Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Florida - Days 6 & 7 - Wrapping it Up

Sunday was another planned rest day.  We had four parks to visit and six full days there, so we had to plan a couple rest days, both for our sanity and to fill the time.  We headed right to the pool at 10am because we found out on our last pool day that every morning they gather up a bunch of kids who masquerade as pirates to storm the waterslide and battle the cast member who's defending it (with an inflatable bat).  The kids get a bandanna to keep, as well as a balloon sword.  Once the kids beat the cast member, the waterslide is officially open for the day and the pirate flag flies proudly at the top.  It was pretty cute.  We were apparently told the wrong place to meet, though, because a group of kids came over to where we had been, and with very little warning another cast member led them over to the slide.  We had to rush to get Jacob's bandanna on, and eventually he caught up with them for the end of the battle...
He's the last kid on the right...notice the two cast members on the left, one of whom has been conquered, and the other is holding the flag
While Jacob was debating riding the slide (after not liking it the first day), I took yet another gratuitous happy shot of Carter.  The kid is so darn smiley...

Can you see his tiny little bottom teeth now?  So cute!
For the record, this kid was seriously making people smile all over Disney the entire time we were there.  Everywhere we went he was grinning at people and making them giggle.  I can't even tell you how many random strangers told us how cute he was or made faces back at him.  Heck, sometimes I'd catch him looking at people who weren't even looking at him, almost trying to capture their attention.  You ever hear of the experiment where babies weren't given any engagement at all from their caregivers and they died, basically because we all need human connection and affection?  The way he seems to crave attention like that reminded me of that study.  We give him plenty, believe me, and I guess he just wants more!  I guess he already knows that the world is a better place with smiling people!

Back from his battle, here is Jacob wielding his sword...

Eventually Jacob tried the waterslide again, and he decided he loved it!  And so began a day of watersliding.  Between the two of us we probably accompanied him up there a couple dozen times.  It was more tiring than you'd think, but it was fun nonetheless!  I'm glad he finally found something he loved, and it was nice to have a happy-go-lucky kid for a change, even if it was interspersed with a few off-moments.
Coming down the slide!
There was a bridge over the pool and this was the view from the top of it, looking at the waterslide. 
Notice the Mickey ears at the end of the slide!
Here's the view from another angle, looking toward the lighthouse (which was actually a sauna)...

And here's Pirate Jacob trying to be fierce but cracking a smile nonetheless...

We went to Downtown Disney later in the day for lunch, and had our first bit of trouble with the gluten-free situation.  We couldn't find a good quick service place (for our meal plan), so we ended up eating at a sit-down place inside a hip bowling alley, mostly because the gluten-free items were clearly labeled on the menu.  We had to pay for it (we used part of a Disney gift card we had), but the food was good and we had to eat!  While we were in there, it started to rain.  We couldn't take the boat back to our resort, so we had to navigate back to the buses (a little less direct, but not bad) and utilize our ponchos.  We pretty much just tried to relax for the rest of the day.  We did get in an evening swim (which I promised to Jacob when we left the pool earlier in the day) when the rain stopped, then grabbed rented a movie from the community center, played some pool, and enjoyed our dinner back in our room with the movie. 

The next day was our last full day, and we were spending it back at EPCOT.  The weather wasn't looking good, so we tried to get an early start and hit up as much of the outdoor stuff in the World Showcase as possible.  We started on the opposite side from where we were the other day.  We saw Mexico...     
Last time I had a hard time taking a good picture in the pyramid...this time, I like the result!
...and then headed to Norway, where the boys rode on Maelstrom, a fun little boat ride full of Vikings. 


We also had a photo op in the store there...

 
We wandered through China...

And stopped into Germany...
...though I was disappointed by a few things.  First, last time we were there they had a bunch of Playmobil toys, which Jacob loves, and this time there were none.  Second, seeing as Oktoberfest had officially started in Germany (for real), I was a little bummed by the lack of Oktoberfest festivities there.  I was actually hoping they'd have some shirts like I've eyed up online that look like a German dirndl dress top.  But no luck.

We eventually got back to the American Experience, where we left off last time, and had lunch at the same restaurant where we'd had the good gluten-free experience the first time.  While we were there, it started to rain.  Hard.  And when I checked the radar, there was no end in sight.  We gave it a little bit after lunch and some shopping to see if it was going to let up at all, but eventually surmised that we had to keep going.  We went as quickly as we could between countries, stopping at most of them to shop and dry off a bit.  It was really miserable, even with ponchos.  We actually had to buy one more (darn it) because it was raining too hard for the stroller to keep up with.  We wanted to keep Carter dry, and in the end it was hugely helpful for keeping everything else dry, since later on we had to leave the stroller parked out in the rain to go to other pavilions. 

The rain was really miserable, and we ended up stopping at Journey into Imagination briefly so I could feed Carter and Jacob could play in the interactive play area a bit.  I also wanted to look into buying a stuffed Figment (the purple dragon that's the mascot for that pavilion) because he was my favorite as a kid and I figured it might be a fun one for Carter, since he can't really pick his own.  I did my research but opted to buy one later at another store.  Jacob, by the way, ended up with this giant bear that's also a hand puppet, which we bought at the Canadian pavilion.  He loved it and it was surprisingly cheap.  The last thing he needed was another animal, but it was pretty cool and we dodged a bullet considering some of the other stuff he wanted and didn't get because he insisted on the bear!

We ended up skipping The Land completely, which was sad because it's the home of my favorite ride there, Soarin'.  It was a lifesaver on my last trip, since it gave me the sensation of a roller coaster without the body jarring issues, but the long wait and late Fast Pass made it a no-go.  We sprinted (as best we could) to The Seas, since I knew it would provide a bunch of entertainment indoors, which would hopefully allow the rain to pass.  We started out with a ride in a clamshell with a cool adaptation of Finding Nemo (including where they project the movie characters in real tanks!).  After the ride there are some real fish to look at...
Gotta love jellyfish!
...and then a stop at Turtle Talk with Crush, the character from Finding Nemo.  I loved this when we did it the last time we were there.  An animated Crush comes on the screen and interacts with the crowd.  It's pretty convincing, since he uses names, sees shirt colors, etc., and talks in the same Australian accent as the movie character. 
Crush is in the center of the screen, and the kids are on the floor in front.  Notice the microphone in the upper right :)
Jacob was not really amused.  I guess he's jaded by years of knowing that mascots aren't real.  He knew it was fake, but honestly, I wish he would have at least been impressed by the technology!

Afterward we saw manatees...
Notice the head of lettuce this one is eating!
And a really ugly fish...
He's so creepy, isn't he?
And a cool starfish...

And I got a really great picture of some clownfish!

After we had checked out as much fish as we could handle, we headed back out into the rain, which was still going strong.  We dashed across to the next building, which ended up having video games in it, and Jacob and Craig played those for a while.  We eventually dashed across to another interactive area that was connected to the restaurant where we wanted to eat.  By the time we were most of the way through dinner, the rain had let up quite a bit. 
Cloudy and damp at dusk, but the fountains looked pretty
After doing some shopping, we headed back out.  We dodged more rain as we left (but nothing like earlier!), and I caught this picture of Spaceship Earth. Similar to my picture from the other day, but I liked how the palm trees were silhouetted and the contrast against the night sky.  The way the light reflects off the panels at different angles is pretty cool, too.
 
 
It had definitely been a long week, and while I hated to leave "paradise", I knew that we were all exhausted and needed to get back to a schedule.  I'd say "back to normal", except the normal we were coming back to wasn't our normal at all, for so many reasons.  Still, coming home was probably more of a relief than it usually is after a vacation like this, but I'd like to think we made a few good memories along the way, even if most of the trip was a challenge.
 
Our trip home was pretty uneventful.  Our flight was at a really great time, so we had enough time to pack up, grab some breakfast, and even use up the rest of our meal plan snack allotment to buy snacks for the road from the resort store.  We checked our baggage at the hotel, hopped on a bus to the airport, had an easy enough time at security (but I'll say it again--going through security with two kids is tough!), tried to find some food for lunch (gluten-free was hard with the options we had), and got on the plane a little before 2pm.  Jacob slept for an hour, and Carter slept for a little longer than that after some initial fussing (and Craig and I joined the party for a bit as well), and then we managed to get Jacob to do a little homework before Carter needed to eat.  It wasn't bad, but I'm not too eager to fly with kids again anytime soon.  It was a relief to get home, though we rushed right out to Wegmans to buy some gluten-free foods in preparation for Jacob's lunch today.  We ended up going out to eat at Chili's, which a random celiac at the resort had suggested.  Craig may have had some cross-contamination since he wasn't feeling great last night, but it had been a long week so it's hard to tell.  Jacob and I also had another difficult run-in last night when he wouldn't go to bed.  Suffice it to say it's been a crazy week and getting back to work with all of this stuff floating around in my head has been tough.  Also, we'll probably have to have the guys back off the gluten-free diet for their testing.  Jacob's GI appointment is next Thursday.  We haven't really seen much change, so I guess it's not a big deal, but it's just so hard to manage right now that we're grasping at straws for what might help in the meantime.  I guess it'll give me a chance to use up some of the gluten-filled items in the pantry, right?
 
I'll have a wrap-up on my final thoughts on the trip soon.  Hope you enjoyed the pictures, at least!

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