Sidebar: Happy Birthday, Rick!! You are the best little brother a girl could ask for – but don’t tell Mike or Jer.
While the rest of the world was puttering on last week, we took a no-kidding break from reality and headed out to The Happiest Place on Earth; Disney World. I am a massive Disney nerd – along with the rest of my family, and we all came together in a massive explosion of nerd-ness for a week. My mom, stepdad, three brothers, sister-in-law and an old family friend (with her two-year-old in tow) thought it necessary to spend an entire week in the hot, Orlando sun to commemorate our geekdom. Nathan was just along for the ride; he still loves me despite my affliction.
Ten years ago, most of the same players (sans the kiddos, obviously) took this same trip. Nathan and I got engaged at Epcot during that trip (a truly hilarious, quintessential Nathan-and-Lisa story if there ever was one), and over the past decade, the entire family has been scattered to the four winds. Ohmygod. Life was so easy ten years ago.
If ever there was an experience I would gladly trade for sticking myself in the eye with a ballpoint pen for, it would be flying with two little kids. Surprisingly enough, the flight was pretty painless. Finn spent the majority of the flight glued to my iPad, and Alice pinged back and forth between Nathan, me and an iPhone. She tensed up quite a bit during takeoff, but by the time we started our decent into Orlando, she was an old pro.
After an agonizing ride on the Magical Express (it was free, and you get what you pay for), there was an awesome welcome wagon waiting for us at the bottom of the motorcoach’s steps. Since we were the last to arrive, we didn’t have to mess with checking into the hotel, and we had half a dozen able-bodied family members to help us carry our luggage and children.
It was so hard to get to sleep that first night; I hadn’t seen one of my brothers in forever (even longer for my sister-in-law); we were excited to catch up and poke fun at each other. I laid in bed for over an hour because I was so excited. It didn’t help that Nathan was snoring like a sixteen hundred pound gorilla beside me… Before my alarm even went off, I was up, showered, packing the backpack for our first day at the park and getting the kids’ breakfast ready for when they woke up. My mom and stepdad were just getting out of bed. I was ready to go at six thirty. For the first time since I had Finn.
We stayed at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge – holychrist – it was amazing. We had a villa that slept twelve and almost everyone had their own bathroom. We had a full kitchen that my brother had stocked with enough carbs to choke a goat, but the best part was the balcony… As soon as Alice woke up, she grabbed her bowl of strawberries and headed out to watch the giraffes eat their breakfast. There were wildebeest, ostriches, antelope, zebras, a very impressive herd of the most enormous cattle I had ever seen, cranes, vultures…. All sorts of animals, roaming “free,” from the African savannah. It was like living at a zoo.
When I say that my family is a group of Disney fanatics, realize that I am the ringleader, followed closely behind by my mother. Right when we got to Magic Kingdom, I took off like a bat out of hell while most everyone else rolled their eyes and meandered to Gaston’s Tavern for breakfast. I was a woman on a mission – the new Little Mermaid ride was the ONE THING that I had to do, and I was not letting anything get in my way of a measly twenty-minute wait.
After enjoying two cinnamon rolls the size of Alice’s head at Gaston’s, we did a few other rides at the park, packed the kids back into the Disney bus and put them down for a nap. We decided to wait to return to Magic Kingdom until after they woke up, when it is at its absolute best – nighttime.
But before we left, we headed to Pirates of the Caribbean. Right as we boarded, and promptly got stuck in a line of stopped boats, I thought of how Disney had to add an inch of water to Small World during its latest refurbishment – we Americans are 25 pounds heavier than when the ride was built, and all those little boats kept bottoming out. I told Mike, Julie and Nathan they should do the same thing for Pirates. Nathan noted that our whole boat was heavy on one side, since all the dads were sitting on the right. Then he noted that the front boat, a few up from us, had a few rather robust individuals aboard; maybe that is why we were stuck. I thought he was kidding.
A minute later, a Disney employee came running up along side our boats with a flashlight.
“Alright everyone! We’ll get moving in just a second, but right now, I need everyone to raise their arms!” We did. “Now lean to right!” We did. “Now lean to the left!”
I thought she was just trying to keep us occupied, but sure enough, the front boat rocked free and we all continued on our merry way.
Seriously?? Yes. Seriously.
Finny has been obsessing over this trip for months. He would talk about it almost every single day. He somehow managed to find a series of Disney Travel Channel videos on Netflix, and by the time we were on our way to the park that first morning, he was no-shit explaining the ins and outs of the Fast Pass system to the family sitting behind us on the bus. He was super psyched to go on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. We did our best to prep him for it…
“You know it is a roller coaster and goes REALLY fast, right Finn?”
“Yes. And it is a train. And then I want to go on Splash Mountain and the Tower of Terror.”
Note to all parents of preschoolers; anything with a name like TOWER OF TERROR is probably not something you want to subject your four-year-old to. No matter how ardently he insists.
But, we knew Big Thunder Mountain was pretty tame as far as roller coasters go, so we let him go. Look how excited he was when we sat down:
Once the ride was over? Nope.
Just after we got off the ride, he stopped one of the ride operators, a college girl in her wild west uniform, for a chat.
“Excuse me? Ma’am? That ride was way, way, WAAAY too fast. I’m going to come back on it with my dad. Could you make it way, way, WAAAY slower for me?”
At least he was polite about it.
We watched the Main Street Electrical Parade and the fireworks after dinner (much to the delight of both the kids), and met up with my parents, brother and sister-in-law for a Dole Whip. I had been looking forward to a Dole Whip for months – it is pineapple soft serve, swirled together with vanilla and floating in fresh pineapple juice – in short; a frozen, theme park orgasm in a plastic tumbler.
Alice had crashed and was comfortably snoozing in the Ergo by the time the giant group of us hit The Jungle Cruise. I love The Jungle Cruise, mostly because it seems like the only place in all of Disney World where anyone who works there acknowledges – rather, embraces – the whole ridiculous spectacle of the overpriced, gift shop-laden schmorgasborg that is Walt Disney World. The self-deprecation of it all makes Jungle Cruise endearing to me… And it was the only time I had ever gone on it in the dark, which brings a whole other element to it all.
By the time we left Magic Kingdom, it was just past midnight, and Finny was just beginning to wilt. He passed out on the bus back to the hotel.
We got the sleeping babes in their jammies and tucked in for the night. This time, I had no problem falling asleep whatsoever. No matter how excited I was for the rest of the trip, I was beat.
To be continued…