Because we are going several times this year, we are driving down a few times and flying some as well. This trip was the first time my kids have traveled to Florida by car. My husband's sister lives in Atlanta, so we broke up the 11 hour trip by visiting family. We appreciated their hospitality, and my kids were thrilled to see their cousins. Even with the stopover, the drive was long, but I don't feel bad for kids who have iPods, iPads, DVD players and DS's! What's to complain about with all of that???? We also played the license plate game. I got a Melissa & Doug License Plate Game, and we found every state except Hawaii, Alaska, Nevada, New Mexico, Arizona and Vermont. Here's my crew passing the time on I-75.
I have to give Dad credit for being a very good sport about this trip. Both of our long driving sessions were on the same days as the first two weekends of the NCAA tournament. He did not complain about missing the games, but he did check his Blackberry a few times when Tennessee was playing (he quit when it became painfully obvious that they would lose big).
We checked into our hotel on Friday evening. Because we had our own transportation this time, we stayed off-property using hotel points. Our suite was great, and the kids really enjoyed the recreation area. They even had a basketball court. My Favorite Boy spent many hours playing with his dad and other kids during the week.
On Saturday morning, we headed to Animal Kingdom. Here's the best advice for visiting Disney at busy times: be at the park when it opens! For the first few hours, you will have little to no wait at most attractions. Here are my two smiling kiddos standing by the rope ready to head to Expedition Everest.
After two rides on Everest, we headed to the Safari attraction for a very special meeting. Jennifer, the managing editor for 5 Minutes for Books, was visiting Disney with her family. I have been reading Jennifer's blog for over four years, and I have worked with her at 5 Minutes for Books for almost three. It was so fun to meet her and her family; it felt like meeting up with an old friend.
After an enjoyable few hours at Animal Kingdom, we headed to the Fantasia Gardens mini-golf course. We had a great time, and we even convinced my Favorite Boy to throw out the score card and just enjoy the game (his usual philosophy: why bother playing if you aren't in it to win).
On Sunday afternoon, we headed to Typhoon Lagoon. This was a first-time visit for us, and the park did not disappoint. Besides having many fun slides, and an area where you can swim with sharks, the park includes an enormous wave pool that produces six-foot waves. These waves literally knock you off your feet, and my kids LOVED it. This was a great way to spend the afternoon!
For those of you who have read many of my Disney trip reports, I hope you're impressed that I just fit three days into one post! I'll be back soon with fun pictures and stories from the next few days.
We arrived home on Saturday from a fun-filled spring break trip. More on that as soon as I get caught up around here. As for Oreo, I have never received a warmer greeting than I did from her after we arrived home from our trip. Now that I know how much she loves me, I guess I can forgive the little toilet paper mess that's in my bedroom now, right?
The kids had so much fun playing: the four older kids played tag by running in circles around the house. I am sure Grammy and Papa don't usually have so much excitement on Friday evenings.
This sweet boy, my youngest nephew, hung out next to the sun room for most of the evening and talked to Oreo (our dog) through the gate. It was so cute. For the record, I appreciated my mom allowing Oreo to come. She is not a big fan of dogs, or any other animals.
The kids enjoyed a sleepover together (except my Favorite Boy who woke up on Saturday morning grumpy because he doesn't sleep well when he doesn't have a bed to himself).
On Saturday morning, everyone was up early, so we started a video to give the grown-ups time to wake up.
I also took some pictures, but I had a difficult time getting some of my subjects to grin. This was as good as I could get out of my beautiful niece (and she was trying not to smile at all).
Saturday happened to be my birthday, so I was treated to my favorite kind of pizza and birthday cake. My Best Girl convinced Grammy to decorate. I have no idea why she had streamer and balloons on hand, but they made for a festive lunch!
My Best Girl collected flowers outside, so after lunch she opened a flower shop. Notice the sign. The part in yellow says, "Buy for free if you are my mom you can." Everyone else had to pay 5 cents (we convinced her that 5 cents was more reasonable than 5 dollars).
We spent most of Saturday outside. It was beautiful, and the kids had a wonderful time. The girls spent a lot of time digging and finding rocks. They really enjoyed each other. My Favorite Boy spent some time playing ball (of course). I didn't have my good camera with me, so I couldn't get a good action shot.
Oreo had so much fun playing outside all day. She decided she wanted her picture taken, too. She thinks this is her best side.
We had a great weekend! Soon, we'll be adding a web cam to our home so we can Skype. I know the kids will enjoy keeping in touch between visits!
On Sunday, my kids and I went to see Goodnight Moon at the Nashville Children's Theatre. I wondered how they would be able to turn the book into a play, but it was so cute. Goodnight Moon was the first book I read to my Favorite Boy, so it was extra special to me.
I have to share this. My Best Girl is a firecracker, but she can be super sweet. She LOVES to give to others. On Friday, her teacher told me that my Best Girl leaves some of her snack on the teacher's desk every day. My Best Girl doesn't realize that the teacher knows it is her. One day the teacher commented out loud that the popcorn chips were so good, and a few minutes later, there were more on her desk. This is the picture her teacher sent to me yesterday (look for the pretzel chips).
We are looking forward to a fun weekend! My brother and his family are arriving tonight from New Mexico. We'll be heading to my parents' house tomorrow night to hang out with them. My kids are so excited to see their cousins. I am sure I will have a lot of cute pictures to share!
In 2011, I hope to participate in at least one more 5K, 10K and half-marathon. I am thinking that I may do a 10K in April, at least one 5K in early to mid-summer, and the Women's Half in Nashville in September. Of course, that leaves several more months in 2011, so I may add something else in the last few months. Training for the half in September will be tough for me because I have the kids 24/7 during the summer (which I love, but it does make solo mommy activities difficult), and we will have baseball tournaments on many weekends. I am going to do my best to get the training done because I think that I will enjoy another women's event.
Since running has dominated my posting lately, I'll move on to new topics for a while, but I wanted to set my goals. That keeps me motivated!
Then one of the kids asked me, "Did you win?" I laughed and said no, and another child immediately said, "Did you come in second?" I said no again and explained that I finished 3000 something (3708 out of 13,000+ women to be exact). One of the kids said, "Wow. They shouldn't have even let you have a medal!" So funny!
Although the kids in her class were not impressed with my finish, my Best Girl has been my encourager throughout this entire training process. When I arrived home last week, she gave me this:
In case you can't tell, that's a crown that says, "Yay Mom" and a "Good Job." I am thankful for my cheerleader!
It was about 11:15, and we snagged one of the last sets of Fastpasses for Toy Story Mania. While we were excited to obtain the precious Fastpasses, we were slightly bummed by the 8:00 PM return time. We didn't know if we would be able to hold out until then (remember we woke up at 3:30 AM), but we decided to wait and see.
We hopped aboard a Friendship boat and headed to Epcot. This was the first of several boat rides during the day, and my legs appreciated them all. Once we arrived at Epcot, we grabbed some Fastpasses for Soarin', and then walked around the World Showcase in search of lunch. We weren't sure what we wanted, but we knew we were looking for something we we wouldn't do with our children. We ended up in France.
Our lunch was delicious, and it was so fun to enjoy a nice, relaxing meal. I don't think I have mentioned the weather, but the entire weekend was sunny with highs in the mid-eighties and lows around 60 (perfect). During lunch, the sun was streaming in the windows, and we could see all the beautiful landscaping outside. So nice!
Speaking of landscaping, the Epcot Flower and Garden Festival was about to begin, so many of the topiaries were already on display. We spent the afternoon walking around the countries and admiring the beauty.
We also enjoyed the Gran Fiesta Tour, Soarin' and Living with the Land before ending our time at Epcot with a treat from the caramel shop in Germany. YUM!
At about six, we headed back to Hollywood Studios. At this point, we were both EXHAUSTED, but determined to finish the day with a bang (we probably walked at least four or five miles in addition to the race). We forced our tired legs to the Great Movie Ride in Hollywood Studios, and then almost fell asleep in One Man's Dream (no offense to Walt Disney's life story--it's amazing, but a dark theater was a tough challenge for our tired eyes). Finally, it was time for Toy Story Mania.
Rachel finished the marathon 30 minutes ahead of me, so I am happy to say that I came out on top in the video game category. :)
We got back to our room about 9:00 and crashed. The next morning came quickly (and so did the sore muscles), and we boarded the bus for the airport. The entire weekend was so fun, and I am so thankful that Rachel was able to go with me. I am always sad to leave Disney, but not this time. We're going back in a few weeks! Yes, my name is Lauren, and I am a Disney addict.
The bus carried us to Epcot. After walking the red carpet into the staging area, Rachel and I posed for a picture. It was probably just after 5:00 AM.
The walk to the corrals was long, but amusing. So many people were dressed up in elaborate costumes, including the few men who were participating. Check out this video to see some of the creativity.
I stopped at the port-a-potties (there were hundreds of them), and then we headed for the start. Rachel was in corral A, and I was in B. We hadn't been there long when the Fairy Godmother got us going. Each corral started with its own fireworks. It was very exciting.
The first few minutes of running are always the hardest for me. Once I get in my groove, it is much easier. For the first mile or so, I worked to get in a comfortable pace. This was difficult because there were so many people, but everything thinned out as the race progressed. When I started the race, I thought I would stop for lots of character pictures, but once I got going, I didn't want to wait in the lines (some of the pictures in this post will be blurry because I took them while running, and some have random runners in them). In the first few miles, we were entertained with DJ's playing fun music, Captain Jack and his pirate ship, a hot air balloon shaped like Epcot, and some dashing princes. So fun!
It wasn't long before we were greeted by this wonderful sight. I think this was around mile 2.5 or 3, but I'm not sure.
We ran by the Disney World Speedway and the Polynesian. At the Transportation and Ticket Center, the Japanese drummers were playing. Of all the entertainers, the drummers ranked among my favorites.
We ran on towards the Contemporary Resort and the Magic Kingdom. Near the Contemporary, there was a DJ on an overpass. He yelled out, "Let's see if you ladies are the same age I am," and he started playing "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air." Suddenly, I was surrounded by thousands of women singing, "In West Philadelphia born and raised; On the playground where I spent most of my days; Chilling out, maxing, relaxing all cool; And all shooting some b-ball outside of the school." Obviously, many were near the same age because everyone new the lyrics word for word. This was so fun!
Soon, Space Mountain came into view.
We entered the Magic Kingdom through a cast member entrance and then headed up Main Street toward the castle. I stopped to get a picture. I guess you can tell that I missed my mouth with the water at mile 4. Racing tip: Walk while trying to drink.
We ran through Tommorowland and through Fantasyland before coming to the castle from behind. I wanted to stop for a picture with royal Mickey and Minnie, but the line was long.
After coming through the castle, we passed the six mile mark, headed through Frontierland, and exited the Magic Kingdom through the backstage areas. They had several of the parade floats and characters out to cheer us on.
I had heard that the next stretch of the race seemed long because you have passed the thrill of running in the Magic Kingdom, but it didn't feel that way to me. I knew I was doing well with my pace, and that energized me. Additionally, there was still plenty of entertainment along the course. The stretch near the Grand Floridian had quite a few princesses with their princes, as well as golfer Donald with his Mickey golf cart (this was so cute, but I don't have a picture).
Somewhere around mile 9 or 10, we could see Spaceship Earth (the ball at Epcot). This was encouraging, but I knew we had an on-ramp to conquer. There ended up being a second incline around mile 11.5, so we really had two uphill battles near the end. My Tennessee training helped me at this point because I rarely run without hills. Also, the Green Army Man from Toy Story was shouting at us in the middle of one of the ramps, and that helped to keep me moving. He told us that Sarge really likes to see people running early in the morning.
Near mile 12, I saw Mrs. Incredible. I was feeling pretty incredible at this point, so I was glad she didn't have a line.
We ran through the Future World section of Epcot, and then we ran by this choir just before mile 13.
HOORAY! I finished in 2:26:19. Considering this included two potty breaks and picture taking, I was very pleased with my time. According to my Garmin, I actually ran 13.3 miles, but who's counting? My friend Rachel was waiting on me (she finished in 1:56ish), and she surprised me with an "I Did It!" t-shirt, which I proudly wore the rest of the day (and even the next day, but don't tell anyone). Then, we headed over to see Rapunzel and Snow White. We apologized to Rapunzel for our sweaty skin and odor. She replied, "Oh, don't worry. I spend most of the day with my horse, so it doesn't bother me at all." Love it.
In terms of importance, I have to say that the day I became a Christian, my wedding day, and my children's birthdays rank at the top. I admit, however, that this day ranks very high. I am so excited that I set this goal over a year ago and stuck with it. Before last year, I would have laughed at the thought of completing 3 miles, much less 13(.3). The race was so uplifting and FUN, and I can't wait to complete another! I don't know how future races can compare with the Disney Princess, but I look forward to the excitement and encouragement that is sure to come when you have a large group of people working towards a goal. This was truly an amazing experience.
Stay tuned to read about our after-race fun!