Tips on dominating Disney World

I’m sure you’ve picked up that we had the very best time possible our week in Disney World. There are a few factors you all wouldn’t necessarily be able to control:

-Age of my kids (7, 7, 8, 9, 10)

-Greatness of Zach. Zach was at his very best that week. For a man who loves leisure, Disney World is anything but and he didn’t complain once. Oh, and he had to keep track of the kids and me being that I was relegated to a motorized scooter.

-Greatness of my parents. My parents are in really great shape, they managed to keep up with my motorized scooter and exciteable children, calm fearful Binyam kids and appoint themselves manager of the large task of not losing Binyam anyone. Not only did they pay our way there, but they bought each of my kids souviners. If there’s a way for you to get parents like them, I would highly recommend it.

-The weather was perfect. A bit warm, yes, but because we didn’t wait in lines it never felt insufferable.

-The time of year we went (September 7-12). Yes, we took the kids out of school for a week, yes that’s bad but it was worth it. I have little lovies with IEPs and some in TAG, some who didn’t blink being gone a week and some who are now working double time to catch up. The thing they all have is 2 parents who who are willing to work their asses off to make sure they are as successful as humanly possible. Clearly we knew all of this ahead of time but we also knew it was the beginning of the school year and that a) no one else would be at the parks and b) the kids would have the rest of the school year to catch up-worst case scenario.

-Having a motorized scooter. I’ll admit when I first broke my foot I was pretty devestated at the thought of exploring Disney sitting down. It ended up being quite the asset. Turns out when you’re on a scooter you can get a handicap pass that allows you (and up to 6 other people) to go to a different line. Though we didn’t have to use this every time (due to the already short lines) it still came in really handy.

The good news is, there are things you can control and really should!

-Once you have booked your trip, start looking at Undercover Tourist, particularly their crowd control tab. I used this to figure out which park to go to on which day. I happen to believe it played a roll in not waiting in line. I also bought a book about Disney and Universal that I did flip through but in the end probably could’ve found all the same information online.

-After you have loosely figured out which parks you’ll be on which days, check Disney World’s website for the restaurants that peak your interest at that park then book them. We tried a few days to walk in to restaurants without a reservation and it didn’t work. Granted we had 9 people, but the reality is it’s so much easier to have reservations. I ended up calling Disney and a helpful cast member booked them all for me right there-the process took 5 minutes (actually 10 minutes but we ended up bonding over children, generous grandparents and broken limbs). We all agreed it was the most relaxing part of our days. There was no guesswork, we just walked to the restaurant and enjoyed a delicious meal.

-My parents bought the dining plan for our week there. I know there are mixed feelings about the dining plan but I can’t tell you how often we commented on how much easier it made our lives. They give you a really cool bracelet (see the cutting edge technological arrows I used below), you enter a password, scan the bracelet and voila! no money exchanged. Trysten was able to eat 2 prime rib dinners (each typically costing over $30) on this plan. Word of advice on the plan: eat a counter service breakfast, snacks for lunch and then a sit down dinner. All of this is included on the plan but we were a little confused the first few days what exactly was included. If you eat it that way- bigger breakfast, snack lunch and big dinner-you won’t be as miserably stuffed as we were the first few days.

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-Park hopper-get it. My understanding is this is an add on to a regular ticket. Park hopper refers to the ability to go to whatever park you want whenever you want. Normally you get to go to a specific park for a day and then a different park the next day, park hopper allows you to go wherever you feel like going. 🙂 As mentioned before, we ended up going to Hollywood Studios 3 times and Epcot twice. Had we not tried to go to water parks (again, not worth it in our opinion) or Universal Studios (totally worth it) we would’ve hopped even more. Can’t really picture our week without the park hopper.

-Fastpasses-genius. Download the Disney Experience app on your phone and you’ll be able to create 3 Fastpasses at a time. Disney created Fastpass for their biggest attractions to cut down on wait times for rides. You can get on the app, figure out your top 3 rides and assign times to come back to those rides at a specific time while visiting the lesser populated rides/attractions. When you come back at your allotted time you walk right on the ride, as opposed to waiting in the “standard” line that could range from 15 minutes to hours. Once you’ve used your first 3 Fastpasses you can create 3 more if the need arises. Take advantage of this, it might have you going across the park in seemingly random ways but we set up our Fastpasses and then decided where we were going the rest of the day. If our Fastpass was in Adventureland in the morning and Tomorrowland a few hours later, we would go on the ride in Adventureland then see the rest of Adventureland before heading to Tomorrowland to that ride, so on and so on. Genius.

-If at all possible-rent a car. Though we only used our (15 passenger!) van a few times, in hindsight we should’ve used it most days. If you rent a car, you can park free anywhere in Disney. A few hours of our time each day was spent waiting and riding Disney buses. Obviously there’s cost associated with renting a car but if you’re short on time (or even if you’re not) it would be worth it.

-What to wear. I am not ashamed to admit I googled “What to wear to Disney World” before I left. I didn’t know what backpack/purse to wear every day, what shoes, etc. Look back at my posts if you’re interested in what I wore, it mostly consisted of loose shorts and tank tops. I was fascinated to see the range of outfits consumers of Disney World were wearing all week. I went for outfits that were comfortable, would dry out quickly if we went on water rides and were (loosely based) fashionable. I wore these shoes, more accurately I wore this shoe and a boot:

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It was such a good idea. Love Clarks, they are so comfortable and incredibly cute. I also wore these Crocs (I know, I know, Crocs fashionable? Yes and comfortable) and didn’t regret it. My mom carried a smaller purse and I carried, not so much “carried” as “put in my scooter basket”, a small Nike backpack.

*If you have any questions about our time in Disney, ask in comments and I’ll do my best to answer!*

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Day 6: Universal Studios/Harry Potter World/The day all my dreams came true

It has been common knowledge around here that I am a huge Harry Potter fan. I don’t actually remember where I first heard about the books or what first got me started reading them, I only remember that I started becoming a fan when I was pregnant with Trysten. Zach and I used to sit out on our front porch together, he would read me Harry Potter drink wine and have a cigar while I rocked on our porch swing. We were only 20-years-old at the time so I remember feeling like I was straddling two completely different worlds: the young adult in me loved the books for myself-the sense of adventure, etc and the soon to be mom in me loved them for the child I was about to have.

Since then, the books and the movies have only meant more and more to me. Trysten started reading them in 1st grade and just yesterday completed his 4th time through the series. He and I bond over all things Potter. In him I see the reader I have always been, able to pick out every nuance and subtlety within the pages. I love that his favorite books also happen to be mine, but even more than that I love that he sees the themes of friendship, loyalty, bravery, sacrifice and love. He totally understands why I have “Expecto Patronum” tattooed on my arm, which is a pretty cool thing to share with my eldest.

Tariku is on the 5th book and has also started really loving it, though it’s hard to tell if he loves them for what they are or if he just loves staying up a little later watching the movie once he’s completed the book (that’s a household rule-have to read the book before watching any movie based off a book). 😉 He doesn’t pour as much into reading as Trysten and I do so often he’s a little lost with the movies as well or can’t predict what’s about to happen. Nevertheless, I perhaps see more of Harry’s characteristics in him more than anyone else in my family.

Dailah is also almost done with the first book and is really enjoying the whole thing. She, too, doesn’t have the memory of an elephant such as Trysten and myself but gets by with her avid imagination. I can see that above all else is what she loves about the series-it requires a stellar imagination.

Tomas and Binyam have yet to be interested in reading the series, but after visiting The Wizarding World of Harry Potter that has changed!

All of this to say, I am obsessed with all things Potter. When my mom and I were talking about what we were going to see in Florida, I told her there was no way I could go to Florida and not have, at least, Trysten and me go to Potter World. After some discussion, Zach and I realized we would doubtfully ever get to go back so we might as well have everyone experience it whether or not they were crying with joy at the thought excited.

We chose to get the 1 day pass just for Islands of Adventure so we didn’t see anything in the regular Universal Studios park. Right when we got there I put the petal to the metal on my motorized scooter towards The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. *goosebumps, shudder, tears*

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Hogsmeade

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Now would be a great time to tell you that if you’re a fan of the series, you will not be disappointed in the Wizarding World. I read that JK Rowling was very specific about the World looking exactly as it does in the movies and perfectly described in her books and I believe it! Moaning Myrtle was in the bathrooms, there were newspapers with moving characters and of course these: butterbeer and pumpkin juice (both REALLY delicious!)

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We went to Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride first. “Ride” is not even what it should be called, “experience” is more accurate. We didn’t wait on any lines here either but if we had, the stuff shown while waiting for this experience was amazing. This experience actually takes place in Hogwarts, truth be told I got a little teary eyed walking into the castle.

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Right away you walk through Professor Sprout’s greenhouse before entering the castle. Look for many of the plants mentioned in the series including the mandrakes! After that, into Hogwarts you go! You’ll recognize much of the little things within the castle, including the Mirror of Erised, Potions classroom, Sorting Hat, Triwizard cup and the house points.

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After walking through some of the castle, you find Dumbledore’s office with a projection of Dumbledore just above his desk. Make sure you point out the pensieve to your kids, only thing missing was Fawkes the Phoenix.

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Then you move on the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom where Harry, Ron and Hermione greet you. They let you know you’ll be able to fly through the castle undetected, etc because Hermione (of course) has figured out a way.

As far as the actual ride goes, it was amazing. I have pretty terrible motion sickness so for the parts that were simulating riding on a broom I had to close my eyes (I was legit getting “the puke sweats” as I call them). The ride goes from broom simulation to real life action (in the castle) at one point bringing you face to face with dementors where I enjoyed hearing many a Klipsch kid yelling, “Expecto Patronum” and saving us all! 🙂

We did ride this twice and simply cannot be missed if you’re able to go to Universal Studios.

Next we were off to the Flight of the Hippogriff which is really mild and fun for all ages, keep your eyes peeled for Hagrid’s Hut and Buckbeak himself!

Myself and the kiddos ended up checking out the rest of Potter World while Zach, my mom and dad tried the Dragon Challenge. They really loved it but did mention it’s pretty intense.

We decided to tour the rest of Islands of Adventure while we let my stomach settle to see what was about. First going to Seuss Landing.

Suess Landing was really great, most of my babes were a bit old for the rides and attractions but Dailah, Bean and Tomas actually got excited to see the characters.

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We ended up riding The High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride, One Fish Two Fish and The Cat in the Hat. All of them were just fine, a bit boring but if you have kids any younger than ours make sure you check them out.

Trysten is also a huge fan of the Percy Jackson series (I read them and enjoyed them as well but, let’s just say, Rick Riordan is no JK Rowling) so we went by Poseidon’s Fury but didn’t take any of the rest of the tours of The Lost Continent.

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Next on to Toon lagoon where we rode Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls. Super fun! We got drenched, so mind your Ps and Qs before going on this one!

Marvel Super Hero Island is THE place for the thrill seeker! And by “thrill seeker” I mean “Zach, mom and dad”. 🙂 Everyone but the littles and myself (they were too small, I just didn’t feel like throwing up that day) rode Doctor Doom’s Fearfall and loved it enough to ride it right after. The thrill seekers rode The Incredible Hulk Coaster, managed to live through it and tell great tales about its awesomeness afterwards so if that’s your thing-by all means!

Everyone rode The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man and even though I got the puke sweats on that one too, I have to say it’s incredible. The technology is just out of this world! Everything is so well done that it feels like a complete 4-D experience. Even our littles loved how real it felt!

Even if you don’t like rides, the atmosphere on Marvel Island is really cool. There are characters everywhere! If I were a comic book fan at all I would’ve been completely jonesing when 8 of the characters came from their various stations to hop on their motorcycles and zoom out of the park-super cool!

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After eating a picnic lunch back in the car we returned once more for Harry Potter world. First making a pit stop at Jurassic Park.

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Our longest wait for a ride anywhere the whole week was in Jurassic Park for the Pterandon Flyers. We waited 45 minutes for this 80 second ride. The ride is actually specifically for children so if you don’t have a child with you they will not let you go at all. It was fun but please, please skip it if there’s anything resembling a line. Definitely not worth it. Though I must say for me, I enjoyed a little break in the action and also watching these two who behave so similarly it’s creepy.

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Jurassic Park River Adventure was enjoyed by all, particularly because you don’t get nearly as wet as you think you’ll get! Even if this one says there’s a line I’d wait it out-over 20 people can fit on a boat and there are lots of boats going at any given time.

Finally, we returned home back to Potter.

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If you’re going to do family pictures and all of that, take them on the backside of Hogsmeade (coming from Jurassic Park) there were a lot fewer people and better views of Hogwarts!

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My parents promised the kiddos a wand so we waited in line at Olivander’s. Let me break for a moment and tell you that you really have to do this, even if you don’t plan on getting a wand. They escorted about 20 of us into the shop…

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Tariku was chosen to come forward (squeal!). I have video of what happened next but it’s not wanting to upload. Regardless, if you’ve seen the first movie when Harry’s wand is chosen the same thing happens in the shop. Tariku’s wand chose him “for protection, creativity and self-discipline.” Olivander went on to say, “Clearly, your loyalty is much admired among your friends.” I. was. crying. Tariku was beaming, it was such a cool moment!!! Seriously, whether you’re fans or not check out Olivander’s! After that we were all shuffled in to the next part of the shop that houses all of the wands both character wands and wands that might pick you for other reasons.

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All of our kids (and my dad!) chose wands that were perfectly matched for them.

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As hard as it was to leave The Wizarding World, we had to do so as the park closed at 7pm. I ended up purchasing a few things in the gift shop, because, of course.

I must say this: Universal was so cool! If there’s any way for you to make it there please do yourself a favor and go! It was really interesting to me how different a feel Universal was from Disney. Say what you want about Disney, but they sure know how to have their brand permeate throughout their parks. Every “cast member” is happy, loving and patient everywhere you go which was not really the case with Universal. Universal felt grittier and a bit darker but it is also marketed towards a slightly different audience (20-40 years).

I must also say there is a very good chance upon retirement I force Zach and myself to move to Florida so I can work at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter-I think I would make a most excellent Professor McGonagall don’t you?

Day 5: Magic Kingdom

I was so excited to show the kids Magic Kingdom because we all know it to be the quintessential Disney experience and it did not disappoint! Even though it was the 5th day straight of balls to the wall activity (is that an ok phrase to use on a blog? Whatever, it’s my blog I can do what I want I want.)-the adults kids did great!

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First stop was Fantasyland because we found starting with easier rides made the kids more aggreeable to go on the rest of the rides. 🙂

Rides we liked in Fantasyland:

Mickey’s PhilarMagic, Dumbo the Flying Elephant and The Barnstormer

Ones to avoid, particularly if there are long lines:

Under the Sea-Journey of the Little Mermaid, Peter Pan’s Flight

Next, to Liberty Square. The only thing we did there was the Haunted Mansion, which we enjoyed! I remember doing The Hall of Presidents when I was younger and liking that as well but we didn’t end up having time. If you or your kids are history geeks, I’d check it out!

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Tomorrowland was one of our favorite stops! We loved the Tomorrowland Speedway (particularly the 3 bigs as they all got to drive their own cars) and Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin. Perhaps our favorite, though, was Monsters, Inc Laugh Floor!

The laugh floor ended up being the Monsters, Inc characters on screen with actual improv actors behind the screen, so they played and interacted with the audience. At one point they asked which kids knew who they wanted to be when they grew up. Our most excited child got chosen.

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When Tomas told the character he wanted to be the po-lice (he says it like they do on the Wire, even though he’s never seen the show it’s incredibly endearing) the character told 2 jokes about police:

Why did the police officer carry a blanket with him all the time? In case he had to go undercover.

What did the squirrel say to the 9-1-1 operator? *In a song, matching rhythm of “This girl is on fire” * This squirrel is on fire! 

Then the character asked what Tomas was for Halloween last year. When Tomas responded “football player” the character told a joke about football players.

I’m not just saying this-it was hysterical! The adults did not have high expectations but it surprised us all and I got many belly laughs from it, not to be missed for kid and adult alike!

We would avoid: Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover and Stitch’s Great Escape.

*Sadly, Space Mountain was not working while we were there but I remember loving that, so make sure you get there.

*There is a really cool garbage can with a person in it that moves around Tomorrowland messing with people. It’s hilarious, try to find it!

We ate at Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe for lunch and it wasn’t good. The veggie burger was gross and it was the one time Tomas didn’t finish his (and 3 of his siblings’ meal). Try something else instead.

We went to Frontierland after that and really loved Splash Mountain! We didn’t get super wet which was just fine by most of us. Also loved Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, even Dailah and Bean which is a pretty high endorsement.

In Adventureland the kids loved checking out Swiss Family Treehouse even though they’d never actually seen the movie. The littles, who were joined at the hip most of the week, also liked rides like The Magic Carpets of Aladdin because they aren’t scary enough to require an adult to sit next to them. They felt like big kids going on these no problemo.

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The only ride we didn’t like was the Pirates of the Caribbean. Nothing baffled me more than what Disney did with the Pirates franchise (more accurately: nothing. They did nothing-complete lost opportunity). In both Hollywood Studios and Magic Kingdom, the Pirates rides were super disappointing. I have so many ideas on different ways they could take it so if you work for Disney, hit me up- I’m cheap. 😉

And now for my favorite part of the whole day! CINDERELLA’S ROUNDTABLE! We had booked the reservations for Cinderella’s as soon as we knew the dates in which we were going to be at Disney. If you learn nothing from me, learn this: if you have a girl, call Disney right now and get a reservation. Even though Dailah is 7 and was one of the oldest girls at dinner, she really really loved it. Truth be told, my mom and I did as well.

Also of note, every other girl in the room had what we dubbed “the princess treatment”. This included full make up, hair and costuming done to princess standards. Because I am a shit show firm believer that Disney Princesses are ruining girls’ self esteems everywhere just for fun and not something to model oneself after,  we did not have Dailah partake. Also because it cost $200. Mostly the last one.

Besides, I think she’s the most beautiful person I know just as she is.

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When you enter the castle you are greeted by none other than Cinderella herself.

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One of the things I loved about Disney World is the professional photographers throughout the park will take pictures with your camera. They are everywhere and take pictures with their expensive equipment then give you a card that stores all your professional photos during your entire stay. They are sweet enough to ask if you want to get in the picture every time too.

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I gotta say, the food was amazing. It’s pretty embarrassing how many pictures I have of the food I ate throughout the week but I love looking through them and remembering. Anyway, I started with an appetizer of cheese! Cheese! And the good kinds too! Then I ate some veggie gnocchi and a dessert that changed my life.

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Anywho, during the dinner 4 of the princesses move throughout the castle. Right when Dailah saw them she said, “I wish I still had my long hair.” Oy vey. Much to my delight, 2 of the princesses commented on how much they loved Dailah’s hair and wished they could go for that cut. Redemption!

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Dailah also ended up getting their autographs too, which was precious.

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Being the only girl in a crew of boys, Dailah has no problem thinking of herself as a princess on the daily but it was really cute how much she enjoyed everyone calling her princess and of course we loved our girl time. My mom and I even commented that Zach and my dad probably would’ve loved being there too and I saw that they were giving little boys swords upon their arrival. It has the potential to be fun for the whole family.

Our men ended up eating at Tony’s Town Square Restaurant. Zach was disappointed as there wasn’t anything good to eat as a vegetarian but everyone else seemed pleased with the options.

Magic Kingdom is definitely one of the parks at which you could spend multiple days but there was simply no time for that. Figure out what stuff at parks are must sees for your aged children and then see all the other stuff if you have time.

Day 4: Epcot/Blizzard Beach

My parents had bought the Disney package that included the water parks Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon. Hard to believe in the 7 days we were there we had a hard time figuring out when to fit in the water parks, but we really did. We ended up only going to Blizzard Beach for a few hours on this day. In hindsight, we all agreed there wasn’t any need to get the water park add on. Blizzard Beach was cool, and the kids enjoyed it, but it wasn’t worth only getting half day at Epcot. Plus, we took the Disney buses which was 2 hours just for transportation alone. Made the day super long and rushed, unfortunately. If you rent a car, it might be more doable otherwise skip it.

Started out well, though. Love our family pictures from Epcot!

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We decided to tackle Future World East and West in the morning because we had reservations at the Biergarten Restaurant for dinner so we knew we’d tackle the World Showcase then.

We started at Test Track which we all LOVED! Loved creating our own car and then testing it out. Hilarious seeing the children of hippies choosing a gargantuan truck that got about 1mpg and would’ve surely put a gigantic hole in the ozone every time it started out. That’s neither here nor there.

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We went through the Innoventions East and West but it didn’t thrill anyone, though I did enjoy that the boys chose this area:

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and Dailah chose this, because, of course:

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Rides/Attractions we loved in Future World East/West:

Mission: Space (Zach, my dad and Tariku chose the Orange team-super intense journey, the rest of us went on the Green team which was completely doable), Advanced Training Lab, Soarin, Captain EO, IllumiNations (must see!)

Ones we didn’t: 

The Seas with Nemo & Friends (seriously lame even for little ones), The Circle of Life (kind of boring, old stats but the moral of the story is good-humans can affect change in our environment either for good or bad)

After Blizzard Beach we came back to Epcot for dinner and the fireworks show IllumiNations. Biergarten Restaurant was really good as well! We thought we’d expose the kids to all of their heritages (African/German, you get the idea) while we were there. Kids loved the food and we adults loved watching our Ethiopian children dancing to the German music.

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After dinner we walked around the World Showcase a bit but didn’t get a chance to go into most countries. I remember loving it as a kid though, so if you have time check all of those out! Definitely get yourself some beer in German country though, not to be missed!

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Again, IllumiNations was really, really good but it’s just 10 minutes long. I recommend getting a spot about an hour early near the exit so you can be some of the first on the Disney buses. We did that and left about 2 minutes before it was all over so we could get the first bus back to the resort (you can see the fireworks decently as you leave). By the time the bus came there was a huge line for the buses so I would highly recommend doing that as well or you can count on not arriving back to your hotel until after 11pm.

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All that said, I love Epcot, it’s one of my favorites but I have a thing with being obsessed with other cultures and inventions and the like. If you do too, plan on a full day at Epcot!

I get by with a little help from my friends

We interrupt this regularly scheduled (Disney) programming to talk about mom friends. If you’re a mom then you know just how important having friends who are also traveling this mom road really are.

I remember when we first moved to Davenport after college how lonely I felt. I would call my sister-in-law, Leslie often to ask her how I was supposed to make friends. I’d never had problems before but it was always so easy because I was in school and saw these people day in and day out. Now I was in a new town knowing no one, trying to figure out how to raise a 2-year-old and be a wife as well (truth be told I was pretty miserable at both).

Leslie mentioned checking out my local MOPS chapter. I had honestly never heard of MOPS before that but was immediately intrigued when I went on their website and realized they were exactly who I was looking for. It was at the first few gatherings of my local MOPS that one of the women mentioned a great church in Muscatine that I might like. After a few months going to the church in Muscatine I met a few women who ended up walking me through Tariku’s adoption. After Tariku’s adoption we got together to start Water for Christmas.

And it all started with moms.

Since that first meeting of my MOPS chapter, I’ve met friends online who have become some of my biggest lifelines when day-to-day motherhood gets me down.

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I’ve also managed to find “real life” (as Zach calls them) mommy friends who I text constantly and who respond when I send out an SOS in the moments when I’m beyond overwhelmed.

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So here’s why I’m writing: I have so many friends who have recently moved, some who have moved into a community in which they already have friends, others knowing no one. It is because I love them and I love moms everywhere that I’M GIVING AWAY 3 ONE YEAR MEMBERSHIPS WITH MOPS!

You heard that properly, ONE YEAR MEMBERSHIP TO MOPS! FOR 3 PEOPLE!

All you have to do is email me at tesileagh@gmail.com and let me know you want it, the first 3 people to do so are in.

We were never meant to live this life alone, you know. I really believe there’s more that unites us than divides us in this world and MOPS is such a great place to find that idea realized.

Can’t wait to hear from you!

Tesi

Day 3: Animal Kingdom

LOVED Animal Kingdom! I never considered it one of the main parks at Disney but we all loved it enough that it is heretofore considered so at our house.

After learning our lesson at Hollywood Studios, we went to the easiest area first at AK-DinoLand. The crew went on TriceraTop first, I stayed to take adorable pictures. Super easy ride, what you see is what you get.

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Next on to Finding Nemo-The Musical we lurved this, only thing that could’ve made it better was if Ellen Degeneres herself showed up to be Dori.

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The kiddos played a bit in The Boneyard but mostly so I could figure out what exactly we were going to do that day for sure.

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We had reservations at the Tusker House (in Africa, obviously) for dinner but I noticed the characters were there during lunch so we swung by to see if we could sneak in then.

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Donald Duck greeted us which excited Binyam for obvious reasons.

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It’s a buffet style meal and, even as vegetarians, was really really good. I had purposely reserved Tusker house because they specify African cuisine and there were certainly a lot of spices reminiscent of our time in Africa. Needless to say, we LOVED LOVED IT! If you’re going, definitely go for lunch-so much fun for the younger kids (Trysten’s reaction-really? I have to get in pictures with them?).

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On our way out of Africa there was some great music being played. Tomas was talked into coming up front to dance where he promptly shook his booty. Classic.

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One of the reasons I personally loved Animal Kingdom so much was because there was so much to see just walking around the park-not just at the attractions. There is a huge tree at the center of the park that looks incredible from any angle and there’s this human who moves so slowly-it’s incredible!

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We also went on the Kilimanjaro Safaris. We enjoyed it because of how close we were able to get to the animals (in the jeep).

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Rides/attractions we loved:

Primeval Whirl, Kali River Rapids (we went on this twice in a row! Caution: you get soaked), It’s Tough to be a Bug, Expedition Everest-Legend of the Forbidden Mountain.

*There weren’t actually any rides/attractions we didn’t like, though we left early to return to Hollywood Studios for Fantasmic so we didn’t hit everything AK had to offer.*

As mentioned, we ate at Tusker House, please do so as well!

Of course Animal Kingdom had a special place in our hearts because there was a small taste of Africa there. The kids loved playing on the drums, listening to the music and just overall being submerged in all of the “cultures”.

Day 2: Cocoa Beach!

We rented a van for the week for loads of reasons but one of them was so that we could see Cocoa Beach on Saturday which is typically one of the busiest days at Disney World parks. Trysten and Dailah have both seen the ocean but they were 3 years and 3 months respectively so don’t remember any of it, the other 3 never got to experience an ocean at all.

Let me just say, I am so happy we did this! It was a great way to recoup from a late night’s traveling and at Hollywood Studios, plus it was so much fun teaching the kids to boogey board and body surf.

Because of ole’ bootfoot, Zach did a lot of the parenting the whole week. Him combined with my parents made the week super easy for me. Not quite sure there’s a way to fully explain how great of a dad Zach is, but I feel like this picture is pretty close.

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This one is pretty good too.

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Kids also have a way of getting Mimi Connie’s attention as well.

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Zach even carried me out to the ocean a few times so I could enjoy the sand and surf as well, and watch Dailah dance like nobody’s watchin’.

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Whether you go to the beach or not on your Disney vacation, make sure you take time off to recoup as a family. We also called an early night a few times to let the kids swim at the hotel and relax a bit. I think that’s one of the many reasons the week went so well!