Thursday, March 28, 2013

My Friends Are "Tops"!

Hailey & Jonathan at Mall of America
We returned from Disney on Friday (2/1) and got busy unpacking, catching up on laundry and preparing the house for visitors three days later.  My friends, Kelly (& Kelly's daughter,
Hailey, Kelly, Debbie & me on Rock Bottom Plunge (upside-down roller coaster at MOA)
Hailey) and Debbie came to visit.  I met Kelly and Debbie when I was working in the retail accounting department of Tops Corporate office (a large grocery chain).  It seems like just yesterday that the three of us spent our days nestled in cubicles, but in actuality it has
Me posing on the bull - not sure if this was before or after I completely jumped over the top of the bull in an attempt to get on it.
been about 12 years since we worked together.  During our time together at Tops we shared so many laughs and way too many nights out at Friday night happy hours.  We got our "girl time" to chat during the work week by regular lunches together and well-timed potty breaks. (Yes...*that* is why girls go to the bathroom together, so we can talk!)  After hours we also developed our scrapbooking hobby, which resulted in several scrapbooking afternoons and a few scrap & spa weekends.  Changes in corporate structure caused us to move on from Tops (although Debbie has since returned), however since our time together we continued to experience so much together.  Debbie and I decided to pursue teaching degrees and ended up in the same masters/teaching program together.  We continued to share lunches, scrapbooking getaways, and life's events - weddings, babies, career changes and even relocations.  Through it all we continued to share laughter and make more memories.  And so, you can imagine how excited I was to have these gals come for a visit.

Wii Just Dance marathon
Kelly, Debbie and Hailey arrived Monday night (2/4).  Since Kelly and Debbie put in a full
Jonathan getting into the Just Dance action with Hailey
day prior to their travel we decided to head back to my house to allow them to settle in and allow us to chit chat and catch up.  This was a good plan which allowed everyone to rest-up for our shopping marathon the next day.

Girls' Night Out - before picture: Kelly, Debbie & me
On Tuesday (2/5) I got Madeline off to school and then Kelly, Hailey, Debbie, Jonathan and I headed over to the Mall of America.  As a high school girl with a number of gift cards in tow,
Girls' Night Out - during picture #1
Hailey was particularly happy about our trip to the mall.  In fact, I am pretty sure Hailey had the mall's map memorized before landing in Minnesota since, prior to their departure and in anticipation of their trip, Hailey spent much time scouring the mall's website.  Shopping and lunching, Jonathan was a trooper hanging with the girls.  He and I did, however, briefly leave Kelly, Hailey and Debbie at the mall so that I could drive back home to get Madeline off of the school bus.  Right after getting off the bus, Madeline and Jonathan  headed back to the mall with me to meet up with the girls and ride some rides.  Madeline was completely in her glory because she was able to ride rides with Hailey.  When David left work, he met us all at the mall in order to take on "kid duty".  This allowed the "big girls" - Kelly, Hailey, Debbie and me, to enjoy a girls' dinner and our own time riding coasters in the mall. We ended up eating at Cadillac Ranch.  Dinner and yep....bull riding!  Let's just say that none of us did a great job on the bull.  I, however, really, really sucked!

Girls' Night Out - during picture #2, On stage and leading the crowd in "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun"
On Wednesday (2/6) we had a very lazy morning.  Kelly and Debbie were pleased to leave the hectic life of juggling work and kids back in NY and so they were very content to not go back to the mall and just hang out.  What did we do all day?? Stay in our pajamas, and play Just Dance on Wii. Yet in the evening......oh boy, the evening!!!  I ended up making a simple dinner at home, I put the Madeline & Jonathan in bed and Hailey agreed to watch the kids so that the grown-ups could head to Minneapolis' Shout House (a dueling piano bar).  Whoah, whoah whoah....TONS of fun (and a perfect early celebration of Kelly's birthday).  Poor David was our designated driver and was able to watch the madness (us girls) unfold before him.  But to somewhat protect the identities of a girls' night out I think it isn't necessary to disclose *who* crawled across the pianos, *who* kept having to be reminded to not dance on the stage, etc, etc.  No, we each had a certain degree of "Girls Gone Wild" that night. was 80's night and we practiced what Cyndi Lauper sings, "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun".   No, who did what doesn't matter....what matters is we had a blast and David was there to keep us safe and out of jail (ha!) 

Girls' Night Out - after picture. Yep, notice we are outside!!  How about that!!
Thursday (2/7) came too quickly and the girls had to head back to NY.  I am grateful that we have agreed to a annual get together. might take us that long to recover from the Shout House!  I am just grateful to have such good friends yes, these girls are certainly "Tops".

Disney 2013

Waiting for dinner seating in Downtown Disney - both kids showing off their new souvenirs
And it took me all of three weeks to break my new year's resolution of keeping my blog up to date!!  In all seriousness, we have been extremely busy already this year.  2013 started out with a trip to Florida! This is certainly the way to go in terms of beating the winter blues away! Throw in the fact that Florida was seeing some above average temperatures for that time of year and we happily enjoyed our respite from the cold.

Fretting over Tower of Terror
Although Madeline was not on a school break we decided to take advantage of David having to travel to Orlando for a conference.  With David's travel and hotel expenses paid for and David's frequent flyer miles taking care of air fare for the rest of us (the *only* benefit of the amount of business travel David does), we certainly could not pass up the opportunity for a quick family get away.

We flew down on Friday night (1/25). It was pretty
We did it!
late when we arrived and so getting to the hotel with our three-ring circus and getting everyone settled and to bed was plenty of activity for the day.

Honey, I Shrunk the Kids!
On Saturday, (1/26) David had to correct examinations for people trying to obtain a particular professional certification.  As a result, Saturday was a fairly lazy day.  Since we were staying at a hotel with a kitchenette area we decided that grocery shopping would help make our stay at the hotel more comfortable.  We did manage to do some grocery shopping for the week on Saturday
Tree of Life - Animal Kingdom
morning and I also had some pool time with the kids.  In the evening, once David was done with his work duties, we headed to Downtown Disney for dinner and some shopping.  Our theory on vacationing with kids is to go with the moment and throw schedules out the window.  Surely, if the opportunity arises to get the kids into a pseudo-routine that is great, otherwise we let the kids party like rock stars until they (or we) hit a brick wall. 
Brenna, Morgan, Madeline & Jonathan at Animal Kingdom
We feel that the freedom of spontaneity is
1900 Park Fare Restaurant for character dining
what helps create special moments.  All the routine and schedules await them at home.  As a result, we stayed out and let the kids dance like fools at a dance party that was held at a pavilion in Downtown Disney.  Even little Jonathan was shaking his behind and trying to keep up with his party girl sister.

On Sunday, (1/27) David had a reception to attend in the evening.  As a result, we decided to cram in as much time as we could into
The prettiest princess at Disney...oh, Cinderella isn't to shabby either
the morning at Hollywood Studios.  This was Madeline's 3rd trip to Disney so she knew all about meeting characters.  We weren't sure how Jonathan would react to the giant characters.  I guess since he is somewhat used to over sized characters at home (Mall of America's Nickelodeon Universe), Jonathan jumped right into the fun with little apprehension.  Since the parks crowds were so light the character meetings that began on Sunday required minimum wait time.  At all the parks, Jonathan rode everything he could for his age/size but David (who is not a rider) was more than happy to occupy Jonathan as Madeline and I rode some "big kid rides".  Madeline pretty much has no fear and so she was my ride partner for the Tower of Terror as well as the Rock & Roll Roller coaster.  As I mentioned, David had a work event to attend in the evening and so, in the evening I took the kids to the
Magic Kingdom
Disney Boardwalk.  We enjoyed dinner out on a patio.  Although the plan was to watch Epcot's  fireworks from the boardwalk, I saw that "brick wall" that I mentioned above coming and so I had to abandon that plan.  Yet, the kids and I enjoyed a nice evening out and Madeline was even able to be a participant in a magic show on the boardwalk before we headed back to the hotel.

On Monday, (1/28) David had conference events all day. 
Madeline, Jonathan and I went with Beth (the wife of Joel, one of David's co-workers) their two kids - Brenna & Morgan and Beth's mom. 
Gotta love Mickey!!
Madeline loved socializing with the other girls and, in addition to enjoying the company I was also very grateful to have a few extra set of hands with me to help with my own two kiddos.  The kids enjoyed checking out the animals, watching the "street" entertainment, watching some live shows and riding rides. The Animal Kingdom closed at 5pm and so this worked out great for the rest of the evening.  By the time we got out of the park, rode the tram to the car lot and headed back to the hotel, the guys were just getting back to the hotel for the evening.  Evening swimming and ordering up pizza poolside for dinner was the perfect end to an already action packed day.

On the teacups - I love the way Jonathan is looking at David here!
On Tuesday, (1/29) David had work meetings for the first half of the day.  With this in mind, as well as the two prior days of activities we had planned to have a park-free day so that we could ration out the sensory overload that Disney has to offer.  We planned to have a laid back kind of day.  As David worked, the kids and I dilly-dallied in the morning with a leisurely breakfast at the hotel. A slow and laid back pace help us to easily pass the morning away until David was free in the afternoon.  When David came back we did a little "off property" souvenir shopping and then we came back to the hotel for some pool time.  Despite the decision to go park-free during the day, we had planned a character dinner at 1900 Park Fare, where Madeline was able to see Cinderella, the prince, and step mother/sisters.

Madeline with Ariel
On Wednesday, (1/30) after a day of rest and relaxation, the kids (and Mama & Papa) were ready to tackle the Magic Kingdom.  If there is any question as to when is a good time to go to Disney, *this* is the time of year!  The lines for everything were non-existent! There wasn't even really a need to "Fast Pass" rides as you could pretty much walk right on most everything.  Jonathan had totally gotten the hang of character meetings!!  We were watching a stage show in front of the characters.  When Jonathan saw the characters dancing and singing on stage he headed straight to the back of the stroller and grabbed his autograph book out of the stroller basket.  Jonathan didn't understand that we had to just watch the show and that we couldn't meet the characters right at that moment......but I got a kick out of the fact that he had the routine down pat!  Characters, rides, princess, smiles, fun....repeat! We kept going all day!  Madeline and I once again enjoyed all the "big kid" rides like Space Mountain and Jonathan enjoyed the fact that there were a lot of rides for his size.  We ended up making it all the way through to see the fireworks at the end of the evening.  Madeline will most likely remember bits and pieces of this trip when she gets older.  Jonathan won't remember a thing. Yet watching the kids enjoy every second of their day is absolutely priceless to David and me!

Both kids wanted David to hold them for the firework viewing
Thursday (1/31) was our final park day.  We went to Epcot for the day.  Although this was my 4th time to Disney, this was my first time to go on the ride inside the big silver ball - such a cool, cool ride! Again, more rides, and more characters but for those that
Face painting at Epcot
have never been to Disney before you must know that each of their parks is a completely different experience.  When David and I eventually become empty nesters, if David & I find ourselves in Orlando without kids I am not sure if we would go to Disney or not.  However, Epcot would be an exception to this.  I love the different worlds that you are transported to.  With the amount of travel that David does, he can attest to the fact that the appearance of each of these "countries" that are in Epcot are a good representation of a least the countries that he has traveled to.  We ate dinner that evening at the German beer garden.  The German food was super yummy but the best part was watching the kids on the dance floor, dancing to the German band - again, partying their buts off!  We once again made the full day and watched the fireworks at the end of the evening.

Getting Goofy at Epcot
Friday (2/1) was our departure day.  Our flight was not until later in the afternoon and so we were able to squeak one last little bit of warmth into our vacation.  After checking out of our hotel we headed back to Downtown Disney to finish up what we did not finish a few evenings before.  We finished up some souvenir shopping, rode the ferry from one side of Downtown Disney to the other (what the heck, the kids liked it) and ate a late lunch as we soaked up every ounce of sunshine we could before heading back to the cold weather.

Regardless of your feelings on Disney, for me, watching my children in complete awe of everything around them and the magic that is Disney was priceless.  I am not sure if or when another opportunity to head to Orlando will come, however if/when it does I will gladly head there with our traveling circus.....or shall I say Mouseketeers!