I've been out of school for four weeks now, and every day, the thought has crossed my mind to post something on here. Life has gotten in the way every day, apparently. School starts back up for me next Tuesday, so there's no time like the present...
I spent the first week after I finished my finals in a state of disbelief that I was really out of school, and also getting everything ready for the kids' Christmas activities at school and day care. We had a really nice neighborhood progressive dinner that Saturday night, and it was a lot of fun to get to hang out with our neighbors and eat and drink ourselves silly.
The second week I was out of school was spent getting ready for Christmas. I didn't make many preparations beforehand, so that week was spent baking, buying gifts, wrapping gifts, taking a picture of the kids, and addressing and mailing Christmas cards. There was no time to just sit down and enjoy the holidays, unfortunately. I literally finished wrapping gifts on Christmas Eve, just so the kids could open them. My neighbor had baby #3 on Christmas Eve as well, so I went and spent a couple of hours at the hospital with her and another neighbor. Since we were leaving to go on vacation Christmas Day, a lot of our traditions that we enjoy just didn't happen this year. We did get a chance to take the kids riding to see Christmas lights a couple of times, but not nearly as much as we have in the past. We didn't watch The Polar Express on Christmas Eve, didn't read The Cajun Night Before Christmas, and didn't get to wake up Christmas Day and leisurely open gifts. Instead, we opened them the night before, ate homemade pizza for dinner around 9:00, then put the kids to bed. Christmas Day, the kids opened their Santa gifts, we had breakfast, then switched into packing mode. I really felt bad that we had to rush them and not let them enjoy the holiday, but we had somewhere to go!
After a mad dash through the house to pack, we made it out the door at 4:30, two and a half hours later than planned. We arrived at my parents' house in Louisiana as the kids were getting tired, opened presents with them and ate some party food, then passed out for the night. After getting up and loading up my dad's Yukon XL to the roof the next morning, we headed to Orlando, FL for our long-awaited family vacation. The trip took 14 long hours, and included a stop at an outlet mall in Gulfport, MS, because Zachary somehow managed to lose his second pair of shoes. We found a pair for him and two for Zoe at the Stride Rite outlet, and hit the road again. We ate dinner at a lovely Burger King in Jacksonville, FL, and made it to the house we were renting in Clermont at 11:30 that night. My sister, her husband, and their son were already there waiting for us. I don't know what time we passed out, but it was late!
The house that we rented had four bedrooms, and Darren and Zach shared a bedroom while Zoe and I shared one. Our room had two twin beds, and lucky me spent most of those nights with her in bed with me. She still hasn't made it through the night in her bed since then. She's cutting molars, which I don't think is too much fun.
Sunday, the 27th was our first day at Disney World. According to a website that I had access to, Hollywood Studios was the park to go to that day. I did want the kids' first Disney experience to be Magic Kingdom, but since we did choose the busiest week of the year to go, I figured we'd better obey what that website was saying! The holiday decorations were beautiful, and the park was crowded, but not claustrophobic. We rode the Great Movie Ride, some of us rode the Rockin' Roller Coaster while Zoe and Carter napped in their strollers, rode a Star Wars simulation ride, saw the Osborne Family Festival of Lights (wow!), and rode the Toy Story Mania ride. By then, we were all exhausted, and called it a day. I think the kids really liked their first Disney experience, though Zach is already past the age where everything is magical to him. I am glad that he's not into characters, though, because waiting in line for photos and autographs at the parks seems to be really time-consuming.
Monday the 28th, we decided it was time to visit Magic Kingdom. We managed to get out of the house earlier than the morning before, and arrived at the park around 8:30. We rode Peter Pan, It's a Small World, and the Haunted Mansion before 10:30. Natalie and Mom went and got Fast Passes for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and we grabbed some lunch before the crowds got too crazy. The adults and Zachary took turns riding Big Thunder, and by then the place was so crowded that we couldn't get the stroller through the crowd. We left that area, and waited while Dad and Kevin saw the show at the Hall of Presidents. After that, we walked to Tomorrowland, rode the Tomorrowland Transit Authority Ride, then saw the show at the Carousel of Progress. We got Fast Passes for the Buzz Lightyear ride later, rode Pirates of the Caribbean and walked through the Swiss Family Treehouse, then decided to go back to the house and come back to the park later, minus the babies. We stopped on the way back to the house and had dinner at Outback, then Darren, Zachary, and I went back to the Magic Kingdom. We rode Snow White, Winnie the Pooh, the Haunted Mansion, the boys rode Splash Mountain (too cold for me!), and Big Thunder before walking through Toon Town to the Buzz Lightyear Ride. We rode that twice, then went and rode Pirates of the Caribbean again before leaving the park. It was so nice to not have to push the stroller around that night!
The next day, we decided to visit Animal Kingdom, since we had never been there. We met my cousins there, and immediately rode the Kilimanjaro Safari Ride. The kids liked it, but it wasn't as exciting for them. After the ride, there are some trails to walk along and view more animals, and Zoe quickly grew bored. She wasn't very impressed with the zoo at Thanksgiving, and it started to become very crowded there. We were all hungry, and after Zoe's second meltdown while we were eating, we decided that she needed to go back to the house and nap. Darren and I took her back to the house, and the others came back a few hours later. I was disappointed that I didn't get to look around Animal Kingdom more, but it was really too crowded to enjoy it, and not exciting enough to entertain my two year old. We had dinner reservations at the T-Rex Cafe at Downtown Disney that night, and that was a fun experience! Zach was able to shop in the Lego store, and I bought some souvenirs as well. We didn't get to walk around as much as we would like, because we were all tired.
Wednesday, the 30th, we planned to spend a second day at Magic Kingdom, but decided to ride the monorail to Epcot instead. We were able to ride Spaceship Earth right away while Natalie went and got Fast Passes for Soarin'. We also rode the Universe of Energy ride, Journey into Imagination, the Nemo ride, Living with the Land, Soarin' (wow!), and Test Track. Afterward, we went and walked through the different countries before leaving.
We had always planned to spend New Year's Eve at Epcot, because we had heard that it was the place to be. Everyone was pretty burned out on Disney by that day, so Darren and I took the kids back to Epcot while everyone else did their own thing. We tried to go to Magic Kingdom, but it was at capacity and closed. We ended up walking through all of the countries again, Zachary did this Kimpossible mission with a cell phone, and we left the park pretty early. Apparently when they close the Magic Kingdom, everyone gets diverted to Epcot. It was so busy that we had to park in a ditch along the entrance road, and at 4:30, people were already occupying benches and available areas of grass to watch the fireworks for that night. We got some really good Chicago-style pizza and took it back to the house. Everyone was asleep by midnight...
New Year's Day the weather became really nasty. We drove up to my aunt and uncle's house in Altamonte Springs, and my cousins were there, too. We had a nice visit, and my aunt and uncle cooked a ton of food. We hated to leave, but knew that we needed to get back to the house to pack.
I think we left around 8:30 the next morning to head back to Louisiana, and ended up taking a scenic route through parts of Florida. We purposely got off the interstate in Pensacola and drove along the coast, so we could see what it looked like in Gulf Shores, AL. We vacationed there almost every Labor Day from 1988-2002, and wanted to see if the area had recovered from the hurricane damage in 2005. It's grown from sleepy little towns to high-rise condos in the past few years, but the resort where we always stayed is still there, and so is the FloraBama bar on the state line. I'd love to take the kids back sometime...
It took us 15 hours to get back to Lafayette on Saturday, and Sunday we planned to head home early. However, someone had left a light on in my car during the week it was parked at Mom and Dad's, so Darren and my dad ended up having to go and buy a new battery for it. I think we made it home around 8:30 that night, after stopping for boudin and cracklins at Don's in Scott, La. Yum!
We hung out at home on Monday, and Zach, Darren, and Zoe all went back to school and work on Tuesday. I spent last week cleaning and taking down decorations, and we went down to Galveston yesterday to see Darren's dad, stepmom, and sister. It was a nice, relaxing day, and we had a lot of fun.
This week is my last week before I go back to school. My goal is to organize my school stuff, get some assignments done, and get as much done around the house as possible so that life is a little easier once I go back. We'll see...
I will be posting some pictures from our trip, and in the meantime, check out the Flickr sidebar.