Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Trying to catch up

I feel like in the weeks following Christmas we have been running from one thing to another.  Unfortunately our house is paying the price.  Yes, the Christmas decorations are down, but that’s only because we had a real tree and it was starting to look pretty bad, so it had to come down.  The rest of our house looks like a tornado came through.  I keep thinking that if I have just a couple of days to get things back in order, then I’ll be fine.  Of course I don’t have 2 days in a row.  I only get 1 day at a time, so I clean what I can, throw some laundry in, run the dishwasher, and hope that by the time my next “free” day rolls around our house won’t be back to where it started.

I often tell Joe that I have no idea how I did everything when I was working full time.  I worked long days (sometimes 10 hours or longer), yet I feel like our house is messier now than it was when I was working.  Sure, we paid to have a lot of things done that I now do myself…Joe’s dress shirts used to be taken to the drycleaner, we used to have a maid (I miss her), we used to eat out a lot more, etc.  Now I get to do all of this…and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

All that to say, I’m sorry I’ve been neglecting you.  I’ll come up with something spectacular to write about soon (don’t hold me to that…we really have a pretty boring life).

In the meantime, here are some Ella-isms to tide you over:

The other night Joe was reading her Cinderella before bed.  She had several comments about the book, but my favorite was when Joe read, “Cinderella worked hard all day.”  Ella said, in her most sympathetic voice, “Just like you work hard, daddy.”

Last night I was modeling my new bridesmaid dress for Ella and Joe.  Ella said, “Mommy, you look beautiful in that dress!  I really like the bow!  Man, I wish I had a fancy dress like that." Of course she was disappointed that it's a "legs" dress and not a "no legs" dress.

After we got back from Disney World Ella would talk about it all the time.  One night before dinner she was sitting at the table staring at the picture of her and Cinderella and she kept saying, “I wish we could come back.”  Me too, Ella…me too.

Every night we have the same conversation:
Ella:  Mommy, I want to cuddle with you tonight, not daddy.
Me: Ok.
Wait 5 minutes
Ella: Mom, I decided that I want to cuddle with daddy now.  Not you.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

It's so hard to say goodbye

Ella did NOT want to leave.  Here's a video of us leaving Hollywood Studios.  She knew we were heading home the next day and she wasn't happy about it at all.

Once again I'm having trouble uploading the video, so please click here to watch it on youtube.

Sad to leave Mickey's House

I think it's funny that she thinks that if she's hungry then we'll stay at the park and eat.  Obviously we ate a lot of delicious junk food while we were there.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Day 5 – Bonus Day

We were supposed to leave Florida on Monday and take 2 days to drive home.  We were having so much fun that we decided to stay an extra day.  Monday we headed to Hollywood Studios.

We decided to take this day a bit easier than we had the 3 previous days.  Instead of waking up early and getting to the park when it opened, we packed up the condo, said goodbye to the Burbs (my brother and his family) and got to the park a little after 10.

We had heard a lot about Hollywood Studios and fluctuated back and forth between going there, or visiting Epcot.  I’m so glad we decided to visit Hollywood Studios.  I was under the assumption that it was mainly for older kids and adults, but that was not the case at all.  Yes, there were bigger rides, but they had plenty for kids too.

First we hit up the Beauty and the Beast stage show.  We sat in the second row right in the center, so Ella had perfect viewing.  She was mesmerized by the whole thing.  Of course this is the whole show condensed into 30 minutes, so she also kept telling us what they left out.

Next we headed to the backstage tour.  This was really cool.  We got to see all sorts of things from movies past.  Here are a couple of highlights.

 Apparently this house was in the Hannah Montana movie.  I never saw it so I'll just take their word for it.

 Frozen Mr. Tumnus (right) from Chronicles of Narnia

 Herbie the Lovebug!

 20 points to whoever can tell me what movie this is from.  (Wendy, you can't play since you already won on facebook :))

 10 points to whoever can tell me what movie this is from.  Why only 10?  Because this one is a lot easier than the above picture.

We walked around the park for a long time just checking out all the movie things they had on display.  It was really cool to see them up close and now I’ll be checking every movie I watch to see if they’ve done any of their tricks.

Next came the Indiana Jones stunt show.  Joe has decided that this was his favorite thing of the whole trip.  It was really cool to see all the stunts and have them explained to us.

It wouldn’t be a trip to a Disney theme park without a parade.  This parade was different than the others in that it focused a lot more on the Pixar side of things.

Last but not least, we went on the Toy Story ride.  This was basically set up like a carnival game with 3D glasses.  You ride around in this little car and come to various screens.  With your gun you shoot at the screens to collect points.  This is the point in the post where I definitely will NOT tell you that yours truly (Katie, in case you’re not sure) had a grand total of 96,000 points.  I will also definitely NOT tell you that my wonderful, antelope shooting husband had a mere 73,000 points.  Granted, he had 54% accuracy in his shots and I only had 37% accuracy, but I had a faster trigger finger and that’s what mattered in this game.  To Joe’s credit, he has shot 1 deer and 2 antelope.  I, on the other hand, have never shot a big game animal (I’ve actually never tried).
We had a great time at Hollywood Studios and want to spend more time there the next time we head to Orlando…and yes, there will be a next time.

Tuesday morning we headed out bright and early.  We had intended to stop along the way and get a hotel for the night, but once we got driving we just decided to push through.  Ella was so exhausted after the whole vacation that she fell asleep at 9:30 am and slept until 1:30 in the afternoon.  We finally arrived home around midnight.  It felt good to sleep in our own beds, but we sure missed the fun we had in Disney.

Ella still talks about our trip every day.  Just last night she was staring longingly at the picture of her with Cinderella and she said, “I wish we could come back.”  Me too Ella…me too.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Day 4 – Magic Kingdom Part 2

This post could also be titled “A Day with the Princesses” because pretty much this entire day was devoted to Princess Ella meeting the rest of the princesses.  This will be my longest post from our trip, so be prepared.

Every day when Ella woke up she asked the same question, “Can I wear my Cinderella dress today?”  Every day I would have to explain to her that her Cinderella dress needed to be saved for Sunday.  Every morning she cried and begged to wear her Cinderella dress, and every day I was the mean mom that told her no, and convinced her that another outfit would be more appropriate.  On Sunday she was so happy when she asked if she could wear her Cinderella dress, and mommy finally said YES!

I planned this day on October 1st.  That was when I went online and booked all the reservations we needed to make the Princess day go off perfectly.

We headed to the park at 8 am and let me tell you, it was empty.  Ok, not really empty, but there were at least ¼ of the people that were there on the 31st.

As we entered the park, Snow White was standing there.  We got in line to meet her and Miguel, Snow White’s helper, stood behind us and told everyone else that we were the last family to meet with Snow White.  Wow, we must have been pretty special.

Right after Snow White we headed over to meet Mary Poppins.
The mom in me couldn’t get over how white her dress was.  There wasn’t a speck of dirt on it!  She even kept kneeling down on the ground to meet all of the kids, yet her dress remained white.  As we were leaving I couldn’t help but wonder how I could get my hands on whatever stain remover they use.

At 10:30 our day for Princess Ella began with a trip to the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique.  We went back and forth for weeks on whether or not to let Ella do this.  The boutique is a hair salon for little girls.  Each Princess is assigned a Fairy Godmother in Training who fixes their hair and puts on make-up.  With Ella’s EB, she has never been to a real hair salon, I always cut her hair myself.  So I was a bit hesitant about the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique.  I asked several EB families and not one of them had ever been, so I didn’t have any EB advice to go on.  I asked several other friends and they told me that it can be a bit rough but that it was a wonderful experience.  I watched video after video on you tube and with each one I weighed the pros and cons.  Ultimately it came down to a cost/benefit analysis.  The cost: potential boo boos.  The benefit: a priceless memory.
We decided to go for it.  Boo boos last a week.  A memory lasts a lifetime.  When I made the reservation I told them that she has sensitive skin, so whoever did her hair would just need to be gentle.  They seemed fine with that.  When we arrived they confirmed and asked again what special accommodations would need to be made for her skin.  I just told them to be a bit more gentle, but other than that it should be fine.  Ella’s Fairy Godmother in Training, Wanda, was perfect!  She took special care to ensure that Ella didn’t get hurt.  The only time we got a bit nervous was when Ella chose a fancy jewel to go on her cheek, but again we weighed the cost and decided to go for it.  If it left a boo boo we’d deal with that later (FYI, her face was fine.  No boo boo in sight).
We made the right decision!  Ella had a smile on her face the entire time she was getting her hair done.  She chose a fancy blue tiara to match her blue Cinderella dress, and she chose a rainbow Mickey barrette to go on the back of her head.  She chose a combination of pink, blue and purple eye shadow, and clear lip gloss.  Throughout the whole process Ella truly felt like a REAL princess.  Her entire demeanor changed!  When we were finished she no longer sat back in her stroller, but sat up so the world could see her.  When she walked she floated, like she was trying to be as graceful as possible.  My only word of warning to parents…after your visit to the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, you will have glitter EVERYWHERE!  It was all over Ella’s stroller, and even all in Joe’s beard.  He was looking very festive for the occasion.


There are more pictures of the entire process in the Disney World 2011 picture folder to the right.
GiGi and the Murray clan had reservations for lunch at Cinderella’s Royal Table.  When we first entered the castle we met Cinderella and had our picture taken.  Ella was so sweet and loved meeting her favorite princess.  We headed to the upstairs of the castle and were seated right in the middle of the room.  It was perfect for seeing each of the princesses as they entered the room.  Ella soon caught on that before announcing another princess, they would have her story told over the intercom.  As soon as she would hear the story begin she would tell us all to be quiet because another princess was coming!  Here are the princesses she met at lunch.

Cinderella, of course.  It was her house, afterall.

Snow White (#2)

Jasmine (I felt bad for Jasmine having to walk around in a bikini all day)

Ariel (after she got her legs...and got her voice back)

And Belle (in the blue and white dress).  Belle was the only person in all of Disney to write a note in Ella's autograph book.  Everyone else just signed their name.

Ella and Ariel even got to make a wish together with their “Wishing Star.”  Ella waved her magic wand and said the magic words, “Bibbidi, bobbidi, boo!”
Ella loved lunch so much!  The food was terrific.  All of us adults were impressed with how good it was, and Ella even ate all of her fish.  Of course she loved her make your own ice cream sundae, but she didn’t touch the ice cream.  Instead she ate all of the toppings and let the ice cream melt.  Oh well.

As we were getting on the elevator to leave Ella said goodbye to Belle and Ariel.  Both princesses turned around and without thinking twice they shouted, “Goodbye Princess Ella!”  They had remembered her name!  With probably 40 or 50 other little girls in the room, the princesses remembered Ella’s name!  We were shocked.  Ella looked at us with big eyes and said, “They know my name!”  That made her feel so special.

After lunch we rode several rides (Ella and GiGi spent a lot of time together so Joe and I could ride some grown-up rides) then decided to head to the entrance of the park to visit the princesses in the “Storybook Princess” room.  Joe needed some daddy time (a coffee break) so GiGi and I took Ella to meet the princesses.
We first reunited with Cinderella (I liked this Cinderella better than the one at the castle).

Next came Belle, this time she was wearing her yellow dress.

Finally came Aurora.  This was the only place to meet Aurora, so it was really important that we come visit her.

After we visited Aurora (Sleeping Beauty, for those of you not in the know about Princesses), one of the cast members (what they call the workers at Disney) came up to us and asked if we could stick around for a little bit.  To make a long story short, they were finishing up visits for the day, so we were close to the end of the line.  After Cinderella met with her last princess, she came back over to us and talked with Ella more.  Then Belle finished up with the princess and joined Ella and Cinderella.  Finally Aurora was done and Ella was alone in the room with all three princesses.  What a dream come true for a 4 year old girl!

The cast member had specifically held us back in the room so Ella could have a special treat of getting her picture taken with all 3 princesses!  GiGi and I were in shock that Ella got such a special treat.  Ella had a permanent smile on her face.

It was such a special experience!  Of course as we were leaving GiGi and I were crying our eyes out.  We just couldn’t believe that they would do something so special for Ella.  She is such a lucky little girl!

Ella couldn’t stop talking about (and still talks about) how she got to meet princesses “in real life.”  They weren’t cartoons, they weren’t in a movie or on TV, they were in REAL LIFE!  She got to talk to them and give them hugs (which she did, every one of them got a hug) and they even danced together!  Yes, Ella danced with the princesses.  My favorite part was when they all twirled their dresses together.

It was hard to finish up a day like that.  The line for Rapunzel was over 2 hours long, so we didn't get to meet her.  And I have no idea where Tiana was.  The best we saw of her was in the parade.  Maybe next time we can add them to our book.  We stayed and watched the Electrical Parade and the fireworks, then headed home.  That night we all dreamed about princesses.

I have to add that the thing that impressed Joe, GiGi and I the most was that NOT ONE princess had a reaction to Ella.  Not one of them looked at her as though something was wrong.  Not one made a awkward face.  Not one flinched.  Not one hesitated in touching her or giving her a hug.  A couple even gave her a big kiss on the cheek.  They looked at her and responded to her as though she were the most typical 4 year old girl in the world.  I can count on 1 hand the number of times in Ella’s lifetime where we’ve been in a public place and haven’t gotten some sort of reaction.  And it wasn’t just the princesses.  All of the cast members throughout the 3 parks we visited were incredibly helpful and never asked any questions or looked at us as though something was wrong.  To them we were just another average family coming to have a fun time at Magic Kingdom.  That alone made the experience priceless.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Day 3 – First day at Magic Kingdom

We decided to spend 2 days at Magic Kingdom, so the first day was spent in Tomorrow Land and Fantasy Land.

Yes, we spent New Years Eve at Magic Kingdom.  I know it’s their busiest day of the year and that they often have to stop letting people in, which is why we arrived at 8:30 to ensure we got inside.  According to one of the cast members, this year wasn’t nearly as busy as last year.  Apparently they closed the gate earlier than last year, so not as many people were inside.

Honestly, while it was very busy, it wasn’t as busy as I expected it to be.  I expected to ride 1 or 2 rides and hardly be able to move, but that wasn’t the case.  We were able to ride almost everything we wanted to in Fantasy Land and Tomorrow Land.

All along our plan had been to leave in the afternoon and spend the evening at the condo.  That way we could get the kids into bed early and get back to Magic Kingdom early the next morning.  So we left the park around 3:00 and hit up the pool and hot tub.  The night was spent eating pizza, putting the kids to bed early, and the ladies played “Phase 10” while the men all fell asleep in front of the TV.  We were a pretty lame group and not one of us stayed up to ring in the new year.

Here are some pictures to capture the fun day!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Day 2 – Animal Kingdom

Friday morning we woke up bright and early and headed to Animal Kingdom.  This was my first visit to Animal Kingdom, so I wasn’t sure what to expect.

We decided to kick things off by heading to the Safari.  This was so awesome!  We rode in these trucks and drove around various animal habitats in Africa, just like we were on a real safari.  Ella was a scared that the animals were going to get her, but we assured her that she was safe and mommy and daddy would protect her.

Next we headed to the Lion King show.  Wow!  That’s all I can say about it, WOW.

Aunt Gina did a great job of planning a special lunch for today at Donald’s Safari Lunch.  We got to meet Donald, Mickey, Goofy and Daisy.  I fully expected Ella to freak out, but she didn’t.  She went up to each of them without a problem and gave everyone a hug and posed for a picture.

Of course we took a break to watch the parade, then headed to the 3D movie “It’s tough being a bug.”  None of the kids liked it and I know at least 2 screamed through most of it (Ella included).  We ended up taking off her 3D glasses and holding her face down in my chest while she yelled, “I’m done!  I want to leave!”  Luckily it was only 10 minutes long.

The last show of the day was “Finding Nemo.”

It was a wonderful day!  We only hit up about half of what Animal Kingdom had to offer, and unfortunately the grown-ups didn’t hit Expedition Everest, which we hear is the greatest ride in all of Disney’s theme parks.  I am confident this won’t be our last trip to Animal Kingdom so we’ll have to be sure and ride that on our next visit.