Yes, my friends. Believe it. It's true. :)
It's been a very busy month since our dream vacation. I wanted to get this all down sooner so I wouldn't forget any details, but I've just been too busy and/or too tired. By the time the kids go to bed, I've been completely wiped out, and when they are taking naps, I have so much to do around the house that I can't bring myself to sit in front of the computer.
Yet here I am. Better late than never.
Our trip was unbelievable. It was the kind of trip I never thought we'd get to take in our lifetime. To me, going to Disney World was something rich families did, and we didn't fall into that category. JP's mom & step-dad (Gail, aka: G and Larry, aka: Bompa) surprised us with this trip at Christmas as a way to honor Grandma Dellas after she passed away. One of her regrets in life was that they didn't do many family vacations or travel much, so G & Bompa decided to pick up that torch and run with it. We happen to be the very grateful beneficiaries of this decision. :)
The vacation started on a Friday night at a hotel in Bloomington. Our flight was early in the morning, and we had to catch a 5:30 am shuttle from the hotel to the airport. Sleep was a little hard to come by with such a big day ahead of us, but everyone was happy and excited in the morning, even with the early wake-up call.
Rae & Ruby on their first plane ride ever! Ruby slept most of the way. :)
Rosie did great on the plane ride down. I was especially grateful for the vacant seat next to me so she didn't have to sit on my lap the whole time. We read lots of books, colored and ate snacks to pass the time.
We arrive in Orlando around lunch time, grabbed some food and headed to our amazing villas. Each family got their own 2-story, 2-bed, 2-bath villa with a full kitchen, living room, & dining room. It was like having our own apartment during our stay. The resort had a huge water park with a pool, lazy river, splash pad, two hot tubs and two water slides. It was awesome.
That night we went to Downtown Disney for dinner. Downtown Disney is basically an area outside of the park grounds full of fun and unique restaurants and shops, plus a couple small rides (carousel, train ride, etc.) The kids loved all of the Disney character statues and sculptures and seemed to get a "taste" of what was to come the following day.
Rae & Ava by a Snow White Lego sculpture
Our princesses with Sleeping Beauty
The next morning was the big day -- Disney World! Before we left, I had made the girls all matching princess dresses to wear to the park. We got lots of smiles and pointing from people around the park -- they were pretty darn cute!
The Magic Kingdom was everything you would dream it to be. The adventure began right in the parking lot for the kids. When you park, you are still 2 miles away from the park, so you have to take a tram and then a trolley ride to actually get to the Magic Kingdom. The kids loved it, and it was fun to watch the excitement grow on their faces.
G & the girls on the trolley ride
The first thing you see when you enter the Magic Kingdom is the iconic Cinderella Castle. I got teary-eyed just walking around and watching the kids, because it really was something I never dreamed we'd get to experience. We got to go on the famous tea cup and Dumbo rides, as well as some newer attractions, including the Toy Story ride, after which the kids got to meet Buzz Lightyear.
We took a small break from the kid rides to experience Space Mountain, and to our surprise, Rae was *just* tall enough to go on the ride. She was up for it, so JP took her. I don't have a digital version of the picture they took during the ride, but Rae looked absolutely terrified. She said she had fun, but probably wouldn't do it again. :) What a brave girl!
Ava, Rae & Scott on the tea cup ride
Ruby & Florie on the tea cup ride
G, Rae & Ava on the Dumbo ride
The kids meet Buzz Lightyear, and proof that Vinnie actually was on this trip! After meeting Buzz, Vinnie said he dreams really did come true. :)
The whole family in front of the Cinderella Castle
We went back to the villas for a quick nap later in the afternoon, then returned to the park in the evening for what turned out to be the most "magical" part of the Disney World experience. Besides going on a few more rides (including Rae & Ruby's favorite, Splash Mountain), we got to experience the famous electrical parade, light show and firework display. It was truly awesome, and a very special and memorable experience for all of us.
Ava & Rosie waiting for the parade to start. You know you're on vacation when the kids get giant suckers at 10:00 pm!
Watching the electrical parade
The girls were *so* excited to see Cinderella!
Rosie got really snuggly two hours past her bedtime.
After such a fun and exciting day, we all needed some time to rest. So on Monday, we decided to stick around the villas and hang out at the pool all day. The weather for the whole trip was amazing -- sunny and 80's with a light breeze. We spent the whole day swimming, splashing and being lazy in the lazy river. I think Ava & Rae could have stayed in the lazy river all day and all night. They liked to swim in it, though, not ride on tubes. G & Bompa also rented us all a cabana for the day, which was a great place to beat the heat, eat some snacks, and get re-sun screened for more fun in the sun.
Being lazy on the lazy river.
JP is a fan of the lazy river, as well.
Ava & Rae in their element
Snack time in the cabana
After a good night's rest and copious amounts of aloe vera, we set off on Tuesday for a day at Universal Studios Orlando. Universal was awesome for a number of reasons, but what really made it amazing was that a friend of a friend hooked us up with VIP passes to the park. Not only did we get free valet parking, but we were escorted to the beginning of every line for any ride we wanted to go on. Some rides had wait times as long as 45 minutes, but we got to bypass all of that mess. It was amazing. At Disney World, we probably got to go on about 10 rides. At Universal, we went on more than 20 rides, and some of them multiple times!
The whole family in front of the Universal globe
The three stooges: Vinnie, Ruby & Florie
The Simpson's ride made us all sick to our stomachs!
There weren't quite as many rides that they kids could go on at Universal, but they did have a whole Dr. Seuss World area with some really fun, memorable rides for the kids, plus they got to meet a few favorite characters.
Thing 1 and Thing 2!
The Grinch! (The 4 younger kids were too scared to get their picture taken with him.)
That night after a short rest time, G & Bompa treated us to a delicious steak house dinner. We all crashed that night, our hearts and bellies full to the brim.
The next day we squeezed in one more splash at the pool before heading to the airport to catch our flight home. Rosie was so brave at the pool, venturing out into water as deep as her neck (with Mommy close by, of course), ready to try anything her big sisters and cousins would try.
It was really hard to come home to the cold weather and every day routine after such a fun and beautiful vacation. Nothing could have been better -- it truly was a dream come true. G & Bompa, thank you so much for making an experience like this a reality for us, but especially for our children. You gave us memories that will last a lifetime, and we are extremely grateful for all you are.
And thank the good Lord I FINALLY got this post done! Whew! It only took a month, LOL! It's probably full of typos I don't have time to look for, so please forgive any you find. If you made it to the end, thanks for reading! :)