We had just a really fun time in Orlando last week. There's so much to say, but I don't think I'll have time. So I'll just hit the highlights.
My grandmother amazes me--she walked her 90-year-old self all around the parks without too much trouble that I could see. She kept short-ish days (think 6 hours as opposed to the 8-9 hours I tended to do with the kids) and paced herself well. It was a delight to see her with my children (her only great-grandkids), and I wish I'd taken more pictures. (This vacation was different for me in that I barely took ANY pictures for a variety of reasons. Mostly I was being There in the Moment.) I wish we could see her more often, and I'd like to make visiting her in California a priority.
My aunt and uncle--always lots of fun, and I wish we could see them more often. They are slightly more convenient to visit (Boston) and I'd like to make visiting that part of the world a priority (to see them, and others). My uncle--hilarious, as always. My aunt--kind and thoughtful. We had lots of interesting, fun conversations.
The other big news is that my brother popped the question to his girlfriend while on the trip (I got a sneak-peek at the ring a few hours before--it's gorgeous). She said YES and now I get a new sister! The kids are thrilled because they like her a lot. Lots of exciting times ahead for our family!
Disney World--as fun as always, though having just been there a year ago, it wasn't quite as exciting to me. I think every 2-3 years is a good interval. Sean was super cute, and did indeed seem to enjoy himself in a genuine way (as opposed to merely enjoying being somewhere with mom and dad, as he was last year). He loved the animals at Animal Kingdom (which I thought was more fun this time) and got a kick out of seeing Mickey (though he wouldn't pose for pics with his sister) and enjoyed the "boat ride" to see the Pirates of the Caribbean. He also enjoyed the many, many train rides we took: the trams to and from the car, the Dr. Seuss train at Universal, the People Mover in Tomorrowland, etc. So many trains and he was unafraid to ride anything. There is pretty much nothing that fazes this kid.
The other two had fun, too, though Ryan was so tired by Friday that we rented him a stroller, too. Morgan rode every ride possible (including her first roller coaster at the Harry Potter theme park) and thoroughly enjoyed herself. Ryan is not much of a ride-rider, but managed to have fun on Pirates and Spaceship: Earth. Most especially, he enjoyed the Hall of Presidents, and I am not making that up.
It's nice going to parks with lots of other adults, because they will stay with the kids so I can go on other rides. So I got to go to the Haunted Mansion (and M came with), for example. My sibs and their S.O.s took off for a while to ride roller coasters. I kinda missed being able to do that, but I see the theme park experience as coming in phases. Right now, I'm in the Little Kid Wonderment phase which means not so many roller coasters, and rather a lot of waiting in line for character autographs. The upside of the LKW phase is that they are SO. Freaking. Cute. The next phase is the Big Kid Cool phase, and we'll be able to do more grownup-y rides and there will be less emergency running to the potties (god I hope). After that, the Get Away From Me Mom Teenager phase, where we all split off into groups and meet up for lunch later.
Harry Potter. I tweeted my assessment earlier in the week, but I'll elaborate a bit. I give it a B-. The Hogwarts castle tour was interesting (you wandered through the greenhouses and into the castle with moving paintings and Dumbledore's study). The ride at the end of the tour was, in a word, ABSOLUTELY FREAKING AMAZING. I've never been on anything that fun or exciting I don't think. Brendan took Morgan on the Hippogriff ride and she had a wonderful time. My sister, brother-in-law, brother and future-sister-in-law all loved the Dragon Roller Coaster. So those things were cool.
But. It's TINY. One street of Hogsmeade/Diagon Alley. Just one little street. It looks cools, all fake-snow-frosted, but many of the shops aren't actually shops. Lots of doors that don't open. Zonko's and Honeyduke's are there (Brendan heard one lady complaining that the toys at Zonko's weren't spiffy enough--I guess she was expecting actual magic?). Ollivander's wand shop had a line 60 minutes long, so we skipped that. There's The Three Broomsticks, which my parents, grandma, and aunt & uncle tried before we all got there--you get in line and pay and get your food, and then stand with your food in another line to be seated. Wha???? Proper Waiting Line Management for Butterbeer was similarly absent. Oh, and the music! They blast the music from the movies repeatedly over and over at loud volume. Sure, they play music at Disney, too, but much more quietly, and there are actually places with no background noise at all. At Harry Potter World--there is NO escape from the loud music.
I don't know. It was neat and all, but there was SO MUCH MORE they could have done with it. I get the feeling they only had so much space and what they did with it was cute. But really, it needs a full park of its own, not a little corner in another park. Someone asked me how long I'd spend there if I could spend all the time I wanted to, and didn't have the kids with me. My answer: three hours. It takes only about three hours to do the whole thing (if you don't wait in line at Ollivander's!). Kinda disappointing for $82.
We also went to Dr. Seuss world (part of the same park) and rode some rides there. Now THAT had just the right amount of fun rides and stuff to do. So thankfully there's that for the same admission price (and lots more, but much not kid-friendly).
So that's my vacation in a rather large nutshell. Back to real life (and cleaning out the car, and picking up the cat, and laundry, and putting things away, and paying bills, etc.) for a while.