Sunday, October 19, 2014

{Disney} Day 2 - 'Ohana Breakfast

'Ohana is a table service restaurant located at Disney's Polynesian Resort.  Breakfast is a character meal with the food served family style, all you can eat.  This means that a platter of food are brought to your table and replenished as necessary. Booking a meal here seemed like a no-brainer seeing as we were staying at the Polynesian and the girls love character meals.  The popularity of this restaurant was evident when I tried to make my ADR.  The only time I could find was 7:50 in the morning.  I searched other days and there was no availability.  I had considered a dinner ADR but couldn't find one.

We arrived to check in right on time and had to wait approximately 10 minutes to be seated.  Rich had run back to the room to grab the forgotten video camera and I was afraid that they wouldn't seat us without him there, as this is the case with some other (Disney) restaurants.  We were seated without issue at a table in the far right corner, against the windows.  Other reviews that I had read prior to our trip stated that (fake) leis were handed out prior to being seated.  That turns out to not be the case any longer.  We were given (fake) leis when we checked into the resort and Allie and Emily had worn theirs to breakfast.  One of them pointed out that no one else in the restaurant was wearing one.

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The character line up includes Lilo, Stitch and "friends."  Their friends on this day were Mickey and Pluto.

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When Lilo spotted herself on the girls' tops, she pointed and jumped up and down.  She was also very excited to see her own page in the girls' autograph books.  (Grammy had made the girls customized autograph books through Snapfish.  Unfortunately, while they looked awesome, the binding fell apart after a few days.)  

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Stitch was very entertaining, especially when he spotted his page in their autograph books.

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Breakfast starts off with breads (pineapple, cinnamon raison, etc), fruity juice (guava blended with some other fruits, it was delicious) and a beverage of your choice.  My choice was diet coke.  The platter contained scrambled eggs, potatoes, sausage, bacon and biscuits. The Mickey waffles were brought out after and added to the platter.  Maybe to keep them from getting soggy.  They tasted fresh.

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Positives:
  • Fun characters 
  • We were not rushed at all when the characters were at our table
  • Food served quickly, good service
  • Yummy
Negatives:
  • Well, there's only one negative and it's really not a biggie.  The restaurant itself was really dark.  We were sitting in the corner with windows on two sides of us and I still needed to use my Speedlight.  

Our server pointed out our wonderful view.  Of the construction.  If we should like to look at that sort of thing.  (Her words, not mine.)

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The photo looks blurry due to the condensation on the window.  

After breakfast, we detoured on our way back to our rooms to take some photos.  

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Can you see the castle in the distance?

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Yes, Anna did have a tropical skirt (and headband) but she decided to wear shorts instead.  I don't argue.  She's so cute, it doesn't matter what she wears.  

A special thanks to Grammy for the skirts and headbands!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

{Disney} Day 1 - Magic Kingdom

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Our first stop upon entering Magic Kingdom was Guest Relations, located in City Hall, which is just inside the park's entrance. Allie and Emily hung outside with Grammy and took in the sights while Rich, Anna and I waited in a shortish line. Our goal was to take care of one of Anna's needs related to her spina bifida. (I am planning to write a separate post detailing our experience visiting Disney with a child who has spina bifida.)   When we exited City Hall, we spotted a Sleeping Beauty meet and greet taking place in that little patio area to the left of City Hall. There were only two groups in line so I thought that the line had been closed but when I asked, I was told that it was still open.  Woo hoo!  It was sooo nice to start off with a meet and greet that essentially had no line.

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Dear Mr. PhotoPass Photographer, please stay out of my way.  I have a "fancy" camera and I don't plan on purchasing your photos.  Thank you.

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Marie, who is one of Emily's favorites, was holding her meet and greet in that center area right inside the park entrance. The line looked long (it really wasn't) and the girls were eager to go on a ride but I convinced them to wait instead of trying to meet her later. I knew that there was a chance we wouldn't see that M&G again during our trip.  We only had to wait about 15 minutes.

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The weather was a bit odd for us at this point. There was considerable cloud cover, which helped to keep the heat bearable, but once those clouds parted, the heat and humidity became almost oppressive. Especially to those of us who had just experienced an extremely mild summer.

We left it up to the girls to decide what they wanted to do next. They all agreed on a ride and I can't remember who suggested it but Pirates of Caribbean became our destination, even though the wait time was 30 minutes long. Ack! We've never seen it that long and later we determined that the "scary" rides had longer wait times due to the Halloween party that night. After Pirates, we checked out the Swiss Family Treehouse, which was our first time. The girls liked it, even though it wasn't a ride. And then it came time for a bathroom break. Now, I should note that for some reason, we didn't have any FastPasses booked for this day. Because we were staying at a Disney resort, we had Magic Bands and the ability to book FP+. When our window opened to do so, I was extremely busy with work and feeling overwhelmed with sewing and all the other planning, so I had asked Rich to book the FastPasses, which he did. For some reason though, we both overlooked this day.  Oh, well.

The girls enjoy parades and as we were leaving the First Aid/Baby Care Center area, they caught a glimpse of the 3:00 parade through the crowds lining the parade route. The girls were kind of bummed that we had missed it. We did pull up as close as possible and held them up but they didn't see much. I promised them that we would carve out time to see the afternoon parade at some point during the week. With our dinner ADR fast approaching, we decided to check out the gift shops on Main Street.

I had booked an early dinner reservation knowing that we would probably want to get the kids to bed somewhat early after a long day. During the planning process, Rich and I had discussed and opted for a table service restaurant over quick service for dinner on this particular day. Unfortunately, because I was making my ADR well after the 180 day mark and there was a Halloween party that night, my options were severely limited. My only option really was The Plaza at 4:05. We'd never eaten there (and I actually didn't even know where it was located) but after checking out the menu online, it seemed to have a fairly decent selection of items that weren't outrageously priced.

We checked in a few minutes early and had to wait for about 3 minutes before we were seated.  I was a bit surprised at the size of the restaurant.  It's pretty small.  Grammy and I decided to share a sandwich.  I debated over whether to order the grilled reuben or the vegetarian sandwich.  We ultimately went with the grilled reuben.

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Eh.  It was okay.  Maybe we should have ordered the vegetarian.  I've had better reubens at chain restaurants.  In my opinion, the meat wasn't cut thin enough and the sandwich was too dry.  I like more than a smear of dressing on my sandwiches.  Rich had the cheese steak sandwich.  He said it was "okay."

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By this time, folks attending the Halloween party that evening were steadily filtering into the park and there was a lot of people watching going on.  We didn't expect to see so many costumes.

The girls wanted to ride Haunted Mansion so we headed over there.  Unfortunately, the stand-by wait time was 25 minutes, which is the longest I've ever seen it.  I promised them that we would ride it another day, when it had a more reasonable line.  Rich suggested The Hall of Presidents because it was right there, the girls have a good understanding of what it means to be a president and it was an attraction we had not yet experienced during our previous trips.  We missed a show by a few minutes and had to wait almost 15 minutes for the next one.  While we were waiting inside the lobby, the sky opened up and it poured.

The girls sat and watched the show with interest.  Well, some more so than others.  Near the end, Rich suggested leaving early but Allie didn't want to.  As we were exiting, Anna announced, "That was the most boringest thing ever," which caused laughter from the couple behind us.

We headed back to Main Street and stopped for ice cream.  In hindsight, we should have just eaten dessert at The Plaza as they have an ice cream based dessert menu.  It continued to rain (thankfully it wasn't heavy) while we ate and my photo taking came to an end because I didn't want my camera wet.  Everyone was pretty much exhausted and we wanted to have the kids in bed early (especially seeing as we had an early breakfast ADR the next morning) so we left.  Unfortunately, the return trip to our resort was not so magical and took almost an hour.  This began my dislike of the monorail.

[Arrival Day outfits courtesy of Grammy.  She found Emily's and Anna's Minnie shirts in a consignment store.  She sewed Emily's Minnie dot skirt and Allie's purple dress, featuring Minnie.  There was also a pink Minnie dot skirt for Anna but she didn't want to wear it because she hadn't asked Grammy to sew it.]  

Coming up next - Day 2 - breakfast at 'Ohana and more Magic Kingdom.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

And I remember

I periodically check my blog's traffic sources to ensure nothing weird's going on.  Sometimes there are interesting searches that lead readers to my blog.  No, I'm sorry - I don't know how to cut an umbrella skirt.  Sometimes there are sad searches, such as "fmla stillbirth." FMLA and stillbirth are not friends and it breaks my heart to see that someone was searching the internet for information on this subject.

This past weekend the following search showed up in my stats - "what to do with nursery after stillbirth."  I found myself holding my breath, remembering the crib I had so carefully selected.  The pale green walls and glossy white trim, freshly painted.  The stacks of neatly folded baby clothes in the closet, waiting to be worn.

There were 25,972 reported fetal deaths at 20 weeks of gestation or more in the United States in 2006.*  One of those babies was my daughter, Abigail.  On Saturday, June 3, 2006 I arrived at the hospital in labor only to be told that my baby's heartbeat could not be found.  

Today is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day.

You can read some of my thoughts on stillbirth and grief here, here, here, here, and here.



*Taken from CDC, National Vital Statistics Report

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

{Disney} Day 1 - The Polynesian

Our rooms were located in the Tuvalu longhouse, which faces the lagoon.  To clarify, half of the rooms in that longhouse overlook the lagoon, while the others face the marina, walkways, another longhouse, etc. Our rooms were in the latter category, which was perfectly fine.  Now that we've stayed there, I understand how the resort categorizes the rooms.  This longhouse contained three floors.  All the rooms on each floor had massive sliding glass doors.  The rooms located on the first floor opened to a sitting area holding two chairs while the rooms on the top floor had a lanai (fancy word for balcony) also with chairs.  Our "standard view" rooms were located on the second floor and our sliding doors opened to a railing.  You couldn't even step out onto anything.  The rooms on the first and third floors must have been the next category up, which is "garden view."  It rained so much and we spent so little time in the rooms, it wouldn't have been worth paying more for a balcony.  Although, we did spend more time than usual in the rooms because of the rain but either way, it wouldn't have changed the rooms we booked.  I did like how giant the doors were though and the natural light they provided.

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Love the kids running around in these pictures.

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The rooms and the bathrooms were spacious.  I wish my bathrooms at home had that much space.

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That's one view from our room.

After settling into our rooms, we headed to Captain Cook's, a quick service restaurant at the resort, for lunch.

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Grammy and Rich both ordered the pulled pork nachos.  They were quite tasty.  Allie and I decided to share the tuna croissant sandwich, which was listed on the menu.  Now, had I known that it was pre-made and in the refrigerator, I probably wouldn't have ordered it but I didn't know and so that's what we got.  My fears were unwarranted as we could tell right away that it was fresh.  And very good.

I realized during this trip that I will never be a good Disney food blogger.  I was going to take a picture of the tuna sandwich and some of the other food items but I volunteered to trek back to our room to fetch the girls' hoodies because it was beyond freezing in the restaurant.  By the time I returned, everyone had started eating and I needed to catch up.

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This is a good time to introduce you to T.C. or "The Traveling Cow."  He belongs to Allie's class and he travels with kids, who write all about his adventures in his travel log.  I was happy that Allie spoke up and asked her teacher if he could accompany us.  She can be a bit shy.  Expect to see him in some photos throughout my recap.

After lunch, it was time for the magic to begin.  Our room location was ideal in that it was located near the boat launch.

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Our rooms were located in the building you see on the left side of the picture.  The boat launch is at the end of the dock you see to the right.  We did have to walk up and around the marina but it wasn't a very long distance.  This resort has a smallish boat (compared to the one at the Ticket & Transportation Center) that goes directly across the lagoon and drops you off in front of Magic Kingdom.  The return trip to the resort is a bit longer because you stop at the Grand Floridian first.  And speaking of the Grand Floridian, there was our view of it from the boat.

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Not liking the look of those clouds though.

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~To be continued~

Monday, October 13, 2014

{Disney} Day 1 - Arrival

Given the choice, we'll always opt to fly out of Providence instead of Boston.  We obviously aren't the only ones happy with Jet Blue's direct flights from Providence to Orlando - they are always completely full.  The only downside to flying out of Providence is the limited number of flight options.  For that Sunday, there were only two flights - 7:00 in the morning or 3:45 in the afternoon - for us to choose from.  We went with the 7:00 (ack! I am so not a morning person) so that we could salvage most of the day.  Because we only had 5 full days there, we didn't want to waste a day solely to travel.

We woke up at 4:30 that morning and experienced no issues traveling to the airport or checking in.  There were more people there than I expected at that time of day but the lines were fairly short.  We were pre-screened which meant that we were able to go through a different line, didn't have to remove our shoes, etc.  It definitely made life easier.  I was nervous about going through security with Anna's meds and they did check them but no one gave us a hard time.  In fact, everyone with TSA was quite pleasant.

They began boarding a bit early and we had to pull Grammy out of a long Dunkin Donuts line.  Our seats were near the rear of the plane, which I like with the kids because we are close to the bathrooms.  Jet Blue had us sitting 3 and 3.

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I was with The A Team while Emily sat with Grammy and Rich in the row behind us.

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The only hiccup on our flight came when Anna told us that she needed to be cathed.  It was something we had thought of but hadn't come up with a solution.  We hadn't cathed her prior to boarding because it hadn't been that long since she had been cathed earlier that morning.  While visiting the plane's bathroom with Allie, I checked out the changing table and it was too small.  I also don't know if it would have been a good idea to have a 40 pound kid on it.  We ended up having her lie down in our row.  Grammy sat at the end, holding up her coat as a security curtain.  It worked out fine.

We landed early and picked up our rental minivan.  Under certain circumstances and for certain families, I can see the advantage to using Disney transportation.  For me and for our family right now, it didn't seem like the best fit, so we rented our own vehicle.  I use public transportation five days a week and I didn't want someone else dictating my schedule while I'm on vacation.  There were other considerations as well.  We had grand plans to stop at a grocery store on the way to the Polynesian but neither Rich nor I had had time to look for the directions to one and the kids were all "I just want to get to Disney" so that's what we did.

For those of you who haven't heard why we decided to stay at the Polynesian, here's a quick recap.  We had originally booked our vacation for August through a special offer released first to Disney Visa cardholders.  Because we were planning to spend the most time at Magic Kingdom, we booked rooms at the Contemporary.  It seemed like the ideal location for us because you can walk to the park from the resort.  Then my role at work changed and one of Rich's meetings at the bank changed and taking a vacation in August suddenly didn't seem like a great idea.  Of course, when we went to move our vacation, there were no rooms available at the Contemporary through the special offer.  Of the three Magic Kingdom resorts, the lowest rates were being offered at the Poly.  So although it's currently being renovated, we decided to stay there.  About six weeks prior to our vacation, I had second thoughts about that decision but it all worked out.

We arrived at the Poly a bit after 11:00.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that our rooms were ready and connecting, as we had requested.  The service out front was top notch.  Within two minutes of Rich jumping out of the van, we knew the status of the rooms.  Someone whisked away our luggage and delivered it to our rooms for us right away.  We had all vacated the van and were waiting for Rich to park it.  I was taking some pictures of the girls out front when a cast member approached us and asked if he could get us checked in.  Sure!

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I was a bit nervous as to where our rooms would be located within the resort.  The rate we had booked at was only available online and the room description clearly stated that we may be looking at a parking lot or the monorail.  It obviously wasn't that much of a concern because we booked the rooms but I was really hoping for a decent location with hopefully a view of something other than a parking lot.

~To be continued~

(I tried to combine this post with the next one and it began to turn into a monster.  Therefore, I had to leave it on the short side.  I was also up before the crack of dawn this morning in order to bring Anna to the hospital for some medical tests and I'm exhausted and need to go to bed.)