family vacations, florida, Kate, Lexi, William

Panama City 2020

Lexi, Badger and Kate,

Following our whirlwind trip to DisneyWorld that you can read about here, here, here and here, we rented an car to begin phase 2 of our vacation: visiting Grammy and Papa in Panama City Beach.

Daddy took an Uber to the car rental location on Thursday morning and we got upgraded to a TaHoe (we had rented a mini van) and barely squeezed our 2 strollers and luggage in, even though we didn’t bring a lot of stuff.

The ride was about 5 – 6 hours from Orlando to PBC and I was thinking it was going to be pretty brutal. But you guys were awesome and needed very little screen time. You actually didn’t get out of the car for the entire trip. I can’t believe that nobody had to go to the bathroom.

Upon arrival, Papa was of course downstairs waving both arms high up in the air to welcome all of us. We headed up to their beautiful wrap condo and got settled in and shared all sorts of fun stories about Disney.

Overall, this part of the trip was just about relaxing and enjoying the sunshine, the beach, the pool and the golf course. Daddy golfed everyday, which he thoroughly enjoyed. Four rounds at Signal Hills and one round at Windswept dunes. I joined him for 2 1/2 rounds.

William came down with some kind of little bug that had him feeling a warm, pretty tired and just not himself. After about two days of being under the weather, he woke up and complained of not being able to walk, which went on for about 2-3 hours. We were about to head to the Emergency room and he started walking, but had a very funny wobble, almost as if we was trying to walk while sitting on a pole. Dr. Google didn’t have good things to suggest on what this could mean, so around 3:00 we headed to urgent care. The first one we went to wasn’t opened (it was a Sunday) and the second one sent us straight to the ER; which was not a good few hours for your worry-wart mama. After about 2-3 hours they, William started feeling better and even ran down the hallway–so we headed home, un-diagnosed and he has been fine ever since. Very great full it wasn’t something serious and now, looking back makes me wonder if it wasn’t related to corona virus.

Other highlights of the trip were lots of time playing with second cousins Ruby and Pearl, who were just down the hallway from us, Survivor-type challenges on the beach, jumping the waves, feeling the warm sunshine, playing cards, mini-golfing, swimming, sunsets and spending lots of good quality time with Grammy and Papa.

After 5 wonderful days, our week and a half vacation was coming to an end. We left Wednesday morning at 6:00 in the morning, headed to Atlanta and then back to MSP around 1:30 in the afternoon. By this time, things with Covid-19 were just starting to get interesting. My trip to CA had gotten canceled while and most business travel was canceled. The airports were busy, but we were much more cautious than normal about wiping things down, using hand sanitizer.

DisneyWorld, family vacations, Kate, Lexi, William

DisneyWorld Magic Kingdom (Day 3)

Lexi, William & Kate,

Today was a dream. I LOVED seeing the sparkly twinkle in your eyes, hearing the awe in your voices as you met characters and feeling the adventure in your souls as your grabbed a hold of my hand during ride. True Joy.

Today started with us packing up all of our luggage and dropping them at coincerage as we were moving to stay at the Wilderness Lodge for the remaining two nights of our trip. If you do a split stay, Disney will transfer all of your items for you to another hotel free of charge–they even will refrigerate items for you!

Next we hopped on a bus to Magic Kingdom (around 8:00ish), matching shirts and all for our 8:30 breakfast reservations at Crystal Palace with Tigger, Pooh, Eyeore and Piglet. The park doesn’t technically open until 9:00 but they let people in around 8:00 to take pictures, shop around on Main Street etc.. We took advantage of the low crowds and got another family picture in front of the castle, with our family shirts on.

Breakfast was amazing! It was a buffet so I was a little hesitant on it, but it was so good. Bill had a Bloody Mary and I had a Mimosa and the kids each had chocolate milk. The kids had fruit and Mickey Waffles and sausage and donuts and bacon and bill had salmon and this amazing omelet. While we’re eating the characters came around for autographs and pictures and even did a little parade with all of the kids in the restaurant. Lexi and William LOVED seeing their beloved Tigger and Pooh pals, while Kate was slightly moody. However, when Piglet came by, she turned on the charm and gave a big hug and smiled great for a picture.

One thing I continued to be so surprised about is the uniforms that cast members wear, whether they are working the front desk or picking up trash or serving food. They look like they are the original uniforms from 50 years ago. The designs and patterns are pretty hideous and hot and are due for a little refresh.

With our bellies full and excitement to get the day started, we headed over the castle and went on the Little Mermaid Ride. Girls rode in one shell and boys rode in the other and we were brought through the story of the Little Mermaid with the songs, lots of black lights and an overall low-key easy ride, with a 5 min wait. Notice No-née (Kate’s Bunny makes frequent appearances in our pictures)

Next we headed over to ride the beloved Dumbo ride. Prior to coming, I heard that Dumbo was great because the kids can play in an indoor playground while you wait and then you get a buzzer when your near the front of the line. Unfortunately, it wasn’t busy enough for this to be open, so we waited the 20 minutes to ride. William loved controlling our Elephant and bringing us up and down. Kate, whined a bit that she didn’t like it and tried to climb into my lap, but didn’t have a complete melt down so we called it a win!

It was just after 10:00 at this point and Minnie, Daisy, Donald and Goofy had about a 20 minute wait for a meet and greet. The line was moving pretty slow, so Daddy and William went to meet Donald (Goofy was still sleeping) while Kate, Lexi and I waited to Meet Daisy and Minnie. Kate was starting to get tired so I bribed her with a sucker to meet Minnie and Daisy. Late loved Daisy and that she wears purple so she was pretty excited about that. Also, note that having DumDum suckers in the park bag is a total life saver. They are quick, easy, non-melting, non-messy snacks that can make waits a little more tolerable.

It was about 5 to 11:00 so we headed over to Peter Pan’s flight for the first past pass of the day. We made it there 3 minutes before it ‘expired’ even though they still would have let us on. We hopped aboard our ship and flew through London and Neverland to see the mermaid lagoon, Captain Hook, and the tick-rock croc. I’m not sure what it is about this ride, but it is one of my favorite more low-key rides.

Our next FastPass, an 11:00 ride on Seven Dwarfs Mine Train was ready. Daddy and Lexi went first, Oats passed on riding as he thought it might be a little to scary for him, since he only just turned 5. We got our Rider Switch set up and William, Kate and I went to get a snack–a Peter Pan Float, which was Lime Dole Whip with Sprint and it was delicious!!

After Lexi and Daddy rode, Mommy and Lexi went and Daddy went to go get some Cotton Candy. This ride was pretty fun. It is the big hot roller coaster of Magic Kingdom at the moment and lines are easily over 2 hours for it. Our FastPass had us in and out in about 20 minutes. The coaster doesn’t have any kind of clicking sounds as it goes up hills and the cars will sway side to side in stead of front to back. Lexi loved it and got so excited to put her hands up. She kept saying, ‘Mom, you gotta put your hands up. Wait until this next part, it is so fun.’ We started to find out we have a little roller coaster junkie on our hands. Your Mom and Dad couldn’t be more excited about this as we both love a little adventure.

Enchanted Tales with Bell was across the walkway from Sever Dwarfs and the wait was about 20-30 minutes so we hopped in line as it was an experience the whole family could enjoy. It was pretty cute. They take you in through what looks like Belle’s home and then bring you to a room that has a huge magic mirror which comes alive and invites you to walk through, it to where the wall disappears. You are then brought into Belle’s room inside the castle where the dresser comes to live and gives out parts to the kids to participate in a mini play. We did a quick dress rehearsal before arriving in the Ball room, where we got to meet Belle take a picture with her and act out the story of Beauty and the Beast. This was a great low-key experience that was also air-conditioned, which was fantastic as it was sunny and starting to get really hot.

After this, Lexi and I had a FastPass to ride Splash mountain at 1:25, we made our way to the other side of the park. William opted out of riding so Lexi and I made our way through the line and rode the iconic splash mountain. The ride itself is pretty long and a little odd, but sitting next to Lexi and feeling her adrenaline rush as her body tensed up as we went down the big drop was exhilarating. She was smiling so big and was so proud of herself for doing it. Such a fun moment.

When we got off, we tried to find our photos, but couldn’t and then discovered that Lexi’s magic band had fallen off. We approached a cast member in the store and they back-tracked through all of the cars until they found our picture. Sure enough, she was wearing her band in the picture, so we new if feel off somewhere between the drop and the photo board. In the picture, they identified the log we were riding and and when it came back around for new guests to ride, they found her sweet pink Lexi band sitting in it.

While Lexi and I rode, William and Kate both feel asleep in the stroller for a little nap. Bill and William had our last scheduled FastPass for the day on Big Thunder Railroad so Lexi took his spot and was giddy with excitement to go on another big coaster.

While they were doing that, I headed over to the Be Our Guest restaurant for our 2:15 reservation. I checked in, but ended up leaving as it was going to be just too much to try and squeeze that in with two sleeping kids.

Instead we went to get a spot to watch the parade. We got a great spot, right on an isle and front row. Holy smokes was it hot though. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and it was 85 degrees. Don’t get me wrong, it felt amazing, but I was so sweaty and a little crazy with the sunscreen to make sure the sleeping kiddos weren’t getting burnt in the strollers. We waited about 30 min and I even snagged another Peter Pan Float to enjoy since it was so good. The parade was amazing. The floats, the costumes the dancing, the music, everything was just executed perfectly and it was so entertaining to watch. Of course, Daddy was more intrigued with the engineering elements of the floats and how they were doing different maneuvers.

Once the parade was over in our area, we tried to high-tail it to the front of the park and head back to the Wilderness lodge to check it out and get a quick break before Lexi and I had to be back for her Bippity Boppity Botique appointment at 5:15.

One of the nice things about the Wilderness Lodge is it is a 10 min boat ride away from Magic Kingdom. This hotel was beautiful. The detail is remarkable. The lobby is all open with billowing logs that take you from floor to ceiling and a massive two-sided fireplace. The furniture fits in with the aesthetic of huge wingback chairs, fabric that mimics Native American culture. There is also a little creek that begins in the middle of the lobby and the trickling sound and vastness of the space create a very calm and relaxing vibe, it feels very zen.

When we arrived at our room, we discovered our bags hadn’t arrived yet. I headed down to concierge to get two bags. I took a lightning-speed shower to cool down and change into a clean shirt and then Lexi and I headed back to Magic Kingdom for her appointment. When we got down to the boat–one was just pulling away and I thought we were going to be super late to her appointment, but we ended up only being 5 minutes late.

The Bippity Boppity Botique is quite the experience. They doll the girls up like a true princess, have a little photo session and let the girls feel like a true princess in the most magical place on earth.

The first part of the process was meeting with her first Fairy Godmother in a dressing room and picking out a hair style. Lexi really wanted this pink and blue hair (like the descendants) but the hairstyle wasn’t very princess-y, so she picked out another one and then we purchased the pink and blue hair piece separate.

After picking out a hairstyle, you can opt to pick out a princess dress. I had gotten the tip that these dresses were marked up and you should bring your own. Lexi had danced to ‘When you wish upon a star’ the previous year and her dance costume looked just like a Cinderella dress so we used that instead. Throughout the entire experience, everyone was referring to you as ‘Princess Lexi’ and is this your mother the Queen? Can you ask the Queen for this, or Princess, would you like some water. It is these small details that just add to make everything magical.

After selecting the hairstyle and getting dressed into the princess gown, she was whisked away to the salon to get her hair done, nails painted and a little bit of makeup put on. There are photopass photographers there capturing every moment of the transformation. When they are finally complete, they do a big reveal with the photographer where the spin the princess around to see her final look. Lexi, you were shy and conservative during this moment, but as soon as we stepped out of the salon, you couldn’t stop beeming. You loved the whole experience of being done up

The final step was having a mini photo shoot done. I swear my innocent 7-year-old suddenly looked 14. They had a glass slipper and few other props to make the experience complete. On the way out of the store, you discovered this light up bow that you needed to have. You were so excited about to show Mrs. Schwartz and your friends, I just couldn’t say no.

Our final planned event for the day was to enjoy a princess dinner all dolled up. However, the dinner was at Akershus in Epcot at 6:40 and we were probably done around 6:10 or so. You hoped in the stroller and we ran through the park and to the monorail to get over to Epcot where Daddy, Kate and William were waiting for us. This took SOOOO much longer than I anticipated. We got on a the monorail, which brought us to the transportation center. We then needed to get off that monorail, go down the ramps to that and then up another set of ramps to get to the monorail that would take us to Epcot. We ended up being about 30 minute late to our reservation. Again, thanks to the wonderful-ness that Disney is, they quickly moved things around and made it seem like no big deal.

We had another amazing meal. Bill ordered the meatballs and a Norwegian beer and I had the steak and a glass of wine. We were joined by Snow White, Ariel, Cinderella, Belle and Aurora. We hadn’t met many of these princesses yet so it was fun to get their autographs and a picture with them and being dressed up as a princess yourself. You received SO many compliments on how beautiful you looked and how much people loved your dress.

The night was concluded with the Epcot fireworks display. These were different but still amazing as they were done over the world showcase lake. Part of the show was having jet skis that had really tall kites on them with fireworks on the end. So impressive.

Kate fell asleep prior to the Fireworks and Lexi and William zonked as we made our way back to the monorail. We then took our first monorail, transferred to the second and then got on a boat to head back to the Wilderness. Definitely not as convenient as I had imagined

When we finally got back to the hotel, our luggage still hadn’t arrived so Bill went up to wait for that while I went to order some food. Although we still had one more day, our dinning plan would expire tonight as our it was linked to our reservation at Pop Century and we couldn’t extend it with our stay at Wilderness. We had 1 unused kids quick service meal and 2 adult quick service meals and a whopping 18 snack credits. I purchased a bunch of candy to save for later and got some donuts, chocolate milk, a pizza and a few other items that we could put in the fridge and eat the following day. As part of our quick service meals, I was also able to get a beer for Bill and I. We enjoyed it out on our balcony and watched some late night Magic Kingdom fireworks. It was the perfect way to conclude our fun-filled day.



DisneyWorld, family vacations, Kate, Lexi, William

DisneyWorld HollyWood Studios (Day 2)

There is a reason they say this place is magic. Day 1 in the parks was nothing short of magic! We started the day off really early at HollyWood studios and ended it with an amazing firework and laser show at Magic Kingdom. Exhausted but WOW!

The day began around 6am (5:45 for me) with the goal of getting into a Minnie Van (Lyft branded as Minnie Vans as they have car seats) at 6:30 to arrive at the park by 7:00, about an hour before it opened. Busses don’t start running until 7:00 am. StarWars land had just opened in September, and a hot new ride, Rise of Resistance opened in December. If you wanted to ride it, you needed to be in the park before it opened. Additionally, I was hoping to also arrive before others so we could be near the front of the line to ride Slinky Dog as our FastPasses were late in the evening and all at different times.

Disney is leveraging a new system called boarding groups to get on the ride. In order to get into a boarding group, you need to be in the park before it opens, with ALL people that would like to ride, and then use the My Disney Experience App to try and get placed into a group. It really is the luck of the draw on if you get into a group and what group you get into. They only guarantee so many groups will get to ride, but have back-up groups if they get through everyone. Most days, the guaranteed and back-up boarding groups were gone in 90 seconds–so it really it a hot commodity.

Back do the day, my plan didn’t go very well. We were running late and there weren’t any Minnie Van’s available. By the time I found one, it was 7:00 and busses were starting to run, so we opted for the bus. We arrived and were in the park by 7:45, 45 min behind schedule and quickly figured out Slinky dog was not very likely–insane crowd line-ups. The line of people went all the way around the big tall building on the right and then down another street that was about as long as seen below–and this was to entry into Toy Story land–there was an equal wall of people on the other side of the park attempting to ride Smuggler’s Run, the other new Star Wars ride.

When the clock struck 8, we along with 10,000 other people scrambled to get in the app and secure a boarding group. We got group 89, which meant we may get called, we may not. (the ride breaks down a lot, so even through you may get a boarding group, it doesn’t mean you’ll get called). Then slowly, the hoards of people started making their way into ToyStory land. The line to ride Slinky Dog was well over 2 hours so we walked right past it to see the rest of the land and eventually popped into Alien Swirling Saucers, which had a 15 min wait. All 5 of us rode, 6 if you include Nonee, Kate’s bunny. Kate didn’t like when we spun out and clung really close to me, but also didn’t screen, so I called it a win. You couldn’t wipe the grins off of Lexi and William.

The crowds in ToyStory land were a bit much, so we headed out, but not before taking a quick family pick, sans Kate because she wanted to stay in the stroller and was crabby. As much as my OCD-self wanted all of these perfect family photos, I also knew Kate wasn’t feeling good and I shouldn’t push it and force her. As Elsa says… I needed to Let it Go.

We stopped quickly at guest services to see if we could move the random Slinky Dog Fastpasses together and also be at 11:25, when one of them was booked. And sure enough they worked some pixie dust for us and moved all of them together and at a earlier time.

After that, we headed over to Meet Olaf. The wait for Olaf was about 30 minutes and was one of the longest waits we had the entire trip. But the kids hadn’t met Olaf yet so they were pretty excited to add his signature to their book.

After that, our first FastPass of the day was available, Toy Story Mania–one of my favorite rides. You ride in your little cart wearing your 3D glasses and play a series of video games, of course trying to get a high score. We rode this in DisneyLand and Daddy went on it 3+ times (several of them by himself) trying to beat his high score.

After that, we headed over to watch the Lightning McQueen show. Daddy also had a FastPass for Rock’n Roller Coaster. Technically, Lexi didn’t have one, but Daddy was able to sneak her by. While waiting in line, Lexi as Bill–Does this go upside down? Does this go in the dark? Bill had never rode so he didn’t know, but sure enough–it did both and went over 60mph. Lexi was pretty scared, but also loved it and got her super excited for more roller coasters. While they were riding, Kate quickly feel asleep in the stroller while William and I grabbed some Lunch.

We then headed back to ToyStory land for our 3rd time of the morning to use our next FastPass for the much anticipated Slinky Dog Dash. This is what William and Lexi were most excited for about Disney. You couldn’t wait to go on this roller coaster. This was also William’s first big roller coaster. We got our rider switch set up (this allowed you guys to ride twice, once with me since Daddy had to stay with Kate, and then again with Daddy while I stayed with Kate). The two of you were bouncing around like a bunch of rabbits while we scooted through the FastPass line. William and I sat in front and Lexi sat behind us and away we went. The ride is over 2+ min long. It started off pretty good, but the moment we went down our first drop, William started panicking and screaming in terror. Then we got to a quick resting point and the moment we started to move again, the fear kicked in and was yelling, Mommy, mommy, I don’t like this, I don’t like this. I even tried to cover your eyes to make it less scary. When we got off to meet daddy, I for sure thought William wouldn’t want to go again, but Daddy convinced him and sure enough again, he was terrified the entire ride. Lexi on the other hand loved it and kept her hands up almost the entire ride.

After that, we used our last pre-booked fastpass of the day and Lexi, William and Daddy rode Alien Swirling Saucers again.

It was just about 1:00 at this point and The Beauty and the Beast Show was about to begin, so we high-tailed it back over the Tower of Terror/Rock’n Roller Coaster area to watch the Beauty and the Beast show. Lots of criss-crossing paths. Daddy stayed with Kate since she was still napping and William, Lexi and I sat down and watched a condensed play of Beauty and the Beast. As all Disney things, it was done extremely well with great costumes, props, singing etc. During the show, I was also able to book another round of FastPasses at Magic Kingdom, the Buzz LightYear ride.

After the show, we headed over to the Little Mermaid show. On the way, we stopped to get a family photo in front of the iconic HollyWood Tower of Terror. Throughout all of the parks, Disney has professional photographers available to take your picture in front of great backdrops or with characters. They take your photo for free, and will also use your own camera/cell phone to take pictures too. They’ll also scan your magic band and all of those photos will be linked to your account. For a fee, you can purchase all of the photos from your trip–which also includes all of the photos from rides. This is one of those things that makes Disney magical. They just make it so easy for you.

After a few pics, we headed over to the Little Mermaid show. I wasn’t too sure what this was, but it was very similar to ‘A Bugs Life’ at Animal Kingdom. We went into a dark theater, sat down like a Movie theater and they re-told the story of The Little Mermaid. Really impressive puppiteering and fun extras like water falling on you to make it feel like you were under the sea, bubbles everywhere. Overall, it was pretty cute.

Lexi and William were begging for a snack, so they each picked out Mickey IceCream on a stick and Mom and dad got frozen Lemonades. It was so nice to have our dinning plan as we just scanned our badges and each got a snack without having to worry about money or how over-price an ice cream bar shaped as Mickey Mouse was. We found a quiet bench in the shade to just relax a bit. Mr. and Mrs. Incredible were walking around and were super fun. The walked around and really interacted with guests verses just standing in a spot and signing autographs and taking pictures.

Kate also woke up around this time after an epic 3 hour nap!

Then around 3:30, we our boarding group for Rise of the Resistance was called!!! We headed over to StarWars land and for someone who has never seen one Star Wars movie, I was just blown away at the detail of this experience. They nailed it. From the fossad and color of the rocks, to the details in the cement, to the way they merchandised food and products, it was really amazing. The girls and I walked around the land while Daddy and Oats rode Rise of the Resistance. Even with the boarding groups, you do still have to wait in a bit of a line and then the ride itself is 20 minutes long, so it was a good hour before they were through.

While waiting in line, William asks, “Dad, where are all the other kids? I don’t think this is a ride for a little kid like me.” Overall, I think he was pretty scared and didn’t enjoy it too much, but still cool that he was able to ride it. After the boys came off, Lexi and I took our turn. Again, the level of detail of everything was remarkable. And the technology that went into building this ride is just crazy. I probably didn’t enjoy it as much as the Star Wars fans did, but was still very impressed with the detail and complexity of the ride. While Lexi and I were on the ride, Daddy and Kate went to the Muppets 3D show and had a few laughs.

By this time it was nearing 5:00. We asked the kids if they wanted a break and to head back to the hotel, but choose to go straight to Magic Kingdom. We got there a little after 5, took a family photo in front of the castle and then went to pick up our mobile order from Peco Bill’s. Another great thing about Disney and the app, is your ability to pre-order food. On the bus ride over, I ordered food for everyone and selected a time I wanted to pick it up. When I arrived, it was there waiting for us so we just had to find a table and dig in.

Eventually, we made our way back over to the opposite side of the park to ride Buzz Lightyear. It was starting to get dark, so we made our way to the front of the castle and found a spot to watch the fireworks.

While waiting, Lexi had been asking for some Minnie Ears for the past two day, so we went on a mission to find her beloved pair with the pink, purple and teal fabric that flowed between them.

The fireworks were great, but the laser show with coordinating music was amazing. They just nailed how the fireworks compliment the music and the laser show in the most remarkable way. So inspiring.

About 20 minutes after the fireworks show, they do a follow up show, Once Upon A Time. I didn’t know what this was, but I loved it. There were way fewer people, most of whom sat down. There was still a laser show and fireworks that accompanied it, but the show was in the form of a bedtime story and it just felt so much more intimate and was a pleasant surprise.

At this point, we were pushing on 13 straight hours of magic and you three kids were exhausted, but remarkably well behaved with very little whining and complaining considering. You all climbed into the strollers and passed out as we made our way back to the bus. With all three of you sleeping, it made it pretty challenging to actually get you into the bus. We had to fold up the strollers,  and carry a sleeping kiddo in, which also meant we had to wake Lexi up to walk on her own. Your legs were like limp french fries as we tried to get you out of the stroller and wake up enough to walk. We transferred all three of you right into the bed and crashed ourselves.

Despite Kate not feeling well and refusing to participate in most things, the day was filled with so much magic. I can’t wait for the next few.



DisneyWorld, family vacations, Kate, Lexi, William

Disney World Resort Day (Day 1)

We are here! It was VERY touch-and-go leading up to this moment. All 5 of us had influenza within the last 7 days and I wasn’t sure we were going to make it and were very close to canceling but we are here in the warm sunshine and it is divine!

Our flight took off around 6:30 pm and landed around 10:30. Flight was smooth and so nice to have a direct flight. Fun fact, we flew on leap day, so Sun Country was selling beer for $2.29, which is a steal anywhere but even more so on a flight. So Daddy and I each enjoyed a Fulton.

By the time we got to the our bags, rode the Magical Express and arrived at Pop Century (our hotel for the next 3 day), it was past midnight (Magical Express is the bus that takes you from the airport to your hotel). Badgie and Kate both feel asleep on the Magical Express and Lexi was pretty tired, so getting off the bus and then getting all of our things to get to our room was a little challenging, but we made it, got the three of you into a bed and then I unpacked and got us situated a bit.

Kate was the final one to get sick and although she was fever free, she still didn’t feel good. She had a rough night of sleeping and was up whining for mama several times, but thankfully didn’t wake Lexi and William up.

This morning, Kate, William and I explored the hotel grounds a bit. We checked out the SkyLiner, the cafeteria and got our drinking mugs. Around 9:15 or so,  we all walked over to the SkyLiner to head over to the Boardwalk for the Bon Voyage Breakfast with Rapunzel, Flynn Ryder, Ariel and Prince Eric. The SkyLiner is a gondola type system that connects a few hotels to Epcot and HollyWood Studios. It just opened in September and it is awesome and they need it at every hotel and park. It is so fast, comfortable and easy to ride. No waiting in lines, it was just slick! We took it right to Epcot, and walked over to the Boardwalk for our reservation at 10:15.

We had to wait a bit at the restaurant, but had a wonderful breakfast and met several characters we hadn’t seen before. This is one of the few character dining options that isn’t a buffet. The characters walk around one-by-one to each of the tables and really play the characters. Ariel even commented that Kate must have done her hair with a dingle-hopper that morning as it was a bit all over the place. They even have a little parade for the kids to dance around the restaurant. Kate was a total grouch the whole time because she still wasn’t feeling well, but Lexi and William loved it.

After that, we walked around the lake to check out the Yacht Club and Beach Club resorts before heading back on the SkyLiner. We checked out the Art of Animation hotel before heading back to Pop. The Art of Animation and Pop Century are right across the pond from each other. The theming at Art of Animations is fantastic and is really geared towards young families with decor from The Lion King, The Little Mermaid, Finding Nemo and Cars. The kids loved looking at the scotches from the Movies and the detail the use to make it feel like you are in the movie.

Kate and Daddy stayed back in the room and napped (or at least attempted to) while Lexi, William and I went swimming in the bowling pool. The weather was a little cooler (70 degrees), but the kids had lots of fun diving for rings and just playing around in the water.

Around 4:00 we hopped on a bus to Disney Springs for our dinner reservation at 5:15. Disney Springs is a big shopping and restaurant area. The whole restaurant was themed in different kinds of dinosaurs figures and environments. We ate in the cave and you guys thought it was pretty cool. This was Lexi’s favorite food Lexi ate while in Disney as she loved the spaghetti. Of course, we had to stop in the Lego store and what I imagine is the worlds largest Disney store. It was so big I just couldn’t get over it.

We hit the sack around 8:00 knowing we had an early and big day following.



family vacations, Kate, Lexi, William

2019 Florida Vacation–Day 2 Animal Kingdom

Today started bright and early for all of us. Daddy and I woke up around 5:30 am to get ready, and pack the car before we woke you kiddos up around 6. Daddy brought all of our stuff to the car, we quickly got changed and headed down to get in the bus line around 6:30 am. The first bus was supposed to start to pick up people around 7, but it arrived around 6:45 and we arrived to Animal Kingdom around 7.

While waiting in line for the part to open (@8), we learned what we are doing is called gate crashing :). Around 7:30, they opened the gates and people RAN in a mad dash for Flight of Passage. Never have I seen so many adults running towards something that wasn’t an organized race. If you would have been watching from a drone, you would have thought they put a million dollars out and people were racing to get to it first. We got to the ride (in a much slower but still walking in a fast manner) and weaved our way through the line. Daddy, Lexi, Papa and Mama went on the ride while Grammy hung back with William and Kate. World of Avatar (where the ride is located) is AMAZING! There are beautiful plants everywhere, huge unexplainable boulders that appear to be floating in the air. Waterfalls all over the place.


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I wish we weren’t rushing to get on the ride so we could have observed it more. The ride itself was pretty cool. You were strapped into something to made it feel like you were riding a horse-like-creature. You put on glasses and watched a screen as you dove through forests and jungles and saw whales jumping before your eyes. They created a full sensory experience changing the sents as you went throughout the ride, sprayed water in your face or felt the mist and humidity of the jungle. Lexi was pretty nervous throughout the ride and screamed a couple times but I was proud of her for giving it a try.


Following this ride, we high-tailed it up to the Kilimanjaro Safari to see the animals while they were still active. We saw lots of giraffes, white rhinos, elephants, gazelles, hippos, cheetas, crocodiles, antelope, kudo, ankole-watusi and much more. Highlight of this was having a giraffe pass our truck about 6 feet away.

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Once this was over, it was about 9:00, when the park opened to the public and became a little busier. We were all pretty hungry as we hadn’t eaten any breakfast. Unfortunately, that was the same thing on everyone else’s mind as all breakfast places were packed. We explored Gorilla Falls and saw lots of birds, fish and gorillas and went to find food.

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On our way to find food, we passed the bug’s life showing in the Tree of Life and decied to watch this as there wasn’t a line. I forgot how cool the tree of life is and all the animals that are carved into it all the way through the roots and the base of the trunk that we walked passed on our way into the ride.

Initially, the 3D show was a big hit with William and Lexi. They thought it was very funny. Kate was half laughing/half crying the entire show. Then, the spider appeard from the ceiling and scared the daylight out of William and Kate. Both were screaming (along with every other small child). I was about to take them out of the show when it ended.

It was about 10:30 around this time. We got a quick bite to eat and saw this cool looking bird.


Then made our way to Dino land. First, we went to meet Scrouge McDuck (a rare character sighting).


Then William went to play in the Dino Park and Lexi went to meet Daisy Duck–which was the only character we didn’t meet in Disneyland, so she was pretty excited.

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Lexi then joined William at the park and they had so much fun exploring, climbing up all the ropes and exploring the hidden slides, while Kate slept

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We then made our way to the triceritops ride–which was also a big hit. We grabbed some lunch (ordered all of our food on the app–so convienent to not have to wait in lines!) before heading over to the Dinosaur ride. I thought this was going to be a quite leisurly ride like A Small World. I was very wrong. It was scary and frightening and never have I ever seen William so scared in his life. He was screaming like he was about to be eaten by a dinosaur. Bill pulled him into his chest so he wouldn’t see anything and hopefully not have nightmares. #MomFail

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I did redeem myself by finding Pluto upon exisiting the ride and William thought he was pretty silly.

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After getting some pictures with Pluto we wandered around a little bit before heading to the 2:30 show of Finding Nemo. The kids thought it was OK, but weren’t as excited about it as they were about Frozen in Disneyland.

After the show, I had promised the Birthday Boy an icecream treat and there was no way he was forgetting about it.


Next, we headed over to the area of India to see some Tigers and other Indian animals. Kate feel asleep again while we walked. While exploring one of the bird zones, I said, Oats–look at that bird right there (about 3 feet away) to which he screamed like a little girl and made me giggle a little.

We had about an hour to kill before our fastpass on the rollarcoster Mt. Everest was available and the line to meet Mickey and Minnie wasn’t too long. To our advantage–we were able to somehow use a fastpass and get to the front of the line. Lexi and William were pretty excited to meet Mickey and Minnie together and in their jungle attire.

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After that, we headed over to redeem our fastpasses for Everest. Originally, I told Lexi that I thought this was too scary for her but she was insistant upon going. It was one of the craziest rollar coasters I have ever been on. (no spoiler alerts here). While going down one of the big drops, I the force of gravity had gotten Lexi and sucked her to the outside of her seat. I pulled her back in but I think that was a little too much for her. She said she liked it and it was fun, but didn’t want to go again. So Daddy and I used the rider switches to go one more time.

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By this time, it was around 5:30ish and everyone was spent. We made a quick pit-stop in the store to look at souviners before heading to the bus.

Upon our arrival back to the hotel, we packed up the cars and began our 6.5 hour drive back to PCB. In hindsight, we should have stayed another night to enjoy the hotel a bit more, swim etc… but we all made it back to the condo by 1:30 am or so to begin our next phase of vacation.



family vacations, Kate, Lexi, William

2019 Florida Vacation–Day 1

I have been looking forward to this for months. Literally months. I was so excited to get away and enjoy some nice warm vitamin D and forget about routine and work and everything else.

We were scheduled to get out of dodge at 6:40 in the morning on Sunday the 24th. The previous Tuesday/Wednesday, reports of another snowstorm to hit us on Saturday evening into Sunday and just knew it was going to be an issue (We’ve had a large snowstorm at least twice a week this month). I called Southwest several times trying to proactively change our flight to get out sooner to avoid it all. They weren’t having it and said I could only change if I wanted to pay the difference. The challenge was, Southwest only flies to PCB on Saturday and Sundays in Feb, so the next flight there was the following Saturday, which was the day we were supposed to come home.

Sure enough, Saturday rolls around and I get the email that our flight was canceled. I get on the phone and start trying to figure something out. They said we could only fly to Pensacola or PCB, but there were no options, so I asked if we could fly into Orlando…which they said yes. So, we booked to leave at 9:40 on Sunday morning and head to Orlando. Given that we were in Orlando and the following day was William’s 4th Birthday, I wasn’t going to pass on the opportunity to take the Birthday boy to DisneyWorld, so I found an affordable hotel–which happened to be onsite at Disney (Pop Century) and gave us the ability to have Magic Hours and get into the park early, which was a huge win considering we didn’t have any fastpasses. Grammy and Papa also decided to join us on the Disney adventure and each drove a car (theirs and the rented one) 6.5 hours from PCB to Orlando. The situation wasn’t ideal, but at least we were going to get a little something extra out of the inconvenience.

Saturday night, I did some research to learn about Animal Kingdom to have a game plan, but was still very skeptical that our flight was going to take off. And by skeptical–I was a ball of nerves and kind of edgy on to whoever I was talking to.

We ended up getting about 1-2″ of snow that evening and had no challenges in taking off. Kate completely shocked me and feel asleep for a good chuck of the first flight and all was good.

We arrived in Atlanta and grabbed some lunch quick while I figured out the Disney Magical Express. We somehow we misread our tickets or the time hadn’t changed on our phones and when we showed up to board our flight to Orlando, the gate had already closed. AHHH! I was SOOOO mad and frustrated. Still am, a month later. The woman at the gate wasn’t the most helpful and put us on standby to the next flight, which was at 5:30…3 hours from now. Thankfully, another employee herd me complaining and gave us tickets. While we were waiting, Kate pooped twice…which always sucks changing a poopy diaper in public, but twice. Then, William had an incident and pooped his pants a little so Bill was cleaning out his underwear in the sink in the airport. Oh yeah, we were those people. Other than that, the kids were amazing. Amazing. They colored and didn’t complain at all.

Kate was fairly tired, and I spent about an hour and 15 min just walking the terminal with her hoping she would fall asleep in the stroller. No such luck. After a slight delay, our flight took off at 6:00.

Upon arrival in Orlando, we boarded the magical express  and arrived at Pop Century to great greeting from an excited Grammy and Papa.

We eventually arrived in our room around 9:00. We ate some pizza quick, before I headed down to the concierge to get some of our luggage and ticket stuff figured out. After about and hour and a half and two very helpful cast members–I’ve learned a couple of things:

  1. It is VERY important to make sure you list everyone that will be staying in your room when booking a hotel room at Disney.
    • If you don’t, you will have challenges getting everyone onto the Magical Express
    • You may not have the correct number of beds (even if you provide a request)
      • Which will require them to give you a different room, which will delay the arrival of your luggage (which by the way, pack swimsuits or any items that will require immediate use in your carry on as it can take up to 5 hours for your luggage to arrive in your room)
    • You will have a heck of a time getting magic bands for the unlisted guests and then connecting them to your mydisneyexperience in the app

Finally, around 12:30 am, we were back in our room, had all of our luggage. I spent the next hour going through everyone’s bags and pulling out the things we were going to need in the park and re-packing the bags so it could make for an easy departure to the park the following morning.



family vacations, Lexi, William

Disneyland Day 3

We were much more leisurely getting out of the hotel room this morning. We packed everything up and brought it down to the car so we could just grab the car and head to the airport.

The big things on the to-do list for the day was to meet Donald Duck, Daisy, take some magic pictures and buy souvenirs.

We got to the magic kingdom park around 8:30 and the kids began their shopping.

disneyland 26They looked around in several of the stores and Lexi settled on a Minnie Mouse color changing pen and a Minnie Mouse autograph book that she was going to use to color. William picked a plastic Mickey Mouse figure that he could move his arms and legs. They picked out a stuffed Piglet for Kate and some cookie cutter/pancake molds for Grammy. Mommy got a Minnie hat and a christmas ornament. We also admired some of the Character villans that were on main street, that only come out at Halloween time.

disneyland 31Next up, we took some magic photos in front of the castle and then rode the Astro Orbiter Ride and made our way through Pixie Hollow to meet Tinkerbell.


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Finally, Donald was out, so we made our way back to the front of the park to meet Donald. It was probably one of the funnest things to watch as a parent. William was beside himself that Donald Duck was right in front of him. He was just in awe.

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It was nearing lunchtime so we explored Tarzan’s treehouse and grabbed a bit to eat.


Then Daddy, Lexi and William took the train half way around the park (it wasn’t very conducive to strollers) so I met you on the other side.


We rode the Buzz Lightyear ride again and then headed to downtown Disney to find the shirt that Daddy wanted in the right size. After that we headed back to the hotel, grabbed the car and made a quick stop at Panera to eat at the airport.


Both of you kiddos changed into jammies since we weren’t scheduled to land until midnight. You played with your toys for a bit on the plane and then both cashed out.

And that my sweet kiddos concludes your first Disney experience. I can’t wait to go again–especially with Kate!



family vacations, Lexi, William

Disneyland Day 2-California Adventure Land

William woke up around 5:45 and therefore everyone else woke up around that time as well. We got ready, grabbed a bit to eat for the ride to the park and arrived at Magic Kingdom a little after 7 am for magic hours. I grabbed a FastPass to the Cars ride and then headed to Peter Pan’s flight. It was raining, so we we threw on some garbage bags I had bought at CVS the night before and went to wait in line (which was already 35 minutes!). William refused to wear anything so we did our best to try and protect him and keep him dry.


While we were waiting, Lexi, William and I rode the carousel and then popped back in line with Daddy.

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The ride was so fun as we flew through the air in a hot air balloon type basket through Neverland.

We walked out of the ride, right at 8:00 and jumped into Snow White’s Scary Adventure, which was very similar to Winnie the pooh, just a little scarier (with the witch).

After this, we headed over to California Adventure Park to go on the Cars ride. Unfortunately, it was closed due to the rain as were most of the other rides, except for the Incredicoaster, so Bill got a fastpass and was literally sitting in the car ready to go when it broke. So, we split up–William and Daddy used a FastPass and went on the ToyStory ride while Lexi and I went on A Little Mermaid. The Boys LOVED the ToyStory ride as it was like a game where you had to shoot different things and get points.

disneyland 17After that, we waited in line for 20 minutes for the swinging Farris Wheel. William and I popped out quick and went to meet Woody, which was a big highlight.

disneyland 24 The magic of Disney came through once again, and they allowed us to pop back in line with Daddy and Lexi so we could all ride together. I was not a huge fan of the ride. I didn’t like how the car slide and swung back and forth, but William was laughing and thought it was very fun.


All the FastPasses we were booking were turning into multi-use passes because the rides were shut off from the rain. A multi-use pass means you can use your FastPass on any ride at any time verses typically being tied to a specific ride during a certain time slot.

Next we went over to Soarin, where you sit in a thing like an Airplane and sore through different habitats. Our FastPass got us through the line in about 15 min verses the 60 min that everyone else was waiting.

It was around 11:00 at this point and the rain was starting to slow down a little. We grabbed a bit to eat and then went to try to find Donald and Daisy, but didn’t have any luck.


Instead we headed to Frozen the musical, which was fantastic. It was just like a broadway production.

After that we met Captain America while we were trying to find Spiderman.

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Around 2:15 we went to the Disney Jr. Dance Party where the kids got to see Roadster Mickey and Minnie, Doc McStuffins and the Lion King characters. Lexi asked to go up with the rest of the kids dancing near the stage while William was perfectly content watching on my lap.

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The rain had pretty much stopped by this point and the Cars ride was back up and running so we went over there to redeem a FastPass. The line was 45 minutes long because all of the FastPasses that had been given out for the day for almost all of the rides had been turned into multi-use. Anyways, Disney nailed the execution of Cars land. The executed the town perfectly to replicate the movie and the ride was no exception. It started off by getting into a real lightening McQueen car and a leisurely stroll through plot lines in the movie. Then, it gets into race mode and you are racing fast like a rollercoaster on a racetrack. William was horrified. I mean terrified. Straight terror. He passed the height requirement by about a half of an inch and had never been on something that went that fast and spun around. About 10 seconds into the ride, I took my hand and covered his eyes so he couldn’t see. When we got off the ride, we really built it up like ‘oh my gosh, that was so fun! William, you did so good’ and didn’t acknowledge the fact that he had been scared and he bought it.

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After that, we went over to the Incredicoster and watched Daddy ride in the front car. We all went on the Toy Story ride and then met Buzz after.

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Finally Spiderman was out so we ventured back over to his posting and waited 30 minutes for the meet and greet. William’s dreams came true. He was very shy when he was meeting him, but couldn’t stop talking about it after.

disneyland 27Next up, we grabbed a Mickey pretzel for dinner, ate a couple of snacks and went to go on the Cars ride again. This time the wait was 60 minutes long for the FastPass, but the non-FastPass line was over 3 hours. William did better this time, but was still pretty scared.

IMG_1840disneyland 22By this time it was starting to get dark so we went to find a spot to watch Paint the Parade. Both kiddies feel asleep before we even found a spot to watch.

Disneyland 19Again, it was out of this world. So good. I wish the kids could have seen it. After this, Daddy and I each took a turn riding the Incredicoaster again and Daddy wanted to try and beat his score on the Toy Story ride again. The park closed around 10 and Daddy and I walked back to the hotel. We were both exhausted. A full day of walking and adventure.




family vacations, Lexi, William

Disneyland Day 1

Lexi and William

You both woke up around 5:30am, which wasn’t a huge surprise considering it would have been 7:30 am back home. William seemed to be feeling much better. He took a quick shower to clean away and vom smell and him and Mommy headed upstairs to check out the breakfast situation.

Around 6:15, we started to give you clues on where we were and what we were going to do.

  • Clue number 1: We need sunscreen today (your guesses were the beach)
  • Clue number 2: Where are we (Lexi pieced together that we must be in California because that is where I was)
  • Clue number 3: We’re going to meet some of the fun characters that are on your jammies (Lexi figured it out!) and was jumping all over the bed.

We quickly put on your new Mickey and Minnie shirts, headed up for breakfast and were at the park entrance around 7:30 or so for an 8:00 open. The park was all decorated for Halloween so there were huge pumpkins that had Minnie, Goofy, Donald, Pluto and Mickey carved into them.

Upon entering the park, I quickly purchased the max pass to get photos and the ability to book fastpasses. We took a family picture in front of the train depot and then started to make our way back to Peter Pan’s flight.


On the way, we saw Chip, Pluto, and got Minnie’s autograph.

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We also met Captain Hook and Peter Pan.


By the time we got to Peter Pan’s flight the line was pretty long, so we passed and went to ride Dumbo and then went over to a Small World.

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It was about 9:00 by this point and we headed into Toon Town. We rode the goofy gadget coster a couple of times, played on Donald’s boat, saw Mickey’s & Minnie’s house and met Minnie.

disneyland 4Disneyland 7We also saw Goofy’s house and met Goofy too.

disneyland 5After that, we went to go ride Roger Rabbits Toon Spin. It broke about 3/4 of the way through the ride, and we were escorted out, which was probably a good thing as William wasn’t a huge fan.

Disneyland 6After that, we headed over to Big Thunder Railroad mountain where Mommy and Lexi rode it. Lexi said she liked it, but didn’t want to ride again with Daddy.

We were hungry for a snack so Daddy found some food, while Lexi and I waited in line to meet princesses. While we were waiting, we saw Gaston and Repunzel.

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We were all pretty hungry and decided it was lunchtime, however, everything looked packed. While we were deciding what to eat, Lexi fell asleep in the stroller. I found a place that allows you to order online and then pick up at a window, so we did that and relaxed in the shade a bit. Next up was Winnie the Pooh’s Adventure. It was the cutest little ride that took you through the story of ‘The Blustery Day’ everything was neon and a cute mellow ride. We had to wake Lexi up for this one, but she really seemed to like it.

Then right around the corner, which is also in the back of the park, Eeyeore, Tigger and Pooh were signing autographs. They commented on our autograph book (mine from ’93) and even looked through it to see who we had.

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Next up, we headed over to Buzz’s toystory ride to use a fastpass. This ride was also pretty fun. We wore 3D classes and it was a slower but fun ride for the kids.

After that we headed over to Autopia where the kids were able to drive mini cars. While waiting in line, William had to go potty, so him and I jumped out to find a bathroom. I thought we were going to miss going on the ride, but I asked if we could come back in line after the bathroom and to my surprise they said yes!

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After the kids learned to drive, we found a good spot to watch the Pixar Parade and enjoy a Mickey ice cream. This parade was fantastic. The music was great, engaging floats with fire bursts and shooting water. Very entertaining!

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We then took advantage of the short lines to go on the Finding Nemo submarine ride.


We were quickly approaching our character dinning dinner experience, so we hopped on the monorail that took us to one of the disney hotels that had Goofy’s kitchen.

After paying almost twice what I had expected (they raised the prices the week before AND the estimate I received didn’t include taxes and service fees… we were seated and had an amazing time. The kids met chef Goofy, Mickey, Minnie, Chip, Dale and Pluto. Mickey and Minnie even danced with Lexi and William in during one of their little performances. You two kids could not stop smiling.



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While we were there, it rained a little but it looked like it was going to clear up, so we headed over to California adventure land to meet some characters and catch the nighttime parade. It kept getting delayed due to the weather and William was hanging on by a thread and eventually crashed in the stroller.

Lexi and I took advantage of a short line to meet Elsa, which was a total highlight. After that, she crashed in the stroller and we wheeled ourselves back to our hotel room (about .5 mile) and all crashed.

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family vacations, Lexi, William

Disneyland-Getting here

Lexi and William,

I was scheduled to go out to LA for a TV shoot and had suggested that Grammy and Papa fly out with Daddy and you three kids to meet me and do a quick visit to Disneyland. After Grandma T passed away, Grammy and Papa had to cancel their big trip they had planned so I thought this would be something fun to look forward to and lift spirits a bit. They decided to pass, but wanted to watch Kate and encouraged the four of us to go.

The whole trip was a surprise. So I left on my trip (with all of our stuff packed in my bag!) On Thursday, Daddy brought both of you to school like any other day. He picked up William and then surprised Lexi around noon and headed over to Grammy and Papas to drop off Kate. When asked where you were going, Daddy just responded, ‘to see mom’ You ate a quick lunch and then Papa brought you three to the airport.

As you were leaving, Kate went to get her jacket and shoes and was the saddest little puppy when she found out she wasn’t going.

Once at the airport, papa dropped the three of you off and Lexi goes, ‘Where is he going?’ she thought I was coming off the airplane and you were just going to pick me up. Daddy stuck with his story, ‘We’re going to see mommy.’

You bummed around the airport and then it was time to board. Again, you two were confused as you thought you were waiting for me to come off of a plane. After boarding , you thought you were taking a plane to pick me up. LOL!

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You landed in LA around 5:00 and this is where the adventure really begins. Apparently, the car rental company I booked through wasn’t the one the airport shuttles to AND it was closed. So Daddy ended up renting a car for twice of what we planned.

Around 6:30 or 7, you were finally on the road to Disneyland, about a 45 min drive.  Unfortunately, there was a car crash on the freeway causing a 20 min delay and just lots of traffic resulting in lots of start stop and jerking. Additionally, you kiddos hadn’t eaten anything but candy in the last 9 hours or so, which didn’t help the situation.

About 3 miles from the hotel, William threw up all over himself and the car seat.

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Daddy stopped at a 7-Eleven, took you out of his clothes (thankfully, I had packed another set in the airplane bag in case something happened. I had all of their other clothes with me) and did his best to clean the carseat and finally to our hotel around 9:15 PST (11 CST). Both of you were passed out.

We transferred you to the stroller, and put you to bed.  Lexi woke up, went to the bathroom ate some Panera, played a couple games on the iPad and then feel asleep.

Thankfully, the hotel had washer/dryers so I was able to wash all of William’s clothes, the car seat liner any anything else that had gotten dirty. I had also purchased some 409 and a roll of paper towels to clean out the carseat and the car.

Finally around 12:30-1:00, I was able to get some rest.

Crossing our fingers and sending lots of prayers that William was carsick and not coming down with the flu.