that children are our future.

Teach them well and let them lead the way.

We eventually made our way around to the other sections of SAB. Our favorites were….well, all of them. But it was especially hard to pull the kids away from Sinking Sands.

The idea of a sand bottomed pool with a mystery hole periodically opening up underneath your feet didn’t necessarily sound like a good time to me, especially after being shell shocked by a fake drowning. But it was very cool.

The water depth is pretty shallow, considering, and the only thing that’s ever really in danger of sinking is your foot because the hole itself seems to only go down about six-eight inches or so. Give or take. Unless you consciously SHOVE your foot further down. Which we did. Cause that’s how we roll. But once that hole opens up, everybody and their brother is clamoring to get their foot in there. And get sunk. Which is lots of fun. If you like playing footsie with strangers. And loving thy neighbor. We spent a long time hanging out there. Again, relaxing and being goofy. I have to admit, I spent MANY afternoons and nights shoving my feet into that sand bottomed pool and wishing I didn’t ever have to leave. Like a kid. It was just the coolest feeling and I now want a sand bottomed pool in my backyard.

Complete with a kick butt water slide.

We had saved the best for last and spent the rest of the afternoon climbing up the cool as all get out pirate ship and sliding our way to happiness.

The view from the top on all sides...

Looking this way at night, you can see the fireworks from the Magic Kingdom lighting up the sky over the resort. I sat here one night just drinking in the sight and trying to memorize it. It was beautiful. And very, very cool.

You can see the top of the Eiffel Tower in the WS off in the distance. Very cool, yet cooler still at night when everything's lit up. You can also see Illuminations at night from this area.

Aside from the waterparks, I have never been on a slide that’s as fast as this one. Good googly GOO, you haul butt on this baby! The initial section of the slide is in an enclosed tube and is kind of dark. And hot. And the rivets smack your butt and elbows on the way down.

Not very cool.

But as you get to the end of that section, you take a little dip then bank to the left and really begin to pick up speed.

Once you’re out in the open, you accelerate even faster as the curves pick up and the drop off looms in the distance, and just as you feel yourself about to flip over, you splash down. Swim over to the side. Feel your toes brush against the sand on the bottom. And jump out, ready to do it all over again.

In a word: OUT-standing!

Normally either I will take the kids on the slide or my husband will take the kids on the slide. While the other one sits on the sideline taking pictures and nursing a smoothie. But since this was a special occasion, we all competed in the Waterslide Olympics as a family. And we could NOT get enough.

After about the third slide, the lifeguard noticed that DH was attempting to make himself go faster by laying down the entire ride. And trying his hardest to splash every ounce of water in the pool into the bushes with his size 11s. He called him over to the side and gave him some tips that would make him go even faster. Basically, you’re supposed to slide on nothing but your feet and shoulders for maximum speed.

“Hold your butt up and don’t let any part of your swim trunks touch the slide“, he says.

On the next go round, my husband took his advice. And just to plus it, he slid on nothing but his heels and head. The man ended up going Mach 3 with his hair on fire. Because he felt the need....the need for speed.

Best we can tell, he landed somewhere around Bermuda and has yet to be heard from since.

It was that fast.

After taking every gold medal ever made, we decided to slow it down a bit. The rest of the afternoon was spent just enjoying the moment. Taking full advantage of all of those minutes we had to spare. The ones I so long for on days like today. We were as far away from school, work, meetings, homework, supper, dishes, laundry, football practice, dance class, school projects, more laundry, more dishes and milkin’ cows as we could be. We were in another world.

Both in body and in mind.

We spent our time relaxing and sipping smoothies while watching our children swim and cut up. Makes my heart happy just remembering it.

But before long, it was time to head back to the room in order to get cleaned up for DH’s birthday dinner. Which is exactly what we did. And in the process, we experienced the Incident that sparked the horrible thought that maybe, just maybe, that newly discovered, deep abiding love we have for the Yacht Club could possibly turn out to be an unrequited love.

And that the bus for Pop Cent'reh would show up at ANY moment to escort us back where we belong.

In other words: we broke 'em in real proper like.

In the way that only my family can.