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Our third day at the park was a mixed bag. We had done most of what we hoped to at Magic Kingdom, and lots at Epcot, but hadn’t made it to Animal Kingdom or Hollywood Studios yet.

For the record – we still call “The Studios” by its real name; MGM. That is what it is and what it forever shall be to me; though in a few years, when I call it MGM, the kids will probably give me the same perplexed look that I get from the Sandwich Artists at Subway when I ask them to cut the bread “the old way.”  Those high school kids didn’t have enough teeth to eat a Spicy Italian when Subway cut their bread like a boat, and my kids hadn’t been born when Disney’s Hollywood Studios was MGM Studios. What can I say?  I’m getting to be quite the old stick in the mud, eh?

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The last time we had been to Animal Kingdom, Finny had just turned two and he LOVED it.  Thinking back on it, I have no idea why it was such a wonderful experience for the three of us.  Without asking ourselves this question before we left the hotel room, we blindly boarded the bus to AK assuming the same magic would be in store for us on this trip.


It was hot.  Really hot.  While most of the cool stuff to see at Magic Kingdom and Epcot is showcased within glorious, air-conditioned splendor, almost everything at AK is outside.  It is also the biggest park; all three other theme parks could fit comfortably inside it’s walls with room to spare, and its biggest attraction, Kilimanjaro Safaris, is as big as the entire Magic Kingdom.  Oh, it is awesome, and worth the wait but it, too, is also outside.

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Our first stop was to meet Mickey & Minnie Mouse.  Over the course of our five-minute wait in line, Finny went from an excited little human to a bona fide, tyrannical monster.  He refused to even look at Mickey, have him sign his autograph book or face the camera for a picture.  Knowing Alice was a little out of sorts with the characters in general, we knew she wasn’t going to be thrilled, either.  She warmed up to Minnie just a smidge, but still clung to Nathan like a baby gorilla.  And of course Finny burst into another round of hysterics the second after we walked out of the room, wailing “I wanna go back in there and see Mickey!!  Pleeaaaase, puhlease!”

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We figured his blood sugar could use a boost; how about some ice cream?  While we waited in line, he decided to put himself in a time-out.  He marched off to the adjacent tables, whipped off his hat, popped on a chair, spun around, crossed his arms and hurumph-ed.  He sat there, ignoring us, for four or five minutes.  My brother Mike was there, and I think we may have made enough of an impression that Finny and Alice should not hold their breath for any cousins from Uncle Mike.

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We swam through the sea of sweaty bodies to see some of the animals, tried our luck with Tigger and Pooh, but ultimately decided to cut our losses and head to Rainforest Cafe for lunch on our way out of the park.  The air-conditioning and fake animals proved to be more of a crowd-pleaser than the natural climate and real animals, but I was far beyond caring.  We slunk back to the hotel, way overdue for naps.

While the kids snoozed, Mike and Jeremy indulged one of my newest forms of geekery; Disney pin trading (click on it if you are scratching your head).  In my defense, I plead temporary Disney-Insanity and I could not care less for the whole thing now that I am home…  I bought pins on Ebay for Finny to trade with the cast members, but once I realized he was not half as into it as I had hoped he would be, someone had to pick up the slack.

Before we left, I scoffed at the lah-hoose-a-hers who were so enamored with swapping enameled pins bearing Mickey’s likeness.  “Don’t be overwhelmed if you haven’t traded before,” one of the blog posts I read about it encouraged.  “Just pick a particular character or series of pins that you would like to collect.  Happy hunting!!”  I mentally rolled my eyes.  But then we got there – shit, I was a woman with purpose.

Alicia, my sister-in-law, apparently got caught up in the hype, too.  By the second or third day, her and Rick had bought enough pins that made them look like Mr. T out to pin-trade the shit out of Disney World.  Alicia and I spotted a super cute pin with a Royal Guardsman on it, and traded for it.  (They used to live in England, and she pines for it now.)  Upon toting our lanyards burdened with pins on our adults-only jaunt to Downtown Disney’s bars, it was promptly lost.  All of us kept our eyes out for another one – but since they are out of production, there was little hope of finding a replacement.

That is where The King Pin came into play.  This guy, a Disney employee, sounded like a sure thing.  I thought he’d be a nerdy guy sitting behind a folding table covered with books and books of pins…  Not quite.  He was a tall African-American gentleman with a warm smile and a little messenger bag covered in pins.  His smaller-than-planned collection didn’t matter, though.  He had it.  The Royal Guardsman pin.  And yes, I actually squealed.

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I texted Rick.  I found it.  Within a few seconds, he texted back.  Alicia is freaking out.  Is it her pin?

Turns out, Alicia had actually retraced her steps at Downtown Disney from the night before.  She suspiciously eyed every cast member’s pin lanyard in hopes they had found it lying on the ground from the night before.  Do I need to point out that she fits into our family perfectly?

That night, Alicia and were super excited.  We had pulled out some major flirtage with the concierge at the hotel to secure a spot in the highly coveted VIP fireworks viewing patio at Magic Kingdom.  We wanted to thank my parents for springing for an amazing room, and a stupid picture frame was not going to cover it.  The ‘Rents weren’t planning on visiting the parks that day; they have friends in Florida who they were meeting for dinner.  We sprung for tickets for the four of them to join us at Magic Kingdom for this mysterious, undisclosed activity.

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I am cursed by this camera. Every damn time we take an important picture, it decides it needs a coffee break. Now I will have to buy the photo that Disney took. Sigh.

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While we waited for my parents and company to meet us, we took another crack at meeting Mickey mouse.  This time, the kids were on their A game and it was a tidy little memory to tuck into our back pockets.  All of us were riding high on the successful meet and greet, and upon exiting through the gift shop (obviously…), Finny picked out a sorcerer Mickey hat (his “sorcering hat,” I’ll have you know) and Alice snatched up a stuffed Minnie.  Never in my life have I been to a place where you are happier to part with your money.

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After Mickey, we took the kids to the new Dumbo ride.  It is the same ride it has always been – a fleet of flying pachyderms rotating around an axis, but Disney proved exactly why they are as fantastic as they are with its refurbishment.  Now there are two Dumbo rides – so your time waiting should theoretically be cut in half, but it is even better than that.  Instead of waiting in line in the hot sun, they hand you a pager, you park your sweaty ass in an air-conditioned circus tent, and watch your little minions play in an indoor playground that makes McDonalds’ Playplaces look like a puke-encrusted frat house basement.  When it is your turn, they page you, and poof!  It is your turn to yank your children away from this…

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Alice was so completely enamored with the ride that she would grunt and reach for anything else with Dumbo on it for the rest of the trip.  I can’t really blame her.  Yes, you just sit in a little car shaped like an elephant and spin around in a circle, but the whole setup is jaw-droppingly beautiful with the fountains, two fleets of circling, candy-colored Dumbos and happy, happy kids…

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Photobomb success.  Finally.

Photobomb success. Finally.

We met up with our parents during the Main Street Electrical Parade.  Alice and Finny had excellent views atop our shoulders.  Alice waved to everyone and everything in the parade.  My threshold for pain has skyrocketed since having the kids.  I might be super uncomfortable, but when you have a toddler who cannot contain her excitement for ladybugs, Cinderella and dragons covered in twinkling lights, you bet your sweet pippy I’ll ignore the burning pain in my shoulders from her shimmying tushie until the last float passes.

We inched along Main Street to get to the VIP area at a snail’s pace.  There were thousands of people trying to exit the park and even more vying for a good spot to watch the fireworks.  I am ashamed to say I got into a bit of a tiff with a very unhappy gentleman who decided to scream at me to get out of his way.  But it was nothing that a healthy jab to his shins with the stroller didn’t remedy (that fucker… do NOT, under any circumstances, get on the bad side of a mother with a stroller at her disposal).

When we finally got there, there was some confusion to our reservation.  Apparently we were on a special list, and not the regular one.  I was thisclose to losing it, especially after the dude who accidentally got ran over by my stroller, but it was fine in the end.  As they pulled the velvet braided nylon rope aside, I got a major feeling of superiority.  We left the riff-raff behind and had an enormous expanse of concrete with tables, chairs and a perfect view of the castle to share with about thirty other people.  Every time I have seen the fireworks at Magic Kingdom, it was always while straining my neck and pressed up against more than one sweaty body that I didn’t know.  The kids had room to run around and expel some energy this time.

What it really looked like beyond rope...

What it really looked like beyond rope…

Finny's very accurate rendition

Finny’s very accurate rendition

This was the life.

After the unequaled view of the fireworks (shoutout to you, Ryan from Escondido, CA, for scoring us the seats!!), Alice fell asleep and we took Finn on the Astro Orbiter (another Dumbo-esqe ride).

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Then he got to drive one of the go-carts at the Tomorrowland Speedway.

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Never drink [apple juice] and drive, boys and girls.

Never drink [apple juice] and drive, boys and girls.

“When we get home, Dad, I can drive your car.  See?  I’m doing a good job!”  Finny proclaimed as he swerved around the track.

It was an excellent end to our last day in Magic Kingdom.  We grabbed one of the legendary caramel apples on our way out of the park and started to mentally prepare for the next day – our last official day of vacation, and the LONG trip home the day after that.

Even though I totally thought I would rip through The Disney Diaries in three installments, it looks like there is still one more in store.  (Lucky you.)  If you are getting sick of the second consecutive week of Disney memories, pipe down and let me ride out what remains of my post-Disney World glow.

Glow?  Who am I kidding?  It’s a sunburn; with just a teeny side of exhaustion.