Sunday, March 20, 2011

We've Moved!

That's right!  We've moved our Trip Reports!

You'll find us now at

All of our current Trip Reports are running there in a more user friendly style.  And, the comment section will allow you to block quote and use emoticons!  It's a great day in America, isn't it?!

We've set it up so that all four of us can run our Trip Reports at once, plus you can read them from the begining in order if you so choose.

This is a soft-opening, so be aware we're still adjusting and updating things.  But the site is fully functioning as we test and adjust.

So head on over there.  The newest chapter of the Battle for my Wallet VII is posted.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

A Cool Day

by LaLa

If someone told me I would die tomorrow, there are two places in this world that I would desperately want to visit one last time. With the people I love the most.

One is the beach. Specifically, the emerald green water/white sugary sand beaches of South Walton. Call me a Redneck all you want, but the Redneck Riviera really is bucket list worthy.

And the other would be Fort Payne, Alabama. The Sock Capital of the World.


I'm kidding. It would be Walt Disney World. Specifically, Epicot.

Our Epicot.

How we feel about that place is well documented. In short, we love it more than a fat kid loves cake and on one particularly hot and muggy day last June, we were pretty doggone excited about the prospect of spending the entire day in the best park around.

The day began like so many other days on that trip. We all got up, grabbed a quick breakfast, and I helped my family get ready for the day. Then my husband and our kids made a beeline to the arcade downstairs to allow me to finish getting ready in peace. It was a win/win situation and those early mornings in the arcade with their dad turned out to be something the kids looked forward to every morning. I didn’t mind the calm that descended on the room the minute the “Could we BE any Louder?!” crew walked out the door either.

Soon enough though, I was craving the craziness once more and we were off for the day.

One thing about this trip: we slowed down the pace a good bit. We would’ve normally been stressing to get to the gates as soon as the park opened. But not on this trip, thanks in part to a little sump’m sump’m called the GAD Fastpass.

Awww yeah.

Because we had enough Fastpass cards for everyone for each of the four parks, we knew we were going to ride all of our favorites. There was no question of that. We may not be able to ride them over and over again. Like Nelly and Tim McGraw. But we were secure in the knowledge that we would be riding what we wanted to ride without any hassle. As long as the ride wasn’t down due to technical difficulties.

Or... Brazilians.

That made our trip SO much more enjoyable. It meant that if the kids wanted to linger in the arcade a little longer in the morning, we could allow them that. Something we never would’ve DREAMED of doing without the knowledge that we were good to go with the rides. If we wanted to enjoy the stroll over from the Yacht Club in the morning and stop to take 1,000 photos of the same thing along the way, we could allow ourselves that. Instead of power walking and stressing each other out. In a race to nowhere.

And that’s just what we did that morning. We enjoyed lingering and took in our surroundings as we made our way over to Epicot via the International Gateway. To yell and scream and laugh and play.

One thing I will never forget is how cool it was to walk through World Showcase with ABSOLUTELY no one around. It doesn’t open until 11, so the place was deserted as we cut through on our way to Future World.

Normally it’s packed as you walk through England, but on this day, we spread out and took up the entire path. Because we could. While our son, with one year of a foreign language elective under his belt, tried to read the guide map to us. The French guide map. He was practicing for his eventual date with a Les Chefs’ dinner menu.

As it turns out, he would need A LOT of practice. Beaucoup. Practice. But more on that later.

We explored Future World, watched the fountain dance, drank free little Cokes from different countries, stood around laughing at newbies experiencing Beverly for the first time (that never gets old) and rode everything we wanted to ride with plenty of time to spare that morning.

Yes, all the Fastpasses for LIVING WITH THE LAND had been given out before lunchtime. Making it an unscorable ride unless you were packin' the GADs. Living with the Land. Who knew it was a stud Fastpass?

The Tron monorail. I was skeptical at first, but it did look pretty cool....

Is it Test Track or is it Living With the Land? Will the doors open in time or will we crash into the wall going 65 mph?! I know I'M scared, are you?

They should definitely put a Test Track spin on Living with the Land the next time they do a refurb there. Because how much fun would a 65 mph boatride through a garden be?

I always take pictures of the same icons each year, so this year I spent a little bit of time looking for random shots around the park, shots that I don't normally take but still capture the feel of a day at Epcot, and I came home with a few that I still like pretty well.

ZZUB has assured me (more or less) that he will provide a prize (this is ZZUB so I'm using that term loosely) for anyone who can correctly identify where this 'P' is located. We'll call it P for a prize. NOFergie.

I’m also pretty sure we ran into Mel and MellyMan. That day. There was some doubt there for a little bit. On my part. But upon closer inspection, I'm now CONVINCED it was them.

No trip to Epcot is complete for our family without a trip to Biergarten. We discovered the place on our first trip back to the World after the honeymoon and we liked it so much that each trip since has included a meal there.

We like to go mainly for lunch. Less chance of being pulled out of the crowd and embarrassed then, so says the man who has yet to make peace with being blindfolded and having knives thrown at his head by a gaggle of clowns. Who speak only through a series of whistles. Other than that, it just always seems like the perfect ’cool down and rest’ break from the hot temps in the park during the day. And it was VERY hot on this day.

Plus nothing gets us pumped up and ready to tackle the second leg of the ole itinerary like a couple of Brats and a mouthful of juicy sauerkraut.

Followed by a BIG WET kiss afterwards.

Okay, I think I even grossed myself out there.

Sauerkraut is some kinda nasty! Just the thought of it makes acid build up in my mouth.

And not in a good way.

We made our way to Germany, got in line to check in at the podium and were oh so pleased to discover the person in line in front of us was trying to nail down a walk up reservation for roughly half the country of Brazil.

She was dressed in Disney CM garb and apparently it was her job to make sure the party she was representing (who apparently had done zero planning) was seated before we were. Her party wasn’t there and had no designs on rushing to be there anytime soon (according to her cell phone conversations) yet we still had to wait for them. For her. Because she was in front of us, and that’s the way the cookie crumbles.

The tour guide (?) CM would talk to the Biergarten people, then call half her people, then talk to the Biergarten people again, then call the other half of her people, then beg the Biergarten people to accomplish the impossible, then assure all of her peeps that she had this. Which all boils down to the fact that we had to wait for ALL of this to go down before we could even check in. Because her problem was apparently so big that it required the attention of all of the Biergarten check in crew.

In all the years we have been going there, we’ve never had to wait longer than just a few minutes for a table. The wait on THIS day was nearly unbearable. The party in front of us all finally sauntered in, looking very uninterested and bored with the whole thing, and they were seated. We were seated soon afterwards. But not before thinking we might be better off just grabbing a couple of Brats and a heaping mound of juicy, stinky sauerkraut from the counter service place nearby and making out in front of everyone. Just to pass the time.

Not a moment too soon, we were escorted to our table and despite the sour mood from the long (did I mention it was HOT that day?) wait, we found ourselves delighted that we scored a spot right beside the dance floor. And very close to the show.

We have been enjoying the show and food at Biergarten for many years. And even though we’ve seen the show plenty of times, we always get just as excited about it each time as we did the first time we saw it. Plus we really LOVE these guys….

They’re awesome, and although we have no idea what their names are and we know nothing about them, we do know that our experience at Biergarten just wouldn’t be as much fun if we didn’t see their faces there each and every year. They pretty much make that show for us.

After another great meal, we decided to head back to the resort and spend some time getting to know Stormalong Bay a little better.

But first, we would get to know Yacht Club’s gift shop a little better.

The girl had a gift card burning a hole in her pocket and begged me to take her to the gift shop on the way to the pool. So she could quench her thirst for overpriced souvenirs. So while the boys headed to SAB, the Girl and I took a detour and checked out the gift shop.

I have been in lots of different Disney gift shops and each one pretty much reflects the mood of the resort in which it’s situated. But I have NEVER felt the least bit awkward in any of them. Until that day.

We’re dressed in our bathing suits, cover ups and flip flops and here we come. We walk in the door and I’m immediately impressed by how pretty it looks there. Very nautical. Very pretty. I’m checking things out and in the process, nearly trip down a small set of steps that I did NOT see. On the way in. Good thing I regained my sense of balance in the nick of time and avoided a wipe out. Can’t imagine being sprawled out in the middle of the floor in my bathing suit in THAT place. Other places, yeah. Been there, done that. Nothing new for me. But that’s the kind of thing that might get you shunned there. Well, that and carrying around four six foot long noodles. While slapping fellow guests in the face with them.

So we walk (stumble) into the joint and the second thing I notice is how QUIET it is in there. It’s more like a library than a gift shop at Disneyworld. I found myself whispering. Quietly. For no good reason. Other than the fact that it just seemed like the thing to do. Whispering and standing up straight. Walking with your nose pointed upwards. Not touching anything. These are the things I felt like I needed to be doing while I was there. I'm not sure why. Maybe it was because we seemed to be the only patrons there at the time, I don't know. But the atmosphere was SO weirdly… quiet.

So the girl whispers and points slowly at what she wants. I nod my approval, because I don’t think I should be talking. We walk in slow motion (Ninja style) to the cashier, pay for our purchases, and I lean in and ask her how to get to the pool from there. In a hushed tone. She answers back. In sign language. Somewhere in the distance, a pin drops. We all slowly turn our gazes toward it and give it the stink eye. Silently. With our minds.

Having paid for our Disney goodies, we turn around to leave (quietly and slowly) and on the way out, I knock over a Mickey shaped dish. It bangs around loudly on its way to the floor, creating such a ruckus that the cashier chases us out of the shop. With her silent stares.

I have a feeling there’s a Polaroid of us still hanging behind the counter to this day.


We finally made it safely to the pool. The lovely, wonderful, vast azure blue piece of paradise otherwise known as SAB.

We caught up with our men, who had already taken Gold in the Waterslide Olympics.

In celebration, we visited Hurricane Hannah’s for some icy cold refreshment and spent the next few hours floating and enjoying the feel of the sand beneath our feet and the coolness of the water on our sun warmed skin.

Despite the stifling June heat, it turned out to be a very cool day indeed.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Battle for my Wallet VII: Lost and Found

Chapter Six: Splash Areas

I was loving me some Tonga Toast. And the whole idea of being in Disney World. It was the first morning of the first day. So all was right in my world. The Toast was particularly Tongaish and the salt of the bacon kept my world balanced.

I assume Mrs. Z and the other Z’s ordered food as well and maybe they were enjoying it. I was focused on the T-Tizzle.

But Little Z wasn’t so perky. Normally, she bounces about, talks a mile a minute. Sings. Laughs. Yet, somewhere in the middle of our meal (who could focus on those kinds of things?) Mrs. Z noticed that Lil Z was looking puny. She asked her if she was ok and Lil Z told her she thought she was going to throw up. So Mrs. Z scooped her up and off they went to the bathroom. I kept eating.  Duh.

After a few minutes, they came back and Mrs. Z held Little Z  and tried to finish her breakfast. I asked her if she’d thrown up and she said she hadn’t. But Lil Z still didn’t feel so nice. The waitress came by and brought her both Ginger Ale and Sprite (which Lil Z calls, “Sprite pop”). Nothing really settled her stomach. She had pulled back from the pit of despair but she was still feeling icky.

We had planned to go swimming that afternoon but with Lil Z feeling puny, we decided to head back to our VIP cleaned room for some nappage. Yes, even me. I was feeling vaguely tired. Carb overload perhaps. We hopped the Monorail and rode back to the CR.

As we rode, I was feeling a little sumpm sumpm.

A little sumpm fierce, if you know what I mean.

But that Monorail was NOT going to EPCOT and I was NOT headed to the Canadian Outpost.

Still, by the time we reached the MK, I knew I had need of some private time. I looked yonder at the CR and hoped we'd make it in time.  No holds for traffic up ahead or any such nonsense.

We got back to the CR and I grabbed the newspaper and spent some quality time alone. Saying goodbye to the food I apparently only rented.

A while passed.

I don’t keep track of time when I’m in there.

But when I came out, Mrs. Z told me that Lil Z had thrown up. Sure enough, she’d spewed into the garbage can. In a burst of irony, I think she actually used the Jiminy Cricket recycle can. Mrs. Z tied the top of the bag and suggested I might should get rid of it. I agreed.

Now then. Where to put it? Obviously, it needn’t be in our room. It needed to be far away.

You know what the CR doesn’t have? Conveniently located garbage cans in the hallways.

I briefly considered putting it on the elevator and sending it to the 11th floor. But I thought better of that idea. However, on another day later in our trip, I did place something in an elevator and send it up. You see there is a rolling table in the CR rooms and one of our neighbors decided (for reasons I’ll never understand) that they didn’t want it in their room. Their room at over 400 square feet is quite capacious, and besides that, the rolling table actually nests under the desk. So it’s not hard to get the table out of your way. No matter, the clueless rubes deemed the table a superfluous piece of furniture and rolled it into the hallway. And left it there. For days. Why should it be in their way when it could be in ours?

After about 3 days of walking around this thing and wondering why they numbskulls in that room rolled it out and why the housekeepers didn’t move it, I finally took matters into my own hands. I pushed it down to the bank of elevators. But I stood across the hall from it.  Like I wasn't there with the table. I pressed the button to call the elevator, but the first one that came had people in it. I waved them on. Second elevator was also occupado. I waved it on too. Third one came and was empty. But it was across the hall and on the opposite end from me. I ran and grabbed the table and then ran like the Tonga Toast out my tush (too much?) to get the table there. The doors started to close just as I got there so I stuck my foot in the door and then the doors retracted. I pushed the table in. Pressed a floor number and then hopped back out. My work was done.

But that was about three days from the afternoon searching for a place to lose the bag o’ puke. Which I properly disposed of. Then back in the room, we all hunkered down for a nice nap. It was cold and dark. Delicious sleeping weather. If I ever take a nap, it’s 15 minutes. But on this first afternoon of the first day, the jet lag caught up with me and I slept for a solid 25 minutes. I awoke refreshed. Everyone else was still sleeping, so I went exploring. I came back about an hour later and by then everyone was ready to get up.

Lil Z was feeling peckish, so we gave her some crackers and I got her some more Sprite Pop. She sat with me on the balcony while I snapped these pictures:

This is unzoomed by the way.  If you're wondering what the view actually looks like.

We had plenty of afternoon left, so we slathered up the sunscreen and headed to the pool. The CR pool isn’t as tropical or as themed as some other Disney pools, but because it’s so big, it almost never feels crowded. Plus it has a pretty sweet slide and a new splash area.

We dropped our stuff off and headed to the splash area. At which point Lil Z announced, “I don’t wanna get splashed!” She wasn’t kidding neither. So Mrs. Z took her to the pool and ZZUBY and I splashed. And had water fights.

These post deals make music. If you hit them on top, they make a tone. And then water squirts out from the ground in front of them. I figured out that if you cover the water hole with your big toe and keep hitting the deal, when you move your toe, the water will shoot sky high. We had our own little Illuminations going on right there.

Then we moved on to the slide. The CR slide is fun. Lots of fun. ZZUBY and I were staging some Water Slide Olympics although the judging was full on rigged. As usual. However, on one of my trial runs, when I came slicing into the water with a very controlled splash, I came up out of the water and this guy standing there said, “nice form.” Which killed me DED. Not since three guys ran out of the Canadian Outpost bathroom complaining about the foul odor in there have I been so proud.

I think I love me some Disney World pool time about as much as anything. It relaxes me to get to unwind. Water slides are just plain fun. And the splash deal was a lot more fun than I thought it would be. But after awhile, we had to go get cleaned up.

We ate dinner at Chef Mickey’s that night. I do so love coming down the elevator, getting off on the fourth floor and walking over to that place. Our food was every bit as good as we remembered it being. The only negative was the kitchen doors were behind us so they're in almost every picture. I would have been annoyed by that if it was our only trip to Disney World. But it isn’t so I wasn’t.

What was this guy thinking?!

I did notice that the dessert selection seemed diminished. They didn’t have as many choices as they’d had in years past. Oh, it wasn’t like they were only serving graham crackers and grape jelly (NOGrandma), but there was noticeably less on the dessert buffet. While I was standing there giving it the once over, the “chef” came out to put out a plate of something. There was a girl standing nearby. And the “chef” goes all Brett Favre on her. He walked her all around the dessert table showing her what he liked and what he thought she’d like.  He was full on hitting on her. And like so many girls I knew back in the day, she was completely oblivious to it. She was this close to telling him he was like a brother to her.

Not that that ever happened to me.

Chef Cheese Dog made a big fuss about the chocolate bread pudding. Told her it was his favorite. “Best thing he ever put in [his] mouth.” Yes, he did say that. It was THAT kind of, how do you say, creepy dee.

Nevertheless, I thought, “hmmm, I like chocolate. I like ‘Ohana’s bread pudding. This might be something.” I fixed me some and headed back to my table.

Where I was promptly disappointed.

It sucked. Primeval Whirl sucked. Waiting 45 minutes in the standby line only to find out the ride broke down sucked. Cramming in the Monorail at the end of a long sweaty night in the MK sucked. The long switchback ramp up to the EPCOT Monorail station after a hot night watching Illuminations sucked. Going up 24-0 on Auburn and then watching them roar back to beat you at home sucked. Being Miley Cyrus’ dad sucked. Being the person who had to tell Michelle Obama that “yes, that dress makes your butt look big,” sucked. Waiting more than 20 minutes for a Disney bus sucked. Trying to sell encyclopedias to the Palins sucked.

Before we finished up, I paid a visit downstairs. Because I’m very traditional. And also because I drank 8 glasses of tea.

And then we were off to the MK. We headed first to Jungle Cruise. It was dusk, which is a cool time of day to ride the JC. Our skipper was silly and his timing was pretty good.

Then we hit Pirates. From there, we headed over to Splash Mountain. I made my usual deal with ZZUBY, she couldn’t ask for the front and I wouldn’t refuse it. Dangit if that girl don’t have all kinds of front row luck! She was full on giddy to be in the front again. And man oh man did we get wet. The nice people behind us kept saying, “oh my! You really took it that time, didn’t you?” And the wetter we got, the more ZZUBY loved it. So yeah, it was worth it.

We finished up at Splash and tried to dry off in the bathrooms. Then we met up with Mrs. Z and Lil Z and crossed the park to Tomorrowland. Squishing as we walked. My shorts stuck to my legs. Not a nice feeling, I’m here to tell you. Not a nice feeling at all.

We got up to Space Mt. and the line was pretty long. Fortunately, we had our FPs from the morning. We got in the FP line and moved quickly up to the control tower section. And right as we got there, the CM closed off the side they were sending the FP people to. She sent us to the other side. What looked like the standby side.

This was our first time in Space Mt since they redid it. I was confused by what had happened. And I thought we were getting the screwgie. Our side was inching along. And then we came around the corner and it was jammed full in the massive switch backs.

I was ready to go all ZZUB on someone. I haven’t seen them use the switchbacks in there since I was a kid. Now it was more crowded than the Wisconsin Capitol building. And it smelled just as rank. (NOandfile). I was about to tell ZZUBY to hang right there while I went to find a CM to ask why we had been sent to the standby section. I was running the words through my head when I suddenly realized that we weren’t stuck in the massive switchback. There was a separate queue next to it for FP. Our lane moved right up to board the rocket ships.

Crisis averted.

I had completely misunderstood what was going on. If only the Wisconsin insaniacs would reach the same conclusion.

After our rocket trip through space, we met up with Mrs. Z and Lil Z who had just ridden Goofy’s barnstormer. Lil Z said, “Dad! It was so much fun!!! You go up, up, up and then you go like this and then you go down, down, down!” Her little chubby hands gesturing to show me how they went up, went around and then down again. She talked about that for several days. Indeed, I got her on video a few days later during lunch telling the story again.

We started making our way towards Mainstreet. It was the first night of the first day. A great day in the MK. We’d gotten to ride all our favorites. Revisited so many old friends. Fulfilled the plans we dreamt of on so many drives, during so many dinners and so many spare moments together. About the last thing left for the day was to watch the Summer Nightastic Fireworks. My girls and I had watched them a time or three on Youtube and couldn’t wait to see them in person.

The MSEP was running down the street about the time we got there, so we found a spot in front of the bakery and watched it pass by, content to see it over the heads of other people. As soon as it was done, we moved to the street to wait for the new fireworks show. Oddly enough, I was feeling hungry. The smell of Casey’s lured me in like Bernie Madoff’s promises of unbridled wealth. The thing about Casey’s is this: the smell is better than the taste.

Oh it tasted good enough, but it smelled better is all I’m saying.

Soon enough, they were dimming the lights and the fireworks began. It was hot and Mainstreet was crowded. I’ll never understand people with their cellphone cameras trying to take pictures of fireworks. I want to shout at them, “Your pictures are gonna suck! Save your efforts and just enjoy the show.” I don’t say it of course. I just wonder when they’ll learn.

No matter the annoying dumb people. Or the soggy taste of the crummy whole wheat bun. Or my damp shorts. Or my sticky shirt. Or the warm night. Or the crowds.

On that night, in that moment, I was exactly where I wanted to be. Where I’d give anything to be right now.

It was that kind of night. Where it didn’t have to be perfect to be great.

Because it was great. Even with wet socks.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Battle for my Wallet VII: Lost and Found

Chapter Five: Am I Even Here?

The interesting thing about Disney World is how you can be gone for a year, or in our case two, come back and feel like you never left. Things change, you get older, construction walls go up, you get new running shoes, a ride gets a new old name, your kids get older and still, it’s all so very familiar.

Right down to the idiots who are standing in line behind you.

I’m looking right at you, Sandy Solo-toes.

I’ve got nothing against people who choose to vacation in Disney World by themselves. To each her own, right? It’s not illegal or immoral or even un-Biblical, so I say, “have a time.”

Just don’t try to cut in front of me.

It occurs to me that Dumbo is the scene of a LOT of this kind of nincompoopery. I don’t know why. This wasn’t the first time we encountered the demonstrably idiotic. NOWisconsinpublicemployees. Sadly, I don’t reckon it’ll be the last either.

I moved our stroller over to the Dumbo area while Mrs. Z and ZZUBY got in line. Lil Z and I walked up to join them. I spotted her as we walked up. Sandy Solo-toes. You couldn’t miss her. The wide-bodied pasty white legs. The tucked in white t-shirt. The pin lanyard. The superfluous cuffs in her denim shorts. The cocky way she had her foot turned sideways like she was 13. When it was clear to everyone that she was decades away from 13. The sour puss which screamed out, “I’m alone and I’m mad about it!”

Seriously, you could hear her face.

She was, after all, a woman alone. In line. For Dumbo.

I swear I’ve written this all before. Can someone be so kind to read back through the previous Battles for my Wallet and tell me how many times we’ve had this happen?

Sandy Solo-toes saw me coming with Lil Z to join the other Zs and I swear she moved her corpulent back side to block us. And then looked away as if she was suddenly so interested in what? The bird poop on the ground. I suppose that would pass for interesting if I was the kind of person who stood in line. Alone. For Dumbo.

No matter. It was early in the day and early in our trip and ZZUB was still filled with mirth and good cheer. I offered her a cherry Pop Tart to move her Ruebenesque body aside so we could join the rest of our family.

I’m just kidding of course.

I’d never give up a cherry Pop Tart.

Not even if Rush Limbaugh was standing in line in front of me.

Speaking of porcine. That brother could use a week or three eating only celery, couldn't he?

I said, “excuse me,” to Sandy Solo-toes as we squeezed past her to join Mrs. Z. I don’t recall whether she responded. She acquiesced. Kind of. But she hovered on us like Jessie Jackson on a TV camera. Lil Z and I were now standing in front of Mrs. Z, so Sandy Solo-toes was right behind Mrs. Z. And by right behind, I mean clinging to her like a dryer sheet.

If Mrs. Z was the kind of person who stored up gas in the chamber and if Mrs. Z was the kind of person who unleashed the power, she could have knocked Sandy back with one good hot dog fart.

As we moved along, there’s a bit of a turn in the queue and as we got to it, Sandy Solo-toes tried to squeeze past us!

What on earth?!!

It’s Dumbo!!!!!


Although it was early in the day and early in our trip and even though I was still filled with mirth, I said in a big voice to Mrs. Z, “HONEY, STAY CLOSE TO US. THAT WOMAN IS TRYING TO SHARK YOU.”

Oh yes I did. Mrs. Z is southern so she’s more polite. She said, “ZZUB! She could hear you.” To which I said, “I said that so she could hear me.”

Sandy Solo-toes stayed back after that.

Which was the smartest thing she'd done since she poured herself into those sassy denim shorts.  With the cuffs.

After Dumbo, Lil Z asked if we could ride the carousel. I have no beef with the carousel per se, only that during a morning EMH, it seems foolish to waste time on it. And in trying to keep moving, I committed a MAJOR gaffe. What is now known as the Carousel Mistake. I told her, “we’ll ride it later.”  As we soon discovered, was that she and I had different understandings of the word, "later." I meant LATER, like that day, or even that week. She thought later meant, "right now?" 

First she started to cry.

But we headed to Pooh. The ride, not the bathroom experience. That’ll come later. I assure you.

They were doing some work on the Pooh queue but the ride was the same. I don’t hate Pooh. It’s actually grown on me. I used to hate it. But now I find it strangely endearing. I think it’s the scene with the cake.

From Pooh, we headed over to Tomorrowland and Buzz Lightyear. Since the year it opened, Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin has been one of my favorite rides. However, it’s one of the few rides duplicated in Disneyland where I think they got the better version. When we were in DL last summer, we rode Buzz Lightyear’s Astroblasters almost as many times as Small World. But no matter, I still love me some Buzz Lightyear SRS. But as it turns out, I was off my game this first go round. I ended up just a cadetsomethingornuther.

After BL, we grabbed some water from the Launching Pad where absolutely nothing funny happened. Actually, while Mrs. Z was grabbing water, I walked over to Space Mt to grab some fastpasses for later usage. And then we rode the PeopleMover. I’m glad they finally changed the name, but honestly, they have sucked almost all of the funny out of this ride. I know it’s never been about the narration. But the narration used to be funny. Now it’s stupid. Not killing 130 year old oak trees stupid. Or holding a rally because 130 year old oak trees are dying stupid. And not even throwing toilet paper in 130 year old oak trees stupid.

It was more like accusing the press secretary of being out of the loop because she was undergoing another one of her wardrobe changes stupid.

As is usually the case, the ZZUBs made their own fun. When the PM gets to Space Mt. It’s dark. Insanely dark. So dark you can’t see no nothing dark. So of course we were screaming.

“Oh my gosh!!! It’s soooooo dark!!!!!!”

“I can’t see anything!!!”

“Mommy, are you still there? I can’t see you!!!”

“Am I still here? I can’t see myself!!!!”

After Peeps, we went to ride Pups. As in the Puppies of Progress. And once again, we’ve convinced one of our children that the dog is looking at her. That joke will never get old. 

Neither will Barack Obama's capacity to distort the truth.  Apparently.

I love the Puppies of Progress. Really enjoy the ride. But there’s something about that place that puts me to sleep. No lie. It’s some kind of weird Pavlovian thing. Or it just happens that it’s cool in there and I’m tired every time we ride it.

So after the Pups, we strollered up and headed towards the front of the park. We had a date with some Tonga Toast. We were headed from Tomorrowland towards the hub.

And then the Carousel Mistake was realized. You see, Lil ZZUB thought it had been long enough. It was later in her little mind and Lil ZZUB wasn’t waiting any longer. I looked at my watch and listened to her cry and looked at my watch and listened to her tears and decided there was a decent chance Kona wouldn’t give our table away if we were 10 minutes late. Once at the hub, instead of jogging left, we hung a right to head back to Fantasyland. There’s a walkway behind the castle and we headed that direction when I realized we never go that way and here was a view of the castle we don’t normally see. I passed off the stroller to Mrs. Z and I grabbed my camera for this picture:

Where you can clearly see a woman picking her nose.

I love me some Disney World.

We made it to the carousel and Lil Z got her ride on.

And then we strollered back up for the Disney pace to the Monorail station. We made it to Kona about 5 minutes after our reservation and no one seemed to mind.

But now I was full on hungry. Like Sarah Palin for attention.

I opened the menu and scanned the breakfast offerings. But I didn’t see what I was looking for. NOU2.

I looked again. And again. I could feel anger rising up inside me. “Danged Disney! Danged food police!!! Now they’ve taken Tonga Toast away, too?!” I closed my menu and wondered why we were even there. The waitress came to get our drink order and with full dejection I asked, “what happened to the Tonga Toast?”

“Nothing,” she said, looking at me as if I was dumb enough to pay rack rate.

“I can’t find it on the menu anywhere,” I replied.

She opened my menu and pointed at the top. Where if it was any more obvious it would be Michelle Obama’s butt.

I quite literally heaved a sigh of relief.

The Tonga Toast was every bit as fantastic as it always is. And for the most part breakfast was enjoyable.

But there was a dark cloud looming over the ZZUB’s otherwise cheery breakfast. Something wicked was headed our way.  Something which would alter our plans for the rest of the day.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

In Harm's Way

by Great Biscuit

Perhaps of all the vacation plans that a person can make, none are quite so foreboding as planning a trip to visit your Mother-In-law. Such was the second journey along I-35 that we embarked upon this past summer. My wife grew up in the Twin Cities. (That’s Minneapolis / Saint Paul for those of you who pay rack rate at Disney.) Her parents still live in those parts as does her sister’s family.

For those of you who did not suffer through my Disney TR, my wife is an identical twin. And no, she’s NEVER heard the Minnesota Twins joke so be sure you’re the first to point it out to her.

I’ll be standing at a distance.

For the sake of clarity, I have endeavored to come up with some sort of a standardized naming convention for the cast of this segment, as this particular forum lends itself to maintaining a certain degree of anonymity. While I considered nicknames, it seemed a bit cliché. Plus there is the fact that some of you who are familiar with prior writings know the cast by their given names already and thus might wind up in a land of confusion; which is apparently where this tangent has currently wandered. Thus, I will stick with the generally accepted abbreviations of FIL, MIL, SIL & BIL. (Father, Mother, Sister, Brother-In-Law respectively. Okay don’t get technical with me people. I know that if we are to follow the true letter of In-Law legality, BIL is my wife’s Brother In-Law and my “Sister-In-Law’s husband”, but I ain’t writing SILH as that’s just hokey. Besides as the Word says, “the two shall become one”, therefore, I fell scripturally cleared to claim my wife’s relational status for myself as well.) If you are of the type that has an aversion to abbreviations, then by all means feel free to interpret them as Phil, Millie, Sally and Bill. Because here at Zzubworld, it’s all about you the reader.

It occurs to me that the preceding paragraph was an entirely meaningless waste of time.

For this particular jaunt up I-35, we elected to take to the skies. This was for two reasons. One, I did not particularly wish to undertake a 21 hour drive. Two, I was returning home a week earlier than First Lady Biscuit and the girls and it’s a bit of a trip to come back and pick ‘em up.

We flew out of DFW, as Texans are wont to do, and winged our way north. I do not recall an abundance of detail concerning the flight, though I distinctly remember stopping in the airport before we boarded to partake of an Auntie Anne’s pretzel. What possible relevance that might have to our current tale eludes me. All I know is that we did eventually arrive at MIL’s house and headed to the basement. We got the girls settled into the family room where they would lay claim to the pull out couch while First Lady Biscuit and I took up residence in the guest room.

Rather than provide you with a blow by blow of our entire trip, and send up food porn of my MIL’s meat loaf, I thought perhaps a different tactic might be appreciated. Instead, I will offer up reviews of some of the attractions that we took in while in Minnesota which might be of interest to those considering a trip up that way. These will include Como Park Zoo, The Minnesota Children’s Museum, The Minnesota Science Museum, and The Mall of America. I’ll also include a few things that happened along the way, including one that will be in true spirit of Zzub.

And in the spirit of recent postings, (namely a lengthy intro combined with very little actual trip happenings and concluding with promise of things to come,) I think I’ll shift gears now and take this posting in an entirely different direction.

It seems to me that this would be an appropriate to begin the pre-trip writings for our 2012 return to The World.

This may seem a bit absurd to some, given the time frame we're dealing with. Indeed it does seem odd to be thinking that far ahead, even to myself; particularly given the fact that I’m not a frequent PTR fan. Yet I do have a reason for jumping into this vortex at the present juncture. That reason being? We are going to WDW with my BIL & SIL and their two girls. That’s right, we had such a great time in ’09 when my parents came with us that we are once again making our trip a family affair.

What’s more, we are actually looking forward to it.

As this particular portion of my I-35 TR will show, our two families love spending time together. People often mistake my BIL and me for brothers. We are both from Texas, have a similar look, have similar interests, both work as media techs at our churches, and we have similar personalities. In short, he tops of the list of folks whom I’d not only tolerate touring with, but actually enjoy the experience. And of course the lady folk, being twins and all that, are like two peas in a pod. Well, I guess technically they one point.


BIL and SIL honeymooned at The World in 2002 and I helped them plan their trip. (I’m happy to report that it turned out much better than my own doomed post-nuptial excursion.) They stayed at All Star Music and spent five very enjoyable days soaking up the Did’ney. They have wanted to go back since, but have not been able to work it out. In 2012, their two daughters are going to be the same ages our two were when we went. All four of them are already excited about it and want to discuss it often.

As one might imagine, we have not yet booked and are currently in the resort selection phase. I want us to be settled on a resort, trip date and trip length by the time they come to our house this summer. With 2012 being the 40th anniversary of the Magic Kingdom, the new Fantasyland expansion and the opening of The Art of Animation Resort, we need to book early.

As such, I am currently deep in the throws of Power Point creation. It’s pretty well a foregone conclusion by this point that Deluxe is out as an option for the entirety of the trip, however it may be held in reserve as a final fling for our last couple of nights. So now it’s down to picking which category (Value or Mod) and which property. I am creating lists of pros and cons, doing my best to approximate a cost breakdown (based on current pricing and offers), pulling together a TON of photos, and am really trying not to push my vote by the way I present the material. (Objectivity can be a bear.)

And of course there is the inevitable question of time. How long should we stay? How long can we stay? Their crew is looking at around 5-7 days, Biscuit and company are looking at 8-10 days.

How that all reconciles remains to be seen.

All I know is that I’m looking forward to it.

I need it.

Between my job at the call center, working at the church, and freelancing as an IT tech for my aunt’s company, I feel like life is a constant blur of deadlines.

This is a ride I can’t wait to take and it’s a ride I look forward to sharing here.

In the meantime, I pray that God may bless each of you. Have a great Valentines Day and know that you are all loved.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Bein' All Laid Back

by NicoleMarie

I’m pretty sure it takes a great amount of skill to be as slack about this trip report as I’ve been. As always, after the first few installments, the real world comes storming into the picture – busier than ever and determined to derail my efforts to finish this trip report.

But I am back in the conductor’s seat, blowing the whistle and rollin’ full force down the track.

For today, anyway.

Because it’s a nasty, rainy Monday morning in Macon, Georgia.

And what else to do I have to do but sit at my computer and write about a hot summer vacation in Walt Disney World?

Don’t answer that. Especially if you’re my husband.

So as has become custom when the trip report installments are about two months apart, let me get you up to speed.

We’ve driven down to Orlando without a clue as to where we’ll stay on the first night of the vacay. We ended up choosing the Hilton at Bonnet Creek and loved it. The next morning, we rolled into WDW and went directly to the IG gateway entrance at Epcot, where I met my smokin’ hot friend, LaLa, and her family, for the first time. It was a trip highlight FO SHO. After meeting the LaLas and gettin’ our inagural ride on Soarin’, we drove over to Kidani Village and checked into our 2BR villa. We “oohed” and “aahed” just like a redneck family from Macon, Georgia should. We took in Illuminations that night, said goodbye to ToonTown in MK the next day, and in my last installment, I told you about how the NMs prepared for summer by participating in the Disney Give A Day program.


Now you’re up to speed.

And where do we go from here? The topic for today is “Bein’ All Laid Back”. At Disney World. Even though there’s so much to do with four parks and two water parks and putt putt golf and resorts to explore and Downtown Disney and you could never do it all despite the fact that you’re there for ten days and eleven nights so you want to stay moving the whole time so you can get everything in.

Take a breath. Yes, that was meant to be a run-on sentence.

Because much like that sentence had no commas or semi-colons, or anything else that means “slow down a minute”, neither have most of our prior Disney vacations. And you know what? We TOTALLY wanted it to be that way. That’s how we roll. That’s what the NMs like. A fun vacation with lots to do.

But when you have 50 years worth of DVC points in your future, something just all of a sudden feels different about your Disney trip. You kinda get a “if we don’t see it this time, we’ll see it next time” mentality. Because you know there's a next time, (Lord willing) and it’s coming soon. So the next thing you know, sleeping in and missing a rope drop, or renting bicycles at Ft. Wilderness, or bailing on the evening plans for a night in the villa and a “free” movie from the DVC movie library, sounds as much fun as stockpiling FastPasses and dining with characters and standing with the crowds to watch Illuminations.

OK. I lie.

There is NEVER a time that riding a bike or sleeping or watching a movie will be better than watching Illuminations.

But you get the point.

We had been in the World for only a day and a half when we came upon our first “no plan” day in the itinerary. The first opportunity to “be all laid back.” And just like a typical NM, my DH woke up, brought me some coffee from Jahori Treasures, and immediately asked, “What’s the plan for the day?”

Dangit! We’ve failed at being laid back already, and it’s not even 8 o’clock!

Hmmmmm…that’s a great question. What IS the plan? That question becomes a little hard to answer when the goal is NOT to have a plan. But as we always do, we had several things in our back pocket that we wanted to try. We wanted to do some resort exploring – particularly the food courts because we’re rednecks like that. We wanted to rent bikes and ride around somewhere. We wanted to rent some boats. The possibilities are endless outside of the parks, but still within the Arches. (God forbid a million times we travel outside the Arches.)

So while the kids lazied around in their bedroom - watching TV, playing on their electronics and generally enjoying the fact that they weren’t being told to be dressed and out the door in record time – I logged onto my free internet connection and did some Disney research.

I love doing Disney research ANYTIME. But usually when I research a Disney vacation, I’m sitting at home, sipping coffee from a Disney mug, and wishing I was in the World.

Not today, my friends. Not today.

Today I was logged on from my villa at Kidani Village, and whatever activity my research led us to, was going to happen within hours. It was a dadgum good way to start the day.

Several possibilities were tossed around as we hung out, sipped coffee, watched TV, and I read my research aloud to anyone who would listen. But riding bikes at Ft. Wilderness was deemed the favorite option.

And thus, the plan for the day was born.

We would get dressed, take our car to one of the moderate resorts to try out the food court, (again she waves the redneck flag!) and after lunch, we’d drive over to Ft. Wilderness to rent some bikes.

Did we enjoy it? Did we feel like we’d missed out on the park action by taking a day off? Or did that set the tone for the rest of the vacation, and prove to us that we’d FINALLY entered a new phase in Disney vacations?

Stay tuned. Details at 11…

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Reminiscing and Recalling: the Other R&R

By: LaLa

It always happens this time of year.

No, not that.

The other thing.

With Christmas behind us and the new year (not to mention our first prolonged bout of cold weather) in full swing, our thoughts always seem to turn toward vacation.

Warm, sunny, happy Disney vacations. To be precise.

For some reason it hits me right about this time each year and I find myself longing for a getaway. Longing to dig in and plan a getaway. But even though it’s a new year, we are still the same ole LaLas and DH has declared (again) WITHOUT A DOUBT that we will be taking a break from Disney this year. Not like a Ross and Rachel break, a real one. As he has done for the last five or so years. So as of this date, there is no trip to plan. No little getaway of which to dream. No possibility of a warm, sunny happy Disney vacation for 2011.

I haven’t pulled out my little bag of tricks yet either though, so … know. There’s always hope. I’ll keep you updated on that.

Well, kind of.

Because I can’t tell you EVERYTHING that goes on in our home.







So for now, reminiscing and recalling will have to take the place of planning and dreaming. And as I recall one particular day in June (when last I left you), we had experienced a pretty cool time trying out our GAD Fastpasses and were ready to wind things down for the afternoon.

After spending a full day in the parks and getting cleaned up in our room (at THE YACHT CLUB, baby!), we headed out front to hop in our ride and move it on over to Chef Mickey’s for dinner.

We made the short trek over to the Contemporary and valet parked the ole van.

As Mr. LaLa handed over the valet key (because nothing says, ‘I don‘t trust you as far as I can throw you, Mr. Valet Man!‘ like handing over the valet key instead of the real one), I could’ve sworn I heard someone yell behind (and in front of) our backs, “HEY! THOSE ARE THE PORTA-POTTY PEOPLE…. REMEMBER?!”

Maybe they didn’t.

But I could tell….they were thinking it.

Despite the hushed whispers and stolen looks of recognition, we made like Jay Z and brushed our shoulders off and then busted on up in the joint. Laughing, sharing, bonding, looking forward to our meal and just having a good ole time.

Until we saw THIS line…..

…and came to a SCREECHING halt. Mid laugh.


In all the years that we’ve been going to Disney and eating at Chef Mickey’s, I have never, ever seen a line that long there. I’ve never seen a line that long at any of the restaurants. Keep in mind this is just the line to CHECK IN at the podium. Not the line to wait for a table. That was a completely different matter. From the looks of it by the time it was our turn to get our hands on the Buzzer of Love, Brett Favre would actually be retired (this time) and ZZUB’s ducks would’ve already stopped rolling.

So I did what any Mama with hungry children and an impatient husband would do: I pushed my way to the front of the line, stepping on babies and kicking over the weak, meek and the elderly in the process and then flashed my GAD Fastpass Exchange Card and a smile.

That got me exactly nowhere.

Well, it wouldn’t have. If I’d actually done it. It took place more in my mind than…you know, anywhere else. Like reality.

I was tempted though. Because I’d already witnessed the power of the GAD Fastpass at work, and I was NOT afraid to use that puppy. But for some insane reason, there is no actual Fastpass line in Disney’s restaurants. Yet. Chili’s and Outback, yes. Only it’s known as “Call Ahead Seating” and it brings me almost as much joy to pass up 20 suckers trying to share one long upholstered bench as it does to pass up a line of suckers waiting in the Stand By line at any one of our favorite Disney rides.

But there was no Call Ahead Seating and no Fastpass for this line. I don’t remember how long we actually waited, but it was a pretty significant amount of time. Long enough for all of us to be starving by the time we were finally seated. We hit the buffet and loaded up in record time and just as we did, the characters started their parade.

Before we left on our trip, I got a wild hair one night and decided to completely geek out this trip with the Mickey tie dyed t-shirts. I’d never made them before and was dealing with dye that doesn’t camouflage mistakes very well, so there was a slight learning curve. But the kids and I had a heckuvalot of fun making them and I thought they turned out pretty cute. Despite us being first timers.

We didn’t wear them around at the parks though, we carried them around. In the over packed backpack. You see, the shirts were to be the new autograph books, which have been done to death in our house. I was looking for a new idea and tie dyed shirts in lieu of books seemed to fit the bill just fine.

So as we juggled plates of food and the over packed bag and the camera and the camcorder with the characters starting their rounds, I scrambled to pull the Mickey tie dyed shirts out and position them on the table so the characters could sign them (with fabric markers) as they came around. It wasn’t the easiest thing in the world, you had to position them just so and kind of pull the fabric tight so it wouldn’t bunch up under the marker as they were signing.

But the reaction from the characters was priceless.

Mickey flat out LOVED seeing his likeness in the middle of the tee and made a big fat honkin’ deal over it to the kids, drawing the famous shape of his head in mid air and fake laughing. And poking fun at the other characters who had already signed it. Behind their backs. Donald was jealous of Mickey's head being the centerpiece and took the saying, "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all' to a whole new level. Minnie made sure to sign beside Mickey and to let us know how dreamy she thought he was. With her body language.

Well, either that or she was feeling gassy from the Parmesan Mashed Potatoes.

Either way, the kids loved the show the characters put on and the effort put forth to make the shirts was completely worth it once we’d gotten them signed.

They turned out really cute with all the signatures on them and unlike the autograph books, it’s something they can actually get some use out of.

Well, the girl can at least. She wears her shirt a good bit. The boy’s too cool to be bothered by things of that nature. In the real world. So not cool. But in Disney, he was totally digging it. Funny how the preteen ‘too cool for that’ mindset completely disappears when they step foot on Disney property. It’s the darndest thing. You know how Pal Mickey responds to high tech sensors placed at different locations around the parks? I swear, I think Pal Mickey was Disney’s lab rat. Pardon the pun. I think they’ve taken that technology one step further and figured out a way to place sensors on property which turn off all the negative stuff going around in our heads while we’re there.

Well, not ALL of it. Have you met my friends the Brazilians? But the majority of it. At least as it relates to what our kids deem cool or lame in their everyday lives.

Off property, it’s “I’m 12, I’m a prenager….as if I would EVER wear a shirt with Mickey Mouse on it, My little sister stinks it up, I know you weren’t actually trying to HOLD MY HAND were you Mom?! I do have a reputation, you know…d‘you ever think about that?“

On property, it’s “Remember when I was five and we rode this together for the first time? That was the best day ever, Hey, where’s MY tie dyed Mickey shirt?!, I love my little sister so much, I love you Mom and Dad, Thank yall for being such great parents and bringing us here, I love my family, My life ROCKS!”

And that’s just my husband. The effect it has on the kids, well, that’s truly a thing of beauty.

But I digress.

After another great meal at CM’s, we hopped on the monorail and shimmied on over to the Magic Kingdom to give our GAD Fastpass cards another quick workout (I actually BEAT MY SMACK TALKING HUSBAND AT BUZZ LIGHTYEAR FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER!) and to check out the “new” old parade.

For months leading up to the trip, I’d read how Disney was bringing back the Main Street Electrical Parade. Had I had any sentimental attachment to the parade, I suppose I would’ve been pumped about it. I can see people being really excited about that, if it was a part of their Disney memories from once upon a time.

But we started going to Disney regularly after that parade had been retired so to us, Spectromagic is the be all and end all of nighttime parades. Everything about it: the music, the floats, the characters and their choreography, all bring back a flood of memories for me and my husband. And our children. King Triton passes by and I see our little girl, five years old at the time, taking a break from her desert and blowing him sticky kisses from our perch on the porch at Tony’s Town Square. I hear her call out the names of each of the characters at the top of her lungs as they pass by and I feel that ‘arrival night in Disney’ excitement as I hear the opening lines to the parade music. It is THIS parade that my babies have grown up watching. It is THIS parade that so many of our Disney memories are tied to, and I admit I was a little disappointed that it was being replaced by one that we were not at all familiar with.

But on the flip side, it was something new and different. And new and different can sometimes be great. So after grabbing a couple of rides with no wait whatsoever (and beating my husband at Buzz Lightyear for the first time ever….did I mention that already?), we grabbed some snacks and some curb and gave it a go.

Hello weird little boy. Whatcha doin' sittin' up there on that dragon?

It was interesting, and surprisingly, I liked the music. Kind of. Only because it was different. And catchy. But the whole time, I was half expecting Herbie Hancock to come along and break out “Rock It”.

Dude. So old school synthesizer.

The girl liked the “new” parade, but only because of the bald eagle. According to her exit interview. The boy thought it “pretty much stunk“, comparatively. And my husband counted down the minutes until it was all over and he and his little family were all tucked safely into the most comfortable beds ever.

At the Yacht Club.

I thought it was just okay. Of course, if I’m being fair I have to say that those impressions of the parade were completely separate from how we felt about the END of the parade.

When we saw this little sweetheart coming down the way, we started hoopin’ and hollerin’ like the Rednecks that we are.

We are patriots to the core and both my husband and I think our military men and women should be honored for their sacrifices much more than they are. And once we saw that float, we couldn’t help but love it. Couldn’t help but forgive them for the slightly creepy Pete the Dragon float and spiel. Because we LaLas love us a military salute. Especially in our favorite place in the world, and especially when it involves roughly 3 million Christmas lights and a moving vehicle. That’s just coolness personified, whether you’re on property and feeling the effect of the Disney ‘everything is great’ sensors or not.

After the parade was over, we stumbled upon a ‘new to us’ snack stand and my husband discovered and fell in love with a ‘new to him’ raspberry lemonade slush. The kids also enjoyed their orange slushes. Not to be confused with orange lushes.


We finished off the night with a proper dose of Wishes….

…and then made our way back to our resort to discover the Chocolate Fairy had come along and placed little chocolates on our pillows.

Nothing says ‘vacation’ like coming in to a cold, darkened room to find your covers turned back and little bitty gold wrapped chocolates set out neatly for your culinary pleasure. There is no better way to end a full day. And even though that night is far removed from us now and exists only in our memories, by reliving it here, it’s exactly how THIS night is ending as well.

Only….there will be Goobers on our pillows tonight, instead of them fancy Yacht Club chocolates.

Because sometimes, you just gotta work whatcha got.

Monday, January 10, 2011


We're all Oregon fans now!  If Bama can't beat the best QB money can buy, hopefully the Pac 10 Champs can.

Is anyone going to update this blog soon with a new chapter of their Trip Report or is this place going to become as stale as the rolls I was served at the Parker House Omni two summers ago?

Shouldn't NM have been by with a weather report by now?