Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day

Mommy makes such a big deal out of Memorial Day! It was a classic afternoon, filled with sunshine and memories - though it didn't look like that in the morning. We've had showers all day on and off, but the clouds gave way for just a few hours to dry things out - and allow us to grill, and eat outside on the deck. Ye-Ye and Nana came over, all dressed up for the day - and everything was just perfect.

Mommy had a wonderful meal prepared for us. She made her patriotic jello, and of course there were all the usual items you need to have for an outdoor Memorial Day feast: there was corn on the cob, hamburgers, hot dogs (Daddy grilled those), potato salad, macaroni salad, pickles, and even pecan pie. It was a lot of food!

There was even watermelon! We decorated the house with our patriotic decor. We even put up a Mr. Potato Head that looked like the Statue of Liberty (Daddy and Madison had been playing with Mr. Potato Head for a few hours this afternoon). We plugged in some patriotic music and enjoyed a great afternoon out.

You can see here that Madison was enjoying putting fake pepperoni pieces in Ye-Ye's eyes! Madison put on her apron and was preparing her pizza in the oven in her playroom. She came out with oven mits on and delivered a fresh pizza to us, and even though we were full, we made sure to have room for the new delicious pizza.

Ye-Ye and Nana got to play with Madison some more this afternoon, as Mommy and Daddy had a date night. We went to go see "The Prince of Persia," which was a pretty decent popcorn flick. When we came home to Madison, everyone was tired. In fact, Daddy is just about ready to go to bed right now.

Happy Memorial Day!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Memorial Day Weekend

This morning, Mommy and Madison slept in as Daddy trudged off to work. He was pretty tired from all the catch-up work that needed to be done yesterday, but regardless, it was a good day at church. We had lots of kids writing letters to soldiers overseas, thanking them for their sacrifice - and that was a good thing.

Daddy got home and before we did anything, it was time for our first lightsaber duel. I just said the word, "lightsaber," and Madison ran to grab hers - and mine. Right there in the kitchen, and down the hallway, we engaged in an epic duel of fates. Until we both decided it was time to eat dinner.

Yes, it was time to eat! But the house didn't have any food in it. Everyone knows it is a major no-no to go grocery shopping on an empty stomach, so the three of us ventured out to the Oriental Garden II (twice as good as Oriental Garden I). Madison scarfed an order of egg drop soup and horked down a bit of an egg roll and those chips you get at your table to begin with. Madison likes the fortune cookies too!

We did our grocery shopping after that, which took a while - but again: the house was devoid of food. Mommy found some good deals, while Daddy and Madison fooled around with the shopping cart.

When we got home, we went for a little walk to the park with Ye-Ye and Nana, during which Madison insisted on walking Asaph. Of course, she can't hold the dog on her own, so we've developed this ingenious little system where there are actually two leashes on this poor animal! Still and yet, it gets complicated from time to time, as we're also walking two other dogs, and traffic occasionally comes down the road forcing us all to the side. The end result is a much longer trip than anticipated, and sometimes I ponder if Ye-Ye and Nana would just rather do this one on their own! Still, it's nice for Madison, who enjoys their company. Tomorrow, we'll see more of them as we'll have a nice little cookout here at the house on the back deck. It's Memorial Day and you're supposed to grill something. That's just part of what Mommy was getting at the grocery store today though.

We watched parts of "The Lion King" tonight, and of course we ate popcorn too. This was the first viewing for Madison, who really enjoyed what she saw. I think one of the funnier moments for her was when Rafiki whacks Simba on the head with his stick. Daddy rewinds that part, and we watch that part over and over again. You should try it too: there's this great sound effect they play when it hits his head. But there's also a great lesson to that part of the movie too, which shouldn't be missed. After our adventure in the Animal Kingdom, we thought she'd enjoy seeing parts of this movie, and we were right. Madison was saying, "The Lion King!" She was also giving us her lion roar too. Roar!

"Oh yes, the past can hurt. But the way I see it, you can either run from it, or... learn from it."
- Rafiki

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Tale as Old as Time

Here she is, our lovely princess. This is easily our favorite picture from our trip, one taken by the Disney staff right there at the Akershus Royal Banquet Hall at the Norway Pavillion in Epcot. Daddy scanned this picture this morning and added it to our digital collection.

Today was a day to catch up on work, and for Mommy to catch up with lots of laundry and housework. The weather is much cooler here in Georgia, and how nice it was last night to sleep in our bed again. You have no idea how wonderful that bed is! It was designed by NASA scientists, or at least that's what the salespeople informed us many years ago when we decided on getting it. That bed was love at first sight when we plopped down on it in the middle of the showroom. It was quite an effort getting it up into the bedroom, but we've been quite happy with it ever since. Especially last night, when you just finally stop moving and let that sleep that's been chasing you finally catch up.

Madison played with her new toys today, especially that lightsaber. Daddy owes her a duel, now that we have two lightsabers in the house. It will be an epic battle, but it'll probably have to wait until tomorrow afternoon.

It's Memorial Day weekend, the traditional start of summer. Maybe Monday we'll have a picnic with Ye-Ye and Nana. Maybe we'll invite the bees over too...

Anyway, Daddy has a lot of work to do - including catching up on this blog!

"Back to the old grind..." - Huey Lewis

Friday, May 28th, 2010

We had a huge breakfast, and soon it was time to head home. Daddy was fearful that we'd encounter lots of traffic on the way home, as it was Memorial Day weekend. But, the only time we got slow was around Atlanta, when we were very close to home.

Madison is so content in that back seat, when she has her toys nearby, her coloring sheets and crafts close at hand, and a DVD player in front of her. Daddy looks back at her in the rearview mirror, sitting there with her headphones on. She's growing up so fast, and she's so beautiful.

We arrived home with little fanfare, and started bringing in all the luggage and items immediately. We'd unpack later.

Nana helped Daddy return the car to the rental place, where we encountered a monster thunderstorm. The rain came down in torrents, soaking through - and yet when we returned, it never rained a drop at the house. Funny how the weather is: the rental place is only eight miles away, and had we not gone there, we would never had known it was even raining in the first place.

Madison went to bed early tonight. We all did, in fact. It was a long day. It was a long vacation! But we were ready to be back.

Sort of!

Thursday, May 27th, 2010

Our last day at Disney! We packed everything into the car, but weren't ready to leave yet. One big reason: we had reservations for another special meal. This one would be as great as the dinner with the Disney Princesses a few nights ago - only we didn't tell Madison about this one ahead of time. It would be a surprise!
We hopped in the car and drove the short distance to Hollywood Studios, which is one of Daddy's favorite parks. Our reservations weren't that far away, but we did have time to drop in on a 3D movie that Madison enjoyed: "Muppet Vision 3D." It was great watching Madison crack up in the theater at the different things - and watching her react to some of the 3D elements. When we got out, it was time to head over for lunch - and it was lunch with the Playhouse Disney characters!

You should have seen her smile when she went in the doorway to that restaurant. I know I'll never forget it - she was grinning from ear to ear, with a sparkle in her eye. She saw Leo first, and then June from the Little Einsteins. Then she saw JoJo, and also Handy Manny! While we ate, each one came to the table to say hello to Madison.

She hopped out of her chair each time - got her autographs, and gave each one a special hug. Occasionally, characters would gather around a host in the restaurant and invite all the kids to come up for a big dance routine. Madison saw June and ran to her, full steam. Only when she got there, she was pretty shy. She clasped her hands together and looked downward, but June was happy to see her, and patted her head. Madison did a twirl, just like June would do on her television show - and soon, everyone was dancing. It was a special moment, and it was wonderful to see Madison enjoying herself so much. The food was good, and plentiful - but Madison was too excited to eat that much. There was so much going on all around her!

After lunch, we made our way over to the Playhouse Disney show, which was actually very good. Daddy was taking notes, because he hopes our church can do something similar with its younger kids. It was mostly a unique puppet show, which featured characters from Handy Manny, the Little Einsteins and My Friends Tigger and Pooh. Madison was thrilled, and so were all the other kids there.

We were going to do the Toy Story ride, but no one told us how popular it was or warned us to get Fastpass tickets either. Oh, well - maybe next time. It was hot outside, so the cool air inside the Little Mermaid show made for a perfect place to chill out. We waited inside for the next performance, and then made our way inside the theater for a great show. Madison really likes Ariel, so this was a great thing to go see. It's a neat performance, using all sorts of techniques and special effects. Definitely worth seeing! Just ask Madison!

Next, we decided to wander over towards the Star Wars section, where Madison hopped right on her own speeder bike!

Here Madison is, trying out a new speeder bike. She was going to ride this one all over the park, but they said she was too young! Actually, she was too young for Star Tours too - which is a shame, because from what I understand the ride is going to be retired this year, and replaced with something new.
Still, Daddy went on the ride because the line was pretty short. Daddy was on this ride in 1989, only six years after "Return of the Jedi." It was fun then, and still fun now.
Afterwards, Daddy and Madison engaged in a most sacred right of passage: the making of your own lightsaber. Madison wanted one really bad, and used her force powers of persuasion to get Mommy and Daddy to help her.

Note the color. Yes, our daughter has chosen the dark side. Hopefully, she'll turn to good and still get to use her red lightsaber.
I'm not quite sure what the jedi rules are pertaining to good guys using red lightsabers. I'll have to consult the handbook. She's a powerful youngling, with a vicious overhand swing that will take you by surprise if you're not ready for it. We were probably not supposed to engage in lightsaber duels inside the shop, but we couldn't help ourselves. The force was strong with this one! Soon we found ourselves outside, after buying a few more souvenirs. Suddenly, the "Star Wars" theme music played and Madison suddenly grabbed her lightsaber, ready for action. It's funny how they recognize the music and know it is time for battle! She ran over to the jedi training academy, where other younglings were engaged in a rigorous training exercise.

Suddenly, Darth Vader showed up! Madison instinctively knew who he was: the bad guy! She waved her finger at him and said, "Naughty, naughty!" He pointed at her menacingly, and she scurried behind Daddy for safety. But Daddy told her it was okay, so she got back to her position in front and again waved that finger, "Naughty! Naughty!"

It was a fun show, where kids got to duel with Darth Vader. What fun! Madison will no doubt be battling him in the future. She's been practicing with Daddy ever since with that lightsaber!

But soon it was time to go. We had to get back to Ba-Ba and Nana's house before nightfall, so we made the decision to head home. We ate at Pizza Planet nearby, filling up again on pizza, salads, and deserts, and then made our way towards the exit, ready to say goodbye to Disney World.

It was a very memorable trip, filled with so many tiny details I could not list them all here. But I tried my best, and with these pictures and more, we'll always be able to look back fondly on a very good time at Disney World.

The trip back was uneventful, which was just what we needed. It was quiet, and quick. Nana and Ba-Ba greeted us warmly, and we recounted all of our adventures - and fell asleep early that night. Vacation can be exhausting!

Monday, May 24th, 2010

There's a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow
We started out our next day in Disney World by sleeping in! Yes! Our room's air conditioning worked well, but it actually was a little chilly in the night. On top of that, we opted to try out having Madison sleep in a bed with Mommy through the night. This had mixed results, but we did get to sleep in a little, so that was good.

Daddy went off to the Port Royal area of the resort and got some breakfast items, and some milk for Mommy for tea. Got to have tea. After watching the Disney channel and munching on breakfast and just generally waking up, we decided to head over to the main pool area, which was just as awesome as we thought it'd be.

It was divine Providence that gave us one of the rare tables underneath an umbrella providing shade for Mommy. We were just arriving as the folks who previously had that seat were leaving. As the day was already very, very hot - this was a good thing.

The pool has a zero degree entry, which is just like at the beach where Madison could walk in and slowly get deeper, and deeper, and deeper...until she started clinging on Daddy's back. We floated along together, with Daddy testing out some of her swimming skills. She's really coming along nicely there. Still, there was plenty of time to simply hang on to Daddy's back as we approached the fort's cannons and ...oh no! They're shooting water at us! Oh no!

We had a great time in the pool, and Daddy even got to go off on his own one time and try out the water slide. It's somewhat of a tradition! As for Madison, she got to finally try out this:

There is this huge bucket at the top of this thing, slowly filling up with water. Gallons and gallons fill it to the very brim when all of the sudden the bells go off, and everyone screams! The bucket tilts over and hurls all that water downward, splashing everyone! Madison loved the splashing and the slides and the little fountains and was having a great time. But soon it was time to go somewhere even more special: The Magic Kingdom!

We hopped on the bus and went to Main Street, and started our adventure out with a haircut. Daddy once again got a hair cut at the barber shop right there inside the entrance of the Magic Kingdom, while Mommy and Madison looked on. It was a good cut, but the one thing Daddy didn't count on was the amount of sun exposure! That sun was sure cooking!

Just outside, we found a place in the shade, and right as the haircut had wrapped up, we found ourselves watching the parade pass by. It was a glorious occasion for Madison! Large floats glided by, and dancers waved and smiled. Best of all, lots of characters blew kisses and shook hands with her, each one getting a big smile from Madison. I think the best reaction of all came from one of the mice from the movie "Cinderella." She walked right up to Madison and just about gave her a hug.

After the parade, we wandered down Main Street to Tomorrowland, where we decided to grab ourselves a meal at Cosmic Ray's Starlight Cafe. It was a lot of food, but we were on the meal plan - and it was pretty good food too. We picked up a fast pass for Buzz Lightyear's ride, and with the crowds as big as they were, we decided to hop on the People Mover.

You can see here that Madison is having a pretty good day so far! This is a nice, pleasant ride through Tomorrowland. Madison got scared in a dark tunnel, and that moment turned out to be the only scary moment of the whole trip. We were determined to be wise as parents and not do anything dumb, like take her to the Haunted Mansion or on Space Mountain!

After our ride on the People Mover, we had a real treat! The Carousel of Progress was open! This gem of a ride was first running during the World's Fair in New York some time ago, and Mommy actually got to see it before it ever came to Disney World. Now, of course, it's here in Disney World, and it has a theme song that will get stuck in your head for weeks.

Finally, it was time for Buzz Lightyear. This is a ride that involves target shooting. Daddy had a really good score this time because the ride stopped right in front of a revolving target that he could hit over and over again. Buzz is a popular character with Madison right now, as we've been exposing her to the Toy Story movies. This year, "Toy Story 3" comes out, and we're hoping to take her to go see it, her first experience at the movies. Maybe, we'll go see it at this Drive In that Daddy's been wanting to go to.

Anyway, our next stop was in Fantasyland. Daddy had picked up some fastpasses for Winnie the Pooh's ride, but that was a long time from now. So in the mean time, we went to go see Mickey's Philharmonic, and then we went to "It's a Small World." How many times have we been on that ride? Daddy still remembers going on the one in Hong Kong Disney, which was much larger. Madison didn't know what to think of it back then, but she knew she liked it. It was funny trying to get a smile out of her - but at the same time we knew that she was really enjoying herself.

We weren't done squeezing rides in yet! Next, we hopped on Cinderella's Carousel for a few spins, another ride Madison rode on in Hong Kong. Mommy and Daddy rode with her on this one too, and we all had a great time spinning around and around. But not spinning around too much - Daddy doesn't like that really!

As we were just about to go to see Winnie the Pooh, Daddy had an idea: what about ice cream? Just saying the words got Madison smiling and jumping up and down. She even says it with me: "ice cream!" So before heading over for another ride, the three of us sat down and enjoyed some ice cream. Even Mommy got to taste some of that tasty vanilla ice cream. What a fun day!

The final stop at the Magic Kingdom was Winnie the Pooh. This line was immense! But we had a fast pass and were able to get on fairly quickly. Madison is still into Winnie the Pooh, and oddly enough, Daddy is too. In fact, I've never actually gotten into anything at the 100 Acre Wood before Madison came along. Together, we've watched many cartoons, and only recently has Daddy actually gone on this ride. It's a good one!

We knew we'd be back to the Magic Kingdom, so we left a little early so we could get an early night's rest. One reason was a reservation we had for the next morning at the Animal Kingdom. If you'd like to know what it was for, you'll just have to wait until then!

We got back to the hotel, all smiles, but ready for an early night. We climbed into our pirate boat beds and tried to get to sleep quickly, though all the thoughts of the fun we were having kept us awake longer than we'd expected!

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

Magic Kingdom

We slept in a bit today, which was nice - after all we were up pretty late last night. Everyone slept soundly today, but as soon as we got up, we were ready for more action! We decided to go to the Magic Kingdom again today, mainly because of some special reservations Daddy made for lunch. They were at 2:20, so we filled the in-between time with some fun in Frontierland and Adventureland!

But how to get there? By train of course! First thing we did was climb up the steps to the train station for a ride over to the Frontierland station.

Our first stop in Frontierland was the Country Bear Jamboree, though we had to wait a bit for the next show. We wandered through a gift shop, where the employees all complimented Madison on her beautiful outfit. She was wearing a Minnie Mouse dress, and was even given some pins by the cast members there.

But soon it was time for the show, which was a load of fun as always. Madison laughed at some of the early bears and watched for new ones in all the various spots they'd pop in. She was clapping along with everyone else - today's crowd was an enthusiastic one!

Afterwards, we had a bite to eat at Pecos Bill's, which is right next door. The meal plan gave us way too much food, but we were kind of hungry so we ate inside at an empty table. Daddy got extra toppings for his burger: pickles and tomatoes. Of course, he didn't actually eat those. Madison scarfed those up right away. She loves pickles and tomatoes!

The next thing we did was ride on the Magic Carpets of Aladdin, which is essentially just like the Dumbo ride, only with a much shorter line! This was very exciting to Madison, and we were laughing while we rode - because look at what she was doing:

Where do we learn to throw our hands up in the air like that on a ride? Mommy and Daddy didn't teach her to do that, so perhaps she saw someone else do it. Or maybe it's instinct. Perhaps God knew we would have amusement park rides someday and it is part of our genetic design to throw our hands up in the air when we're going around on rides. Regardless, she had a really good time!

Our next stop was a natural choice, so to speak. She did so well with the Kilimanjaro Safari the other day that we hopped aboard the Jungle Cruise. This was a lot of fun for Madison, especially the backside of water part you see above. She was looking all over, and our guide was hilarious this time around, with an amazing number of jokes to keep us all laughing through it.

But soon after, it was time for us to meet the characters from 100 Acre Wood. That's right, we went back to the Crystal Palace for another character dining experience. There was a little wait, but during the wait Madison could see a show at the base of Cinderella's Castle - she even wagged her finger when she saw Maleficent challenge Mickey and the princesses. But the wait wasn't too long, and we were ushered inside where Madison's smile got really big.

The food was good, but you don't go to this place for the food so much as the characters. Madison met Piglet first, and then Tigger - and soon after that Eeyore. She had them each sign her autograph book, and of course Daddy was snapping pictures. Madison was having a great time with the characters. Forget the rides: this is what was getting the biggest smiles. Soon she met Winnie the Pooh, and all was right with the world! It was funny how insistent she was on kissing each of their noses. Afterwards, each one would act all shy, and Madison would giggle. It was a wonderful meal.

We headed back to Fantasyland after the meal, but were shocked at the wait times for Peter Pan and Dumbo. We just couldn't squeeze them in for this trip. But Madison had a great time riding "It's a Small World" again. We ventured over to Mickey's Toon Town, but Madison actually fell asleep in her stroller on the way over. It's been a long week!

We went in the air conditioned shops and waited it out. Can you believe the line to meet Tinker Bell was over an hour? Unfortunately, we couldn't bring strollers in the line, otherwise that would have been a perfect spot to wait. Still, we looked around underneath a big tent, and decided a little rest for all of us would be a good thing - so we headed over to the castle to make our way back home.

That's when we noticed a cool grotto where in just fifteen minutes, Belle would be reading us all a story! We moved the stroller carefully into the grotto, and Madison woke up gradually, looking around. Where are we? We told her who was coming, so she hopped up on a bench in the front row. She sat next to a row of other girls, all of them about the same age. Madison was getting close to the others, as if they were all lifelong friends! And then Belle came out:

It was a magical experience! Madison enjoyed hearing Belle's version of "Beauty and the Beast," which was told using some volunteers from the audience. It was enjoyable for even the adults, actually. But the real joy, as you probably know, was watching Madison listen very carefully to Belle's story. Remember, she had just met Belle a few days ago at a dinner in Epcot.
After that, it was nearly time to go. But Daddy saw the wait time for the Mad Tea Party was very small, so he and Madison jumped on that ride quickly.

And we did it a second time too! As soon as we hopped off the ride, we excitedly got right back in line and got ready to do it again. Madison really enjoyed it: "Daddy dizzy!" That's right, she was enjoying making Daddy dizzy. But she was enjoying making herself dizzy too. For the record, I didn't spin that cup fast at all - just a little bit! Much later, when we said the word teacups, Madison would still say: "Daddy dizzy!" And she'd also add: "Madison dizzy!"

It was time to say goodbye to the Magic Kingdom - for now. We strolled down Main Street (is there any other way to go down Main Street?), and waved goodbye to the castle for now. It was time to go back to the hotel and get some well-deserved rest.

When we got home, we did rest, but we also had a little more playtime as well. There was a smaller, quieter pool by closer to our rooms. It was still a big pool, but compared to the large one with the forts around it, this one was small. Anyway, we practiced swimming for a bit and then something funny happened: a couple ducks landed in the water right in front of Madison. What a surprise!

After swimming a bit, we went back to the room. What a great room this was! Just for the occasion, Madison brought along her pirate outfit and we took some photos of her dancing on her pirate boat bed.

We went to bed a little early tonight, though there was a bit of yo-hoing. We were a bit tired, so an early night was good - besides, Mommy was doing a lot of packing tonight because tomorrow it was time to go. In the morning, we'll pack up the car and drive over to Hollywood Studios - and then leave from there. One more night in a pirate ship!

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

The Animal Kingdom
Early in the morning, we get a phone call. Who can it be? It's Mickey Mouse, giving us a call to remind us that we've got to get up!

I had arranged an early morning wake-up for us, so we wouldn't miss our breakfast reservations, because these would be very special! We were somewhat groggy, but we climbed aboard the bus and headed over to the Animal Kingdom, where there were a lot of lines of people waiting to get in - but we walked right past them because we had reservations for a restaurant within the park! That's how I got this picture of Mommy and Madison in front of the Animal Kingdom's big tree - with no one else around! We had a nice cool walk through the park with hardly anyone else there, something pretty rare for May.

We made it to our destination, the Tusker House, where we enjoyed the most wonderful breakfast thus far. The layout was delicious, and there were even Mickey-shaped waffles for Madison and Daddy to munch on. What made the restaurant even better were the characters:

Madison met Daisy for the first time, and before that we met with her boyfriend Donald. He was most kind, despite the bad reputation and temper he's reported to have. There's something about Madison that probably melted his heart. Meanwhile, Daisy was touring inside, posing for photos and signing autographs. What's up with these two? I'm not sure if they're married or what. It seems like there's been enough time - I mean, are they even still seeing each other? Are they just friends, or is there something more going on?

Anyway, another legend was moving from table to table: Goofy! Here is one of Daddy's other favorites. It's a toss-up between Goofy and Donald. Goofy was quite playful, and Madison enjoyed giving him a high-five. Daddy did too! But that wasn't all the characters: can you believe Mickey Mouse was there too? That's right, the one we just met two days ago in Epcot was here at the Animal Kingdom too! He even changed his outfit, apparently ready to lead everyone on an awesome safari. Take a look:

Madison got just as excited to see Mickey as she did the other day. It was a big deal to have him come to her table. It was a perfect start to a very full day!

After breakfast, we picked up a fastpass to the Kilimanjaro Safaris, and spent our time waiting for that walking along the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail. Madison saw hippos, gorillas, fish, snakes, lizards, an okapi, and all kinds of birds. Soon though, it was time to board the jeep and head out into the wild for a safari adventure. Madison climbed aboard and sat between us, ready to spot the wildlife out there: we saw lions, rhinos, ostriches, zebras, giraffes, flamingos, and all sorts of gazelles - Madison kept looking above her at the animal chart to match them all up. Anyone who rides on this ride knows about the adventure chasing poachers, so you know that things got a little bumpy! All of us were airborne at times!

After our safari, we went for a nice walk around the tree, when Daddy noticed a vine. It wasn't just any vine though - it was DiVine! Just imagine a vine wrapped around a tree or a post. Suddenly the vine begins to move - and walk! Madison was fascinated by this unusual sight - but so was everyone else around. I was hoping to run into her: DiVine is a really cool little extra at the Animal Kingdom!

Our next stop was the Festival of the Lion King, which was a little bit of a walk to get to, but Madison enjoyed it. Daddy was hoping to get a little bit of inspiration for an upcoming series at KidPak called "Pridelands." We wanted to base it somewhat on "The Lion King," so we were watching to take notes and get ideas. It's a great show with wonderful performances, costumes and music. Really, a must-see!

After the show, Madison was zonked! We were going to go see the Finding Nemo show, but it was just too much. She was already falling asleep from having to get up so early. That's why we headed over to a restaurant in Asia to grab a bite to eat, and then visited a few gift shops, where Madison fell asleep in her stroller.

Alas, Daddy did not make it on the Everest Expedition again. Once more, the top of this mountain eludes me, as does its mysterious yeti! Three trips to this park, and three times I have been denied! Oh well: I guess that leaves something to look forward to next time.

Anyway, we hopped on a bus shortly after that and headed back to the resort. We rested somewhat in our pirate room, and after short time, Daddy decided to take Madison out to the nearest beach. Fortunately, we were at the Caribbean Beach Resort, and there were several to choose from!

Daddy and Madison took our shoes off to walk in the water a bit, but Madison had further plans. You see, the little architect just can't resist building things in the sand. To help out further, some complete strangers came up to us and blessed us with a bucket and a shovel. Ah, the true tools we needed! Madison built her castle in the sand, and soon after we decided it needed a proper irrigation system. Therefore, Daddy began a massive project that Teddy Roosevelt would be proud of. It was a huge canal that dug deep into the shoreline, all the way up to the sand castle. Each time a boat went by, the water from the lake would gently lap up against the castle walls. All its residents could cast fishing poles out their windows, and go fishing now! It was a wonderful hour, where the two of us were quite content to work on a huge project in the sand - but soon we had to get back to Mommy in the room!

When we arrived, it was shortly decided that we should go eat - and eat we did! We used our diner plan to have a meal at the Port Royale area right there in the resort. It was actually a really good meal! The three of us had nearly too much food, listening to the calypso music, enjoying the scenery of the location and enjoying the food as well.

But what to do with the rest of the evening? Mommy had a great idea: why not head over to the Disney Village?

Here's a picture of Madison in front of the Irish restaurant they have there, Raglan Road Irish Pub and Restaurant. We were too full to be eating anything else this night, but we enjoyed walking around Disney Village as always. We started out by Cirque du Soleil and were disappointed their store was closed up temporarily for renovations. Oh well, there's still a lot more to see, plus we'll be seeing Cirque in a few months anyway.

We ventured through the usual places, and made our way over to the Disney Marketplace, where we spent a lot of time in that huge Disney Store there. We found ourselves some ornaments for Christmas to remember our trip by: these are four pirate ornaments (just like our room), and each one is also a Disney character!

Mommy also found some great teacups and a pot for a future unbirthday party with Alice in Wonderland, as well as a Mickey gnome that will look great in the garden. The big fun was our Mr. Potato Head station visit, something we do nearly every time we go to Disney. Here you can find a whole bunch of items to go on your Mr. Potato Head. You get a box for $18, and you fill it with as much that you can, while still being able to shut the lid. Mommy is a legend at packing things in, and this night was no different. Madison and Daddy found items to put in, and Mommy made sure they all got crammed into that little box! Now, our Mr. Potato Head Empire will be even greater! Moo-ah-ah-ah!

We got so much stuff that Madison's stroller was top heavy. She had to stay in it so that it wouldn't tip over! We did quite a bit of shopping and had fun looking around, but saw the time and decided to hop on the boat that took us over to the West Side, where we parked to begin with (it would have been a long walk back!).

It was another full day, but tomorrow we could sleep in. Lunch reservations were late, and it would be our return to the Magic Kingdom.

Sunday, May 23rd, 2010

Dinner with Our Princess
Today we set sail for Disney World, beginning our five-day adventure and starting it on a wonderful note. It was smooth sailing down there to Orlando, and only once did Daddy make a wrong turn - that was all because of "Doris," our navigation guide in the car. Of course, she did manage to redeem herself a little later - but the point is, we made it safely to Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort and checked in without any problems. Just take a look at our room when we opened the door!

Arrr! You'll see another picture of Madison in her pirate outfit, but as you can see, we had a pretty awesome room. Each bed was a boat in shape, with a steering wheel and a mast. Crates stacked haphazardly were in fact dresser drawers, and a large barrel against the wall opened up to reveal a mini-fridge. That's a picture of Jack Sparrow on the wall there, and the floor looked like wood paneling - though it was really carpet. Pretty sweet room, huh?

We didn't spend too much time at the resort - we'd do that later. For now, it was off to Epcot for the start of a wonderful day! I told everyone we're in no hurry - it's a day to relax. But that's when I saw the Epcot bus coming in, and had to change strategies: run! We hurried to catch the bus, and then we relaxed.

We arrived at Epcot by bus, with Daddy telling Madison to look out the window for the big ball. "Ball!" she cried, and those nearby us on the bus smiled. We were there.

We entered the park and decided to visit "the ball" first, otherwise known as Spaceship Earth. Madison enjoyed it, pointing at everything from our little blue car. She especially enjoyed the journey back down from the top, where the ride took our images and had us visiting underwater and elsewhere.

Next, Daddy and Mommy took Madison to a special spot nearby where Disney Visa Card holders get to visit a secret person all to themselves. I guess you've figured out who that is by now... anyway, it was neat: we waited in line and one at a time wandered into this room that was reserved for just the three of us, just for a few moments. Madison walked in first, and suddenly had this huge grin that exploded across her face. Her eyes lit up and she ran up to Mickey Mouse, who crouched down to give her a big hug. What a special moment! Pluto was also there, and the two of them posed for pictures with Mommy, Daddy and Madison, who gave each of them a big kiss on the nose.

Next, we decided to head over to the Living Seas, because we were looking for Nemo. Actually, we found him pretty quickly on "The Seas with Nemo and Friends." No line whatsoever! We hopped on that ride, and soon found ourselves inside the Living Seas, checking out their huge aquarium inside. Madison pressed her face up against the large aquarium tank walls, checking out the dolphins and schools of fish swimming by. We saw a few manatee taking a nap, and enjoyed exploring the different areas, looking for fish and sea creatures.

Our next stop was Journey to Imagination, where Figment reigns and that crazy little theme song gets stuck inside your head: "Just one little spark..." Daddy predicted they'd be bringing back "Captain E-O," and sure enough: they are bringing this 3-D movie to Journey to Imagination. Watching it recently on Youtube, it looks so ...dated! But it has Michael Jackson in it and it's apparently cool to like Michael Jackson again!

We explored the "What If Labs" area, where Madison conducted her own orchestra, and did a few other activities, but soon it was time to leave Future World altogether. We were heading off to the World Showcase area next.

First off, Daddy wanted to buy a CD by the band that regularly performs in the Canadian pavilion. They're called "Off Kilter," and they have a great sound mixing bagpipes, fiddles and electric guitar. Lots of fun. We stopped over in England next, because Mommy is on a quest to find Crunchy bars. These candy bars are suddenly very hard to find. They are more popular in England, so we thought we had a good chance here - but evidently there is a world Crunchy Bar crisis. We used to find them at this pavilion all the time, but not today. And not in the grocery stores down here either. Hmmm... have to look into this!

Next, we went to Mexico. Which was awesome. Madison loved the ride there, featuring Donald Duck, Panchito the Rooster and Jose Carioca, a parrot. She's been watching "The Three Caballeros" lately, so this ride was a lot of fun to hop on. Madison boarded the boat quickly and was looking and pointing everywhere all the way through. Daddy asked her if she liked the ride afterwards, and she responded: "Yeah!"

As you know, we had dinner reservations at a very special place, but we had just enough time for one more pavilion, and this one was pretty important: China. Madison knows the word "China," now, and in fact calls it out when she sees it. And boy, did she see it!


We didn't have as much time to look around the shops and such, but we've done this so many times in the past. We've spent a lot of time in this pavilion before, but that was all before we met Madison. Now, we finally had her with us. Before, we'd spend so much time there just imagining what it'd be like to go to China, where we'd meet Madison. We'd be sniffling a little bit when watching the movie at the China pavilion, "Reflections of China." It's a 360 degree movie, and you can see it looking all around you. Of course, we took Madison inside to see the movie as well. We also spent time watching some children performers out in front of the pavilion, some very talented acrobats. Madison sat on Daddy's shoulders and watched as the acrobats balanced and tumbled to music by the "Twelve Girls," which is music Mommy and Daddy know very well. We've got all their CDs, and even went to one of their concerts - but that's another story.

Soon it was time to leave China, and head back to Norway. Yes, that's right: I said Norway. That's where our dinner reservations were, at the Akershus Dinner Banquet Hall. Mommy packed a very special dress for Madison - her Cinderella dress, and soon Madison was getting all decked out for dinner. As she twirled outside with the other girls all dressed up as princesses, she didn't know what she was in store for inside. Actually, none of us really knew what dinner was going to be like. It turned out to be the highlight of the entire trip for us.

The first thing she did when she walked through the door was see Belle, from "Beauty and the Beast." Even more than when she saw Mickey Mouse, Madison's eyes widened and her smile beamed and lit up the room. Madison anxiously ran up to Belle, but was very shy from that point on. A photographer took a special photo of Madison with Belle, and this is actually our favorite photo of the trip as well.

But that doesn't mean it was downhill from there. No, it was only just getting started. First, the food. It was incredible. Daddy likes salmon, and you could imagine a Norwegian restaurant would have just a little of it there...! The food alone made me want to eat there more often. But soon a door would open, and out of that door came none other than:

Aurora came out first, and Madison's jaw dropped. She was in absolute bliss! It was difficult waiting for Sleeping Beauty to actually come to our table, but somehow Madison managed. She had her autograph book ready - we brought it along from our last trip. When Aurora came to our table, Madison hopped down out of her chair and skipped over to her for a big hug. This was a big deal! Can you believe that Sleeping Beauty was actually right here at our dinner? What are the odds of that? We posed for a quick picture, and just then, someone else walked through the door!

Cinderella! What an amazing night! Madison was blown away, so incredibly happy she could hardly sit still. Randomly, she was kissing Mommy and Daddy for what might have been the greatest night of her life! Looking down at our little girl and seeing her so happy, it was certainly one of the most joyous nights of our lives as well. She hugged Cinderella, who complimented Madison on her lovely dress - look at these two shimmering beauties. Madison could hardly contain her joy: I've got so many great pictures of these two, but my second favorite picture from the entire trip is this next one, when yet another princess came to visit our table.

It was Ariel, the Little Mermaid. See how Madison is looking at her? She is so happy at this moment. Madison was playing with her necklace and the two were snuggling right there, and at that moment, we couldn't be happier parents. What a perfect night! But the parade of princesses was not over yet:

Next, Snow White came by to visit, and by this time Madison was completely too excited to eat any more food. Really, character dining does that to a person. You become so excited about the characters that you completely forget about the food. Can you believe it? Five princesses in one restaurant? No wonder this place books up over a month in advance. How incredibly blessed we were to have an opening appear for us, so that we can take Madison to such a dinner. Before we left, we were handed a gorgeous photo of Madison with Belle, and suddenly this was indeed the happiest place on earth. Dessert was delicious, and as we walked outside, we were greeted with Epcot's incredible nightly fireworks show, Illuminations:

Madison watched the whole thing, and really enjoyed it. But afterwards, it was a little late for her to be up, so we marched along with all the others and began our long exit of the park. Daddy picked up a photo of Madison and Pluto at the gate - one from our earlier visit, and soon we were waving goodbye to the great big ball. It was a marvelous day, but our trip to Disney World was quite literally just getting started...!

Saturday, May 22nd, 2010

Day at the Beach

Today was a beach day, and it certainly was a scorcher too! We didn't go to the coast line though - we went to a place called Hampton Beach along Lake Weir. It isn't the first time we went to this beach.

It's only about ten minutes from Ba-Ba's house, and a nice little place we've been to a few times. Last time, it was uncrowded and quiet. Madison waded out into the water with Mommy and Daddy, and together we played in the sand along the shore. Also, there's a playground nearby in the shade which was fun to use for the slides and swings. Large beautiful trees tower overhead, their trunks twisting parallel to the ground and swinging upward, the Spanish moss dangling all over each branch like decorations on a Christmas tree. It really is a pretty spot.

Today, it was a bit more crowded. In fact, Daddy had to drop everyone off at the park's edge as he scoured for a parking spot.

It was a nice time along the shore, as Madison, Mommy and Daddy again dipped into the water for a bit, and also spent a little time with Nana building a sand castle to watch over the waters.

Today was a very relaxed day again. Daddy spent time reading a book, while Madison spent time playing with her toys, coloring and teasing Velcro. Mommy spent quality time with her parents, and all of us spent a lot of time eating more food! Huge breakfast, big lunch, and a ginormous Mexican dinner - and then they had the nerve to offer dessert? Of course, Daddy said yes!

Friday, May 21st, 2010

Lazy Day

Today was a nice leisurely day spent at Nana and Ba-Ba's house, mostly indoors! The temperature was very hot outside, approaching 97 degrees, which was much too warm - even in the shade. Daddy tried reading outside on the lawn chair as people played golf. But the temperature even under covering was too much and he found himself retreating indoors.

Madison got a gift from some neighbors, Frank and Jo, who live nearby Ba-Ba and Nana. It was a Mr. Potato Head! Soon, we'll be getting extra pieces for Mr. Potato Head from Disney World, but until then, Madison was content to play with her new gift. She was also content to color in her coloring book with Tinker Bell and her fairy friends inside. Madison is in a world of her own when she colors - she had a nice time just doing the simplest of things. Little does she know, her days upcoming are going to be filled with fun and adventure!

We had huge meals as always, and Madison found the Disney Channel where we watched Handy Manny and even found the Mickey Mouse Club on television. She loves her grandparents very much though, and would stop everything to wrestle with Ba-Ba. She also likes playing with Velcro, their dog. She picks up Velcro's toys and helps throw them about. She even goes through Velcro's tiny door so she can head outside from time to time.

Madison had a cough, which started yesterday and still persists. We've watched it taper down, especially after getting some medicine here. We made a trip to the local grocery store and did shopping - and of course she got some comments about how wonderfully cute she is.

Yes, yes. We know!

Thursday, May 20th, 2010

On the Road Again

Today we hit the road again, making the long trip down to Florida. We didn't leave until about 12:30, but had a whole lot of favor on the way down - we made it there by 7:30. The weather was perfect and Ba-Ba and Nana were there to greet us at the door. With lots of food, of course!

We rented a vehicle for this trip, a car we are thinking about buying anyway: a Toyota RAV, which turned out to be a smooth and wonderful drive. Mommy could pack more in the back, and Madison was quite comfortable in the backseat. Daddy had set up the DVD player for her, and she watched the "Little Einsteins" and "Cinderella," but also had a portable craft table where she could color and use other creative activities.

She got excited seeing the skyscrapers of Atlanta. We forget that she probably hadn't seen them in a while, so she was pointing left and right at all the towering buildings surrounding us. Traffic was no problem for us, and neither was the weather. It was smooth sailing all the way down. Daddy kept looking back in his rear view mirror at our little girl. She's growing up! She's just sitting there, so content, listening to her headphones and watching television, while eating her snacks.

It was a pretty easy trip down, and we were blessed with a lot of favor. We stopped at only a few rest areas to stretch our legs, and occasionally we'd call out to Madison in the back seat: "Hey, where are we going?"

Madison: "Disney World!"

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Madison's First Manicure

As Mommy and Madison pack for our big vacation, they also make sure they do the important things - like take time for a manicure! Madison was quite excited to have her nails done for the first time. She was almost giddy! Mommy asked her if she wanted her nails done, and Madison said, "ooooh!" She was very thrilled to get her nails done nice and pretty, but wasn't content to just have her nails done: Afterwards, Madison said it was Mommy's turn, so together they got their nails fixed up very nicely for tomorrow's trip!


Also in today's news: Here Nana is with her our new neighbors, and their queen. Nana and Ye-Ye have been looking into getting a beehive for quite some time, so today was a very big day! Things were prepared and looking good, and they've been making plans for almost a year, so when they got the call this morning from the post office, everyone was excited.

In other words, there was quite a buzz!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Blue Jay Nest

Only two more days until we head off on vacation. The end result has been a frantic day of business, as Madison helps Mommy pack and Daddy continues his onslaught of work to get just enough work done in order to be gone and out the door!

Mommy and Madison did such a great job outside the house today, laying down pea-sized rocks along the side of the house and the back in a nice path leading up to our new swinging chair. It is so peaceful out there.

There is a blue jay nest right there where we've put the chair, and you can see the mommy sitting there upon her eggs, resting and alert. Kitty comes by our feet from time to time, but seems oblivious to the blue jay's presence. Madison hopped up on the chair in between Mommy and Daddy, and just for a few moments, all was well with the world. Just sitting there, peacefully listening to the birds sing as our chair glided back and forth in the shade of the trees - it was a blessed moment of peace as Madison sat calmly between us, just appreciating the world around us. They've done a good job, setting things up in the back yard, but we have a little bit to go in order to fix things up. It'll look really nice though, and for sure I see us all sitting out there more and more often.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Cat's in the Cradle

Here's Mommy giving Madison some milk. Just as always, we spend a little down time with Madison just before bed - but this time, there was an unexpected visitor! Kitty jumped up into Mommy's lap, and suddenly there was a crowd in that chair. Madison giggled at the intrusion - where did Kitty come from!

Lately, the cat has been spending the night in this chair, watching over Madison as she sleeps. The two are quiet through most of the night until sunrise.

It was a busy day as we get things ready for our upcoming vacation. Lots of work to do at the church and lots of things to prepare for at home. Mommy's been packing and Daddy's been up late trying to get a lot of writing crammed in before we take off - because when we go on vacation, the cell phone is off and we're really on vacation!

Looking forward to it!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Sea Monkey Day

In honor of Sea Monkey Day, Mommy has led the charge and taken us to Toys R Us, where Madison picked out a Sea Monkey tank with a pink castle inside. Though kitty is technically a pet, he isn't officially ours yet - so these sea monkeys will in fact be officially Madison's first live pets. We'll let her name them, but odds are their names won't have any consonants.

Madison: "ee on-ee!"

Translation: "Sea Monkey!"

We've decided to wait until we get back from vacation to allow the eggs to hatch, as we won't be able to take care of them while we're away. That would be abusive, and no doubt PETA would get involved. As it is, I'm not entirely sure where their stance on sea monkeys is. Probably against it. But, I would have to counter that the tank we have for these sea monkeys is large and luxurious. It has a castle in it too, which is a plus. These will be Royal Sea Monkeys in a huge Sea Monkey Kingdom. But the most important thing is this: their kingdom will be predator free. I have no idea what eats sea monkeys, but we won't be having any of that in this house. It is forbidden!

Over the last ten years, I think we've had less than a handful of pets. The truth of the matter is that Daddy and Mommy aren't around enough to be a good owner. Our current cat situation was sort of thrust on us, despite our efforts to not have a cat. Daddy actually doesn't like cats that much, but this one in particular is rather sweet, so he's welcome in the house. That, and he doesn't pee everywhere and scratch things up. He does have some rather odd behavior towards one of Madison's Cabbage Patch dolls though...

Sea monkeys are even better than cats. All you have to do is occasionally give their tank a boost of oxygen, and throw in some food. That's it! On top of that, they'll roll over, sit and play dead for you. Their life span is longer than you'd think, and that's the surprise. I thought the last time we had sea monkeys that it would just be a short little science project. Little did I realize those guys would be with us for quite some time!

Today was Hannah's birthday party at the gymnastics studio in Buford. Madison had so much fun walking along the balance beams, jumping on trampolines and hanging on bars. Aunt Shain took some pictures, and we'll try to get them on as soon as they get to us. Hannah seemed to have a great time - she had lots of friends over to join in the fun. There was cake, and lots of presents too. I think everyone's favorite activity was the parachute. Daddy really enjoyed it too - especially the part where we all go to run across underneath it!

After the party, we all had a hearty meal at Joe's Crab Shack, where Madison ate their specialty: corn. The waitress got us another side order of corn free of charge and Madison gobbled that one up very quickly. Madison told us she loved us tonight: "ove oo!" It was cute!

The thunder started rumbling again, which meant it was time to head home. Unfortunately, we got caught in a very heavy downpour. It was a scary ride home with so much standing water and such a heavy deluge - but we made it home safely after a few prayers and some slow and careful driving. What a day. What an adventure! I didn't even mention the service we had at church this morning - it was great! The kids really loved it, and Daddy was in a good mood this morning. Here's why:

This morning I had a breakthrough of epic proportions. For the last week, I've been calling Disney long distance in vain: every restaurant with character dining for Disney princesses was booked. Seriously, I've called every day - and with the same result.

Daddy: "Any change yet?"

Disney: "No. They're all full. Keep trying. Maybe someone will drop out."

This morning at 7:10, Daddy called again - and got one! We've made reservations for one week from today at the Norwegian Pavilion to dine with the Disney Princesses. I'm not entirely sure which ones will be there, but from what I understand, there should be at least four that tour the restaurant and meet the people at their tables. Madison will be so happy!

In fact, in celebration of the event, we watched a Disney Princess movie tonight: "Princess Enchanted Tales: Follow Your Dreams." Madison loved it! Her eyes were glued to the television set the whole time, until it was time for bed. Just wait, Madison: next week, you'll get to meet some Disney Princesses in person!