Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Disney World - Day 4

Day 4 at Animal Kingdom started out like the others days . . . early! We were there again before the gates opened. Disney is amazing, though. There was a talking tree providing entertainment near the front gate. He picked McIver out of the crowd as we walked to get in line. (I don't really know if it was a she tree or a he tree.) Mac was fine with it until the tree commented on something that he was wearing, then that freaked him out a little bit and he hid behind me.

We didn't realize that we were actually lucky enough to be at Animal Kingdom on its 10th Anniversary which also happened to be Earth Day. As we entered the gates and crossed a bridge to go to the safari ride, we ran into a bit of a bottle neck. The Disney folks were unveiling a new Animal Kingdom logo and talking about the success of the Animal Kingdom. Then, THEN, Jane Goodall spoke. Yes, the Jane Goodall from Gorillas in the Mist, she talks to chimpanzees. Try as I might, I could not convince Olivia that it was very cool for her to be able to hear Jane Goodall speak - she just wanted to get to the rides for the day. I can't say that I blame her, but Jane Goodall - that's pretty cool!

We hit the Kilmanjaro Safari ride first and saw all kinds of animals - rhinoceros, elephants, giraffes, hippos, water buffalo and more. Since it was still early, the animals were all out eating and enjoying the cool weather. The kids loved it as much as we did.

We had passed several face-painting stands throughout our days at Disney, but managed to avoid them. Finally, on the last day, after the kids really had not asked for any souvenirs, I decided to let them get their faces painted. Olivia was thrilled and picked the Unicorn Princess design.

McIver chose to be a Ceremonial Warrior.
For the record, we will opt for a t-shirt next time. A t-shirt that won't wipe off or get washed away when we got on the very next ride - the Kali River Rapids! Olivia managed to keep hers on all day - she delighted in the attention from people at the airport! McIver really didn't know the difference. I would rather have spent $40 on t-shirts, though, than $27 on face paint. But - it was all about the kids and since that was really the only thing they asked for, I couldn't turn them down, especially since it was our last day.
O & Mac both loved the 3-D glasses for the It's a Bug's Life movie.
Will took Olivia to ride the Expedition Everest roller coaster so Mac and I had some time to kill. We found the playground/excavation site in DinoLand. McIver was in dinosaur heaven! He loved all the ropes, tunnels, slides and dinosaur bones. Oh, and Olivia LOVED the roller coaster. If we had more time, I'm sure she would have gone again and again. Will and I are so glad that our kids like roller coasters as much as we do!

Olivia found this carriage and asked for her picture to be taken here.

Sadly, we had to end our day early to catch the bus back to the hotel so we could make our flight home. It was a great trip and we can't wait until we can go again - when McIver is at least 48 inches tall and we can stay at a Disney resort!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Disney World - Day 3

We made it on the first bus earlyMonday morning to get to Hollywood Studios (formerly known as MGM Studios) before the gates even opened. We knew that McIver was not tall enough to make the cut for Aerosmith's Rockin' Rollercoaster so Will took him to the Tower of Terror. Olivia and I headed straight for the Rockin' Rollercoaster (and the Fast Pass line, so we could ride again and again).

When I took this picture she was still really excited. We knew that if she liked Space Mountain, then she would LOVE the Rockin' Rollercoaster. But, the nerves started to set in the closer we got to the front of the line. I kept promising that she would love it, but she was listening to other (bigger) kids being silly-nervous. By the time we got to the front of the line, she was in my arms saying she was NOT getting in that car. I told her that we'd been in line too long not to get on and not to worry - she wouldn't even be able to see when we turned upside down.

Well, let me tell you, she was not happy about the loud music on the ride when we first got on. Or the fact that we were in the 2nd row. But, I told her I would keep my hand on her leg for the whole ride and that seemed to give her a small degree of comfort. The first thing she said at the end of the ride was: You could SO see when we went upside down! Then, I asked if she liked it and she smirked at me, not wanting to admit it. She proceeded to ride 2 more times in a row with Will while McIver told me not to be afraid of the Tower of Terror (which he ended up riding a total of 3 times).

We caught the first part of the High School Musical pep rally/parade. But, our crowd starting getting hot - we will NOT be making a trip to Disney during the dead of summer! We did manage to hang out long enough to have front row seats as the parade headed back down the main drag.

This is McIver when he is OVER Hollywood Studios.
Olivia had her autograph book out and ready for all of the Playhouse Disney characters that came by our table. Turns out that McIver just doesn't care for the giant animal characters. Again, he was under the table when Goliath came by. No problem with the very large 'children' like Leo, Annie and June, but he was not going anywhere near Goofy or Goliath the Lion from JoJo's Circus.

Olivia was tired, but McIver was pooped!

After taking in as much of Hollywood Studios as we could stand (Star Wars ride, Little Mermaid Show, Playhouse Disney Live On Stage and more), we went back to the hotel from some R&R. Our plan was to get back to Hollywood Studios in time for the Fantasmic Light Show. The kids enjoyed more time in the pool and we all enjoyed getting cleaned up. The plan worked - we made it back in time for dinner at the Pizza Planet (from the Toy Story movie) and then to the theater to wait (and wait and wait) for the light show to start. We had to stand at the top in the SRO crowd, but were able to see enough to love it and know that we'll make that a priority on our next trip.

Stay tuned for the last installment . . . Day 3 at the Animal Kingdom.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Disney World - Day 2

We started our day on Sunday with the Character Breakfast at the Beach Club Resort. The kids ate a ton of food and loved seeing Chip, Dale, Minnie and Goofy. We bought autograph books/photo albums for each child so they could have their own books to give the characters for autographs. They turned out to be the only souvenirs we bought! Well, Olivia liked seeing all of the characters - McIver hid under the table when Goofy came by.
Every family who has ever been to the Magic Kingdom has this picture in front of Cinderella's castle. You know you've made it when you see the castle!
McIver was beside himself when he was able to be part of Captain Jack Sparrow's Pirate Tutorial in AdventureLand. He screamed "aye" with all of the other pirates-in-training and even received a certificate signed by Captain Jack himself! And, for about 2 hours afterwards, he sang under his breath, "Yo Ho, Yo Ho, a pirate's life for me."
McIver ran up to every measuring stick we saw to see if he was tall enough for the ride. There were only a few that he's not ready for this year. He was thrilled to get to ride the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. It's very jerky, but both kids loved it so much that we skipped Snow White and Winnie the Pooh (much to my dismay!) so that we could ride the RR (and Splash Mountain) twice.

A little ice cream never hurts when you have to wait in a long line. We were lucky to be at Disney World during this part of April - the lines weren't too bad and the crowds were bearable.

In case you can't tell, this is Olivia's look of pure joy. She had a blast spinning the Tea Cup as fast as she could hoping to make me sick.

Try as we might, we just could not keep McIver from falling asleep in my arms while we were in line to drive the race cars. People in line around us couldn't believe that our antics weren't waking him up. The only thing that roused him was when they told me he could not ride in my lap so I had to put him in the seat next to me and buckle him in. As soon as he was out of my arms he woke up, totally rallied, climbed into the driver's seat and took off. He even trash-talked the car riding next to us (in a sweet way). When our 'line mates' saw him after our ride, they were amazed at his come-back.

Will took Olivia to Space Mountain so I took McIver up the elevator to the AstroOrbiter. Will & O were on Space Mountain in record time and she LOVED it! Will said she immediately asked to ride it again. McIver thoroughly enjoyed cruising over TomorrowLand as the pilot of his very own rocket ship.

After a very long, but super fun day, we made our way back to the hotel and a not-so-good night's sleep. Olivia decided that the boys would sleep with the boys and the girls would sleep with the girls. The only problem was that the children don't know how to stick to their own sides of the bed. So, Will and I were not exactly bright and cheery on Monday morning. We had to pull ourselves up by the bootstraps to prepare for Day 3 at Hollywood Studios. More to come...

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Disney World - Day 1

The kids were super-easy to wake up at the crack of dawn so that we could catch our early flight to Orlando. They thought it was especially cool that we put them in the car with their pajamas on and then changed in the parking lot.

We stayed off Disney property at the Gaylord Palms Hotel which was beautiful. Our only plans for Saturday afternoon were to get settled at the hotel and enjoy the pool and sunny weather. We started with lunch on the boat that sat in the middle of the huge hotel atrium. From our table on the deck, we watched huge fish and sting rays swim around in the water below. We ate lunch in our bathing suits b/c we knew the next stop was the pool.
The pool area was FAN-tastic! Check out the octopus slide. There were also 3 different splash pad areas and a beach. The kids swam for several hours before Olivia decided she was ready to shower. She and I headed back to our room so that she could take the longest shower in history.
After getting everyone cleaned up, we checked out the alligator and snake areas of the hotel, then went outside for a round of putt-putt. The kids lasted for about 3 holes and then were ready to head to Downtown Disney for some food.

We settled on dinner at the Rainforest Cafe. We had a long wait, so we checked out the shops around Downtown Disney - Lego Imagination Center, Once Upon a Toy Store, and the Bibbidi Bobbidy Boutique were the faves. All in all, it wasn't too hard to fill up the wait time.

Once we were finally seated, we thoroughly enjoyed the Gorilla Room. Life-like animals were everywhere and there was even a thunderstorm (or 3) while we ate. What is it with kids and the bunny ears? I'm sure I thought it was hilarious when I was 6, too, but it caused a bit of strife during dinner when O did it to Mac in the first picture. We actually have this exact picture about 4 different times with different kids giving and receiving the dreaded bunny ear. After dinner, we found a candy store like no other. Candied apples, sour powders, slushies, gummy everything, chocolate-covered, Mickey Mouse-shaped Rice Krispy Treats. You name it - they have it with the Disney logo, of course. Olivia and McIver each picked a treat and stopped for a quick photo op with Winnie the Pooh and Tigger. Then we headed back to the hotel for a good night's sleep before our big day at Magic Kingdom!

Olivia's Spring Program

Olivia's Spring Program was Thursday night. It was fun to see the kids in her class in 'street clothes' since they are usually in uniform when we see them. Here she is after I dropped her off in her room with several of her buddies.

The theme of the program was Kites so each skit (written by the children) was about kites. The Kindergarten classes sang "If You're Happy and You Know It, Fly a Kite" in 5 languages - Mandarin Chinese, Japanese, French, Spanish and English. It was way cool. Olivia is on the back row in the middle. She had to turn in her request for which language she will take next year. She chose Chinese.
Will and I were a bit nervous that McIver would not be interested in the program b/c when we sat down, he immediately became interested in a very in-depth conversation some older boys were having. But, as soon as the show started, he was focused. His favorite part was when the 2nd grade boys came out in karate outfits and did a choreographed fight scene. Typical.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

We're home...

from Disney World. It was awesome. We're exhausted. Details to follow!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Disney World...

HERE WE COME!!! We're leaving early (really early) tomorrow morning for Disney World. It's hard to know who is more excited about the trip! Check back next week to see just how much fun we have. Until then, please pray for us to have a safe trip - and realistic expectations.

Caterpillar Watch 2008 - update #2

We are immersed in caterpillars this spring! The butterfly bush in my classroom at school yielded more than 11 caterpillars this week. Clearly, there were eggs on the bush that we were unaware of. Since the leaves were pretty much consumed, McIver and I brought home as many caterpillars as we could find. He counted 11!

As soon as we got home, McIver ran to the backyard and put them on our butterfly bushes. The big, big one was so excited. He had not moved around much during his time in the cup, but he immediately started crawling all around and inspecting and tasting the new, fresh leaves.
We had quite the storm early this morning. When we got home from taking O to school this morning, Mac ran to the bushes to check on the caterpillars. We didn't see the big one, so we're hoping he filled up his tummy and crawled away to spin his chrysalis.

Artwork by McIver

McIver loved the last week or so of school when they were 'studying' dinosaurs. Bear with me here, but this particular piece of art that he brought home is quite impressive for a kid his age. Can you see the dinosaur?

Monday, April 14, 2008

A Day in the Life

McIver had a friend from the Ladybug Class come home with him after school today. I was in the kitchen and noticed that things had gotten quiet. I rounded the corner into the living room and this is what I found - 2 boys totally immersed in the stack of library books we brought home over the weekend. So proud (and so glad they had not found some tool to start taking things apart!)!

Olivia was thrilled to receive a random package in the mail today from Nanoo. What a treat - a Hannah Montana wig AND 2 of Cacoo's old dance costumes. She immediately put them on and posed for some pictures.
Is this sheer joy or what!?

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Kolter's Spring Carnival

Olivia's school had a Spring Carnival fundraiser yesterday. The weather could not have been better - sunny, big, puffy white clouds and just enough breeze that we never got hot. Of course, since the kids were wet, they were a bit chilly, but that did not stop them from enjoying all the fun activities.

The bubble pit was the hit of the day! It was a 20x20 pit filled with bubbles and it was great. Definitely the crowd favorite - with the longest line.

The icecream truck was also a treat. We've heard it in our neighborhood several sunny afternoons, but never made a big deal about it - mostly b/c we never have cash. But yesterday was their lucky day. And, they cooperated long enough to take their picture in front of the bluebonnets in the Texas ABC garden at O's school.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Caterpillar Watch 2008 - update

The caterpillars have been a huge hit. We check the butterfly bushes before we leave for school each day and every time we walk in the door. My Rabbit Class at school has also been watching caterpillars. The largest of the 3 had escaped the protective netting (to keep curious 3 year old fingers away from the bush) and we could see the beginning of a chrysalis. We worried about leaving the butterfly bush at school over the weekend (we're only at school Tue-Thur) so I brought it home today. We checked it again when we got home with Olivia at 3:15 and the caterpillar still had just a touch of white one end (it's hard to know if it's the head or tail). But when the kids were playing outside after dinner, they checked again and look what they found...

a chrysalis! (the teeny, tiny green spot you might be able to see to the right of Olivia, just above her eyebrow level, if you squint your eyes)

Then we had to run to our butterfly bushes to see if we could find 'our' caterpillars. We saw another teeny-tiny one. And, as a bonus, each child also caught (as if they would put up a fight!) a snail. We began the 2-day rule at our house - you may keep a bug, or other critter that fits in the bug jar, for up to 2 days, then it must be returned to nature. Here is McIver checking out O's snail - I can't believe she was letting it crawl on her. She must not be my child!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Palmer Family Retreat - Miscellaneous

Two Olivias had a great time dancing and singing at the Camp Dance Saturday night.

McIver found these duck feet and had a blast waddling around the camp.
McIver sat with Will during the camp meeting. The hardest rule to follow was keeping shoes on his feet!
McIver is a monkey - Mary was concerned that I was not right underneath McIver holding him up as he shimmied up the pole. Rest assured, once he made it to the top and touched the beam, he slid right back down without incident.
There was just the right amount of scheduled 'program' time during the retreat. We were able to see "Godly Play" in action. The children sat in a group and listened to a Bible story, then had a chance to 'respond' through crafts - playdough, paint/markers/crayons, popsicle sticks, fabric, etc. McIver's first response was to make a picture frame for me. Not exactly what they were looking for in response to the story of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, but I love it.

Palmer Family Retreat - Canoeing

Strangely enough, McIver had mixed feelings about being Will's first mate in the canoe. He seemed to be having a good time as Olivia and I walked toward the lake, but he became quite uneasy when the time came to get in or out of the canoe. He was much more interested in 'helping' the counselor who helped us. He was in and out of the canoe 'hut' helping hang life jackets and put away paddles. Since I was in the canoe, I'm not sure just how helpful (or not) he really was.

Olivia and I enjoyed being out on the water together. (We had just come from a not-so-succcessful attempt at horseback riding. She made it up onto the horse, but the horse took a few steps before she was ready so she panicked and wanted to get down.) Anywho, we both had time to recover on the walk to the lake. She didn't want to help paddle at first, but then ended up being pretty good at it.
McIver appears to be having a much better time in this picture.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Palmer Family Retreat - Fishing

We spent Saturday morning fishing at the lake. The kids were way more patient than we thought they would be. We were given small cans of 'sweet niblets' to use as bait. Who knew!?

Elizabeth, Abby, Olivia and McIver waited patiently for Will to get their rods ready.

McIver and Sam waiting to fish.
McIver dropped his line in the water and waited...
...and he was the first one to catch a fish. He was holding the rod all by himself and started laughing and screaming "I caught one, I caught one!" He was so excited he almost dropped the rod to run up to the shore to tell Will about it. It's not the best picture of the fish - it actually was a pretty good size. After Will took it off the hook, he let all the kids touch it before tossing it back into the lake.
Olivia did not have much luck, but she enjoyed having Will all to herself for a little while. They started out on the dock with the rest of us, then moved over to fish from the shore. We could watch the fish eating the bait right off the hooks, but it was still a fun time!