Back To School – The Eliza Version

Beans grew up over the summer, didn’t she? She’s off to pre-k this year, complete with back to school outfit from The Gap that she picked out herself and make her seem so much bigger than an almost five year old.

And just like that, she’s bored with school already.

We ran in to the same problem with Eliza that we had with Marion. Last year, she smarted out of the preschool class and so spent from January – May in the pre-k class. But she doesn’t meet the age requirements for kindergarten with her late September birthday, so she is back doing a full year of pre-k.

So far it seems like a huge mistake on our part. The kids in her class are super young (one girl just turned four this week) and Eliza is very aware that everyone she went to school with last year is in kindergarten now. She’s rushing through her work and flipping it over to color on the back of the page because she says it’s “so easy” for her to do. We keep playing up it’s her chance to be her teacher’s big helper and she can show the younger kids how the Zebras do things in the classroom, but Eliza is pretty savvy and realizes we’re placating her.

In the meantime, we’re working on some stuff at home to be more challenging academically and hoping this was the right choice for her this year.

Parenting, it never gets easier, does it?

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Back To School – The Marion Version

And just like that, we have a first grader!

Sitting with her classmates for morning assembly.

I knew these two would be in full on sister-missing-mode so I planned a fun day for us.

They really look like they are missing her, don’t they?

My day did not include having to climb up here after them though.


Learning to slide with sissy.

And when Big is away, Little will commandeer her Mystery Machine for lunch delivery.


Being without big sister is exhausting.

Yay for a successful first on-campus day of first grade!

We also had a wonderful first day of homeschool first grade too.

Graham even tried to learn his phonograms. And by learn, I mean eat.

Three weeks in to school now and she’s still not sure if her favorite subject is cursive or Greek. I love my nerd 🙂

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Jedi Training Camp – Day Five

Without a doubt, this was my most favorite Disney experience. It was just so awesome.

My (not so) secret reason for wanting a pre-park opening reservation at Hollywood & Vine was so that we could be the first in line to sign up for the camp.

We were number four.

Close enough, right?

Side note, any time the girls wore a costume, we had a change of clothes on under it. At least a tank top and some britches. It made for an easy change when they got hot or just wanted something different. And the extra layer kept them in the costumes longer because they didn’t get itchy or scratchy.

And I got ridiculously cute photos like Princess Sophia in a Padawan robe.

Presto change-o!

Seeing if they could follow directions.

And they couldn’t.

It was a bit like herding cats.

Cats wearing robes.


This makes me so excited for Stars Wars Land. I digress.

Oh my stars. I love her.

She was so brave. I know she was so nervous but she so wanted to do this.

Marion on the other hand, despite watching youtube videos of it previously and us talking her through the whole process had no interest at all in it.

Getting her light saber.

Y’all. Let me take a minute to say how awesome the Jedi master was. Master, trainer, stand up comedian. He was hysterical. He was quick on his feet (as you have to be in dealing with kids) but never got ruffled and perhaps most importantly, no one got injured! Even if you don’t have kids participating, it’s worth it to watch him in action just for the laughs.

Use the force. Of gravity.

There it goes!

So serious!

Darth Vader!

Time to battle

She laughs at danger!

Look at my Beans!

Love love love

The final blow

Getting her certificate of training completion

Fantastic job my little Jedi!

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Hollywood Studios – Day Five

We had another pre-park breakfast reservation to start off our day at Hollywood Studios.

It was at Hollywood & Vine with the Disney Junior characters

Princess Sofia!

Gotta be honest, the bobble heads and arm sock things were really weird.

The girls were like, who is this guy?

Graham felt a little differently 🙂

So such feelings about Doc!

Doc Marion and Doc McStuffins

Everyone loves Jake (even though he seems to be looking over my shoulder for some reason…)

The most fun part about breakfast was the dance party and parade. They had them about every fifteen minutes and while it meant the kids didn’t get to eat much breakfast, they had a bunch of fun.

Fun sums up this breakfast the best. I think it was the most fun meal we had. The characters were fun, the wait staff was fun, the whole thing was just fun. And the waitress was a doll. She automatically brought out my coffee in a to-go cup, God bless her!

Now I’m going to go on and skip over the next part because it deserves it’s own post.

So we’ll just say…later on in the day…

Graham needed a nursing so Josh took the girls on the Star Wars Tour

Resulting in the ultra elusive daddy and girls picture

At this point in the vacation, I have to be honest, my planning failed me. I just didn’t do the research into Hollywood Studios and went on a wing and prayer for our fast passes and yeah, it just didn’t happen. Graham was having a bit of a grumpy day (and let’s be honest, who can blame him.) The park was way more spread out than I had anticipated and little legs were tired. The sun was blazing hot and there is zero shade. So. I kind of view our day at Hollywood Studios as a bust. Josh totally doesn’t agree with me about that and I guess his opinion matters too 🙂

We tried to go see Hiro and Baymax but the line was incredibly long and they only come out for a short period of time. So this is as close as we got.

We did see these two guys walking across the park though

And the girls got a friendly wave (and Eliza’s rodent fascination continues)

We were not going to miss the Indiana Jones stunt show (and thankfully there was no wait)

I could go on and on and on about this. To sum up though, don’t miss it.

Just don’t sit too close

Because, well, you know what happens. And that fire gets really, really hot.

It’s kind of neat when it’s over because the stunt men and women just hang out and rehearse for the next show and you can watch them.

And then we were all ready for a nap!

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Epcot – Day Four

Day Four was our first (and supposedly only) split day. Since we had been told both Animal Kingdom and Epcot could be not so much fun with kids, we put them both on half day schedules.

The ball!

I wasn’t as pleasantly surprised with Epcot like I was with Animal Kingdom, but I still found myself wanting to spend more time there. Without kids though.

The kids had no complaints about Epcot though 🙂

We had dinner at the Norwegian restaurant, Akershus. Belle was the meet and greet Princess for the evening.

Eliza was so excited to talk to her about her earrings 🙂

We had the first seating for dinner (it was either 4:30 or 4:50) and as you can see, it was pretty quiet for the first bit.

Akershus is pretty cool. It will be really neat to see how they develop it out as Frozen continues to invade everything Disney.

I love this picture of Eliza. She was so over it all by this point in the trip (except for the rides) but she is still 100% convinced she saw the REAL princesses and this photo so captures this.

There was some twirling going on

And some posing

Sleeping Beauty with the sleeping baby

Another serious Ariel conversation (I’m telling you, Eliza kept these princesses on their toes!)

Lining up to do the princess parade

Snow White (duh)

Snow White and Sleepy

So this was our third character meal and second princess meal. First thing to say is, get the off times. Either the very beginning of dinner or the last seating at breakfast. It’s a lot quieter then, the servers tend to be not so rushed and the characters have a smidge more time to spend at each table.

Second, I think Akershus far outweighs Cinderella’s Royal Table in terms of interacting with the characters. The princess parade is great and again, they seemed less rushed. But, Cinderella had more princesses and it had a fancier feel that you would expect from Cinderella’s Castle.

Third, the food was outstanding. Again, I don’t understand these people who eat at Norwegian restaurants and get surprised that there is Norwegian food on the menu. Marion in particular loved her salmon and ate every bite (poor kid was dying for some fresh veggies and non-carb covered meats.) Eliza was equally happy with her pizza, haha.

Graham woke up towards the end of our meal and needed some mama food, so we found a quiet corner to nurse (there are so many quiet corners in Epcot!) and some space for him to stretch his legs.

Mickey britches!

Epcot is so gorgeous

I can only imagine how stunning it is during the flower festival.

Another interjection. Drinking your way through Epcot has become a thing now (maybe it has been for a while, I have no idea.) It can certainly sour your experience, especially if you come later in the day like we did and head towards Mexico first, also as we did. Tourist drunk on cheap margaritas that have been roasting in the sun all day long is never a pretty sight. Once we got through that and into some of the tamer areas, the drunk frat boys got less numerous and less obnoxious. There were so many shops and so many places to eat that I really want to go back when all the kids are old enough to go to kids’ club and just enjoy an adult day at Epcot. There was one incident with an unfortunate display of public vomiting, but there were also several times we saw/heard security keep the unrulies from being too far out there.

Visiting France with these goofs was fun but I’d like to go back without being worried about someone smashing something 🙂

The line for Snow White was short, so even though we just met her, we weren’t going to pass up that kind of photo opportunity.

Eliza was happy to just hang out with Josh and Graham and play in the grass, so Marion had some quality one on one time.

There was more twirling

And discussion of pie recipes. Snow White said apple pie makes her sleepy but she does love gooseberry pie.

Also, love this.

A quick break for a costume change and some ice cream.

Even G-man got some.

Oh Beans, drippy cone and all.

Yes, we just ate dinner and ice cream but I still made Josh stop for some fish and chips.

I was super glad we stopped because when we found a quiet corner for snacking, I also spied Pooh through a window and we were able to go for another hug!

Tackling Tigger

Hi Pooh Bear!

Tigger is still his favorite though

Showing Tigger how her curlies bounce

Love this picture of all of us!

More nitty gritty talk. With Fast Pass+ reservations, you can’t make more reservations using the app, you have to do it in person (once your original three are used up.) And you can’t make two for one park and one for another park, even on the same day. All of which meant, we didn’t have any reservations when we went to Epcot for rides. There are some great apps out there though with wait times and touring suggestions but don’t get so focused on what the app says that you have to do that you miss what’s right in front of you (like Pooh & Tigger with no wait.)

We rode Finding Nemo and it was so simple it was kind of ridiculous, but the kids liked it (Graham too) and it was simple sort of fun. It was getting fairly late then but the app said there was almost no wait for Mickey, so

We met the Mouse!

Mickey and I were clearly excited to see that he and Graham matched!

Laughing at the mickey ears on his bottom

Graham was going in for the kiss

And Eliza got a tickle

I haven’t had my picture with Mickey since I was 15 🙂

Have we talked about how tall Goofy is?

Because he’s really, really, really tall.

And Minnie is apparently delicious!

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Animal Kingdom – Day Four

Snowy peaks can be deceiving, we’re still in the middle of Florida!

Given that Animal Kingdom wasn’t even built until I was halfway through college, I was entering uncharted territory in planning this part of our vacation and decided to mostly wing it. Reviews from friends and online people are pretty mixed, especially when you factor in young children. Honestly, we had no idea what to expect and just kind of went with winging it.

In a word, it was awesome. We wish we could go back and spend so much more time there. There was so much we felt we didn’t get to do and places we didn’t get to explore. All in all, we give Animal Kingdom a big two thumbs up.

Again, the “internets” told us to avoid magic hours at the parks. That they were often crowded and not everything might be open. So we opted to sleep in just a little bit this morning and get there are regular opening time. MISTAKE! We got there a few minutes before regular hours and now I wish we’d been there the full hour early.

Because it turns out, there was NO LINE for Expedition Everest and Marion got to ride it back to back.

And oh my stars. Y’all. I got off this and my legs were shaking. Hands down, best roller coaster ever.

You can’t tell, but we were both still trembling. It was great.

Marion rode it again with Josh while I took the littles down to Dino-Rama

Because Eliza was feeling a little left out.

Not for long though 🙂

I will go on and say that if you have very little kids, it might be a disappointment because there aren’t a ton of rides with no height limits on them. And there are lot of shows to see (we didn’t get to see any) but you have to have kids willing to sit and wait for them to start (good chance to rest though.) I can see where a lot of people would say it was a half day trip but don’t write it off because for us, we could have spent a lot more time there.

A guaranteed family favorite though is the animal safari. (Even if some of your family sleeps through the whole thing!)

Hello there beastie

So this safari is definitely high in the cheese factor (even for Disney) but still, the landscaping and attention to detail is pretty cool.

Ya think?

Zebras are always a crowd pleaser

Also a crowd pleaser – the child care rooms. Again, it’s going to make me sad when we go back and I don’t have a reason to visit these little oasis of peace and quiet (and air conditioning!)

Tarzan also appeared to be a crowd pleaser. Or a mom pleaser if the line was any indication. Ahem.

While Josh and the girls rode the Kali River Rapids (and got totally soaked in the process!) Graham and I enjoyed the monkey antics of Monkey Island. Seriously, they were super active and so funny.

We also got to meet Pocahontas!

There was no line and she was super friendly.

Eliza was asking her about her necklace

It was a fairly lengthy conversation 🙂

And then it was lunch time!

Again, “most people” say to get breakfast at Tusker House because they find the food to be too weird and unusual at lunch and dinner. I completely disagree. Yes, the food is different than standard theme park food but it was outstanding. I won’t admit to how many times we refilled our plates. (Strangely enough, we had more complaints about dessert than the lunch fare.)

Eliza was over characters at this point and just wanted to eat. Graham didn’t feel the same way.

Peek-a-boo with Daisy

Eliza couldn’t be bothered

She did get out of her chair for Mickey though 🙂

The Donald.

Unfortunately, none of it was as good as it looks!

And then, back to the hotel for some nap time!

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Magic Kingdom – Day Three

My husband has kindly reminded me that summer is almost over and I’m still not done with blogging about Disney, so I’m going to try to get it done before school starts again.  Wish me luck with that one.

It was another early morning wake up for our crew

Although not quite so early as the previous morning.

We kicked off the day by having breakfast with Pooh at Crystal Palace.

We had reservations for pre-opening hours

Which some of us weren’t so happy about apparently.

Others were thrilled with it.

We did get some awesome family pictures!

And some less than enthusiastic ones too.

Love this one!

Not so much this one.

(Someone was clearly having some moments. And not magical moments either. Just keeping it real here.)

There might have been a time out involved.

But Winnie the Pooh makes everyone better!

Love this one too

Apparently Tigger was Graham’s absolute favorite character. But I missed it as I was standing in line for food 😦

He was a little less sure about Piglet.

The park had just opened when we were done eating so we quickly went over to meet Merida.

Eliza wanted her hair down so she could show Merida her curly hair too!

Merida was one of my personal favorite princesses – meeting her early in the morning meant she wasn’t worn out yet 🙂

Getting to shoot the bow and arrow after was pretty great too

(They also had coloring pages for the kids too which was awesome)

I’ve talked a little bit before about using fast passes and today was sort of the penultimate fast pass day. I saved all the big rides for our last full Magic Kingdom day because I just had no idea how the girls would do on the roller coaster type of rides. Turns out, I’ve got adrenaline junkies on my hands!

The way we did it was this. I made FP+ for the girls and I. We all went up to the ride and asked for a child switch pass for Josh because he was holding Graham. The girls and I would go and ride, then as soon as we got off, Josh and the girls would go through using the child switch pass. I also made FP+ for Josh to ride by himself. We’d all go to the line together, ask for a rider switch, then Josh went and rode the ride by himself. When he got off, either he or I would take the kids back through with the rider switch. That meant the girls got to ride each of the big rides three times each with no waiting.

Splash Mountain with mom

Splash Mountain with dad

While Graham and I waited, I indulged his new found love of Tigger 🙂

World’s greatest ride picture

We thoroughly enjoyed Seven Dwarves Mine Train I think it’s safe to say!

We also rode Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and it (as always) is one of my favorites. The only one of the big rides we didn’t do was Space Mountain. Eliza wasn’t tall enough for it and Marion didn’t think she was quite ready to ride by herself (the seating for it is just one person in front of the other and she didn’t want to do that. Next trip it’ll be for sure!)

It might have been a little exhausting 🙂

But the day wasn’t done yet!

We had lunch reservations at Be Our Guest still to do! This was the one ADR I wasn’t totally happy with. Even though I booked it at 3 a.m. the day they started taking reservations, we could only get a 1 p.m. reservation and no matter how much or how often I checked, we could never get a dinner reservation. That was the one that I really wanted but it just never happened. Oh well.

They were super strict about not letting you in ahead of your reservation time and the wait to get into the castle was way longer than it should have been but I imagine by now, those kinks have been worked out a bit.

The castle was wonderfully themed though. In fact, I got in trouble because I kept going around all the rooms with the kids and they couldn’t track me to deliver our food!

The rose was incredibly! But the West Wing is super dark and the thunder noises are very loud so it wasn’t the place for us.

We ate in the Grand Ballroom and it was lovely!

We sat by the “windows” and the falling snow was so neat (even if it did make going back out into the heat awful.)

People at Disney love to kvetch about the food. They complain about there “just” being hamburgers and french fries but when given actual French food, complain that it’s too weird and fancy. We had no problems with it though and certainly appreciated choices that didn’t include chicken nuggets.

I don’t think anyone has complained about the desserts though!

More posing 🙂

Graham liked these kind of beasties

Then it was the boat ride back to the hotel and naptime! This was the one day that we didn’t go back to Magic Kingdom in the evening, instead choosing to play at the pool and see the fireworks from our room.

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