Since Thursday, I feel I have been running on empty. Why? Well, for one, Peter is visiting, so he and Kyra head to the Parks often for his visit here, and I am the taxi-driver. Two, visitors in town who want to meet up- lots of fun, but quite exhausting. I am trying to balance it all, but it is getting tougher with no real schedule until school starts. I am learning as I go, and I thought I would update you on how life is at Week 5 for us.
First, I have to address the meet-ups. I love them, and I offered to meet and make as many friends as possible. That said, Craig and I have ground rules for them- for our safety and for yours. Until I meet you, even though we have chatted online, I still don’t “know” you. You may think you know me and my family because of this blog, which is great, but I am still getting to know you. Our time is valuable, just as much as yours is, so unless we can commit a full day that has been planned in advance, we are most likely open to a ride, or a soda, conversation and a picture. I am not complaining AT ALL, they have all been great, but there have been times that meets went longer than they should have because I just didn’t have the heart to speak up and say something. We have also discussed that unless you are a local friend we have hung out with, Craig and I are covering our bases and will not be meeting up with anyone of the opposite sex by ourselves. I say this out of love and responsibility to my family and marriage, and I don’t want the meets to end if one of them should sour. I hope all of you understand where I am coming from on this.
Now, back to the happy stuff!! I have had a BLAST the last couple of days in Walt Disney World running into the unexpected, and the planned that almost wasn’t meant to be. Friday I headed to the Magic Kingdom with the full intention of dropping Kyra and Peter off and then heading in with Emily for one ride and a Princess visit. Well, I got Kyra and Peter there, who I would not see again the rest of the day, and Emily and I DID head to the Princesses for a visit. But, I have to point out that I was in line for the Princesses, stand by, at 9:10, TEN minutes after the Park had officially opened, and we STILL waited 45 minutes to finally see them. We were VERY far ahead in the line, at the turn around the corner area, and I was shocked at how long we waited- so keep that in mind if you hope to see them “quick” before hitting the early morning rides. I heard one woman in front of us upset because she thought she would be in and out and then be able to spend time on the rides while there were no lines. If it were MY vacation, I wouldn’t want to spend that time in line. Fastpass it, which is outside the Hall around the corner, and come see them later when it’s quicker.
As you all know, Friday was the last launch of any Shuttle, and I was a bit bummed we couldn’t go. First, Craig had to work, and to enjoy our lifestyle, it is a must. Second, they said they were expecting a million people, and that the traffic heading out after the lunch can take up to 8 hours- nothing either myself nor our kids would be able to endure. So Emily and I opted to watch it from the hub near the Castle with friends, Ken and Anthony, which we saw better on his IPad then in the Park- it was too cloudy. BUT we can say we watched it launch, while in the Magic Kingdom, living in FL- still cool bragging rights! Craig watched it from our backyard and caught a really cool shot of it between the clouds- he was happy to say he saw it.
Emily and I decided to hang out a bit more and just enjoy the Park together, so we rode our usual TTA, Haunted Mansion, and Pirates and then got a call from Captain Mike. A good friend of the group we hang out with, he gave us top secret information that he knew of a Mr. Lou Mongello who would be in the Magic Kingdom that day and for us to keep an eye out for him at the Fire Station. We headed there with Mike, and Lou walked up with his adorable kids and hugs were a plenty. Can I just say how COOL it is that I can see him all the time now? I love him, Deanna, and the kids- just a lot of fun to hang out with. I also got lucky to run into a friend, Kristen, who I met in November- she is super nice and you can find her in the front of Magic Kingdom working.
As Emily and I were about to leave for another Meet, it began to pour. Not rain, pour. Because I had never really been in the Fire Station before, it was a unique perspective of Main Street while it emptied to no one around. Most left, others found shelter, but the rain didn’t let up for at least an hour. I hung out with Lou, the kids, and Mike and chatted since there wasn’t much else to do. I know, rough life getting marooned with Mongello, right? Plus Pluto got stuck with all of us too, so I had some fun taking pictures with him.
We decided to make a break for the Emporium where the kids shopped around, and we tried not to slip on the wet floors. Deanna was meeting us here, so I was super excited to see her and get a hug. She came with her huge smile, and we all headed to “Pirates” for a ride. Emily was so patient, as this was our time, and we now had a large group. I tried to explain to her that these things happen with Lou and people just naturally want to hang out with such a cool guy- she laughed and Lou and her bonded that day which was neat to watch.
After a day of hanging with the group, we decided to go visit Mickey himself. It was exciting to meet him with Emily because she hadn’t seen him yet since we moved 5 weeks ago, but the Mongello kids were just as excited, so the adults were happy to have the moment. Lou showed me all of the neat items in Mickey and Minnie’s dressing room, and all I kept thinking is “How cool is it to have Lou show me all this neat stuff?” We got a group shot with Mickey and Minnie, which came out a tad blurry, but it was still so cool to have it taken with them.
The night went on with more laughs, more hugs, and more friends joined in. Craig came in after work, Otis and Stephanie joined us, and we were surprised by THE Glenn Whelan later in the evening- who I was VERY excited to officially meet. We rode the cars on the Speedway, and of course, my car died with Emily and I in it- half way on the track. Here is the thing, nothing is said on how to handle this situation. I didn’t see anyone coming to help us, no one saw we were backed up- it was actually a bit scary. Finally the car in back of us pushed us all the way to the end- embarrassing but I was happy to get off that ride. I have NEVER been a fan of those, and they just came a reason why I will continue to not like them.
The evening ended with “Wishes” and a ride on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad with Mike, Glenn, Otis, Deanna, and Marion. I said goodbye and headed out with Craig and Emily to the parking lot where we split from Craig who was picking up Kyra and Peter up at the Poly later, so he headed over to wait for them. A long day and night came to a close, and it was a great time.
After heading to bed at 1 a.m. and then having to get up at 8 for another Park, it was a bit exhausting. But, you learn as a Resident here, then when company comes, they want to play early and late- nothing you can do but enjoy it with them. We headed to Animal Kingdom yesterday, and normally we let Kyra and Peter go and do their own thing, but today, today was special.
A lovely Cast Member had contacted me about an opportunity just for my little family. For her privacy, I will not be giving out her name, hence the poor girl would be flooded with requests- and she is to special to us to ever do that to her. She asked if I would be interested in VIP seating at the “Finding Nemo: The Musical” show and then to meet the cast after. WHAT???? I screamed, lept out of my couch, and ran to the bedroom to tell Craig. He flipped out, and then right then and there we decided to NOT tell the kids until the day of. For one, our friend didn’t know if it would be a FOR SURE until the day of, and hours before, and two, I didn’t want to tell the kids and then it not work out. I didn’t want our friend to feel bad, nor them, so we kept it secret.
I told the kids that morning that I had a surprise for them and that it would be sometime that day at Animal Kingdom. Emily was convinced that it was reader we were going to meet, “Nope” I said. “Is it Lou?” “Nope” I said. Kyra then says “Maybe it isn’t a person, maybe it’s a fish.” Now, she had said this because when I was looking at the schedule, I said out loud, “Craig, Nemo is at 1:00 so we have to be there at 12:30.” Emily looked mad- “ I already have seen the Nemo show.” I just smiled and we headed to the Lion King for the first show. On the way we stopped to see one of our favorite FL families, the Aikens, and took a pic of the kids on the bench together.
As we watched the show, I was nervous. My friend told me there may be a chance it wouldn’t happen, so I was a bit scared about it. After we left “Lion King”, (Which by the way Bruce, we saw you!), we headed to Pizzafari for an early lunch. I love this place only for the rooms of tables that they have for everyone, and that when you eat early, it’s empty and quiet. We waited as Craig grabbed the food, then it was the moment I was waiting for- I got the text that we were ON for the Nemo Meet and Greet!!
I excitedly put my phone down and gave Craig the “thumbs up” as he walked up with our food- a huge grin came across his face. We sat down, and I asked the kids “Do you want to know now?” They went back and forth, and finally agreed they wanted to know. As suspenseful as I could do, I told them that we had VIP seating for the Nemo show, and that after everyone has left the Theater, we are getting to go back stage and MEET the entire Cast. Emily SCREAMED, Kyra freaked out, Peter looked excited. Emily kept saying “Really? We get to meet them?” It was excitement I hadn’t seen since meeting Joan Cusack.
We got to the show, and met our Cast Member friend who showed us where to go. We checked in and enjoyed the VIP treatment to our own special front row, roped and ready for us. We sat down feeling so important, and so nervous about what we would say to the Cast. The show began, and it gave me butterflies. This show is SO amazing, and so beautiful, and we have listened to the soundtrack over a thousand times before moving here. I sang along to the music, my favorite being “Go with the Flow” which is Crush’s big number. I was moved to tears as he sang “If they’re ever gonna grow, then you gotta let them go” as I thought about my oldest moving on to College in just a year from now.
The song that Nemo and Marlin share holds a special place in Craig’s and Emily’s hearts. I can sing any part of the song and she immediately attaches herself to Craig- it’s that powerful. As that song came on, again and again, I kept getting teary eyed that she was about to meet Nemo soon- a character that Emily shares so much in common with. Emily has a special eye, like he has a special fin, and how nervous Marlin is about him, as Craig is with everything Emily does. My friends- THAT is the power of Disney. It can make you feel things you never dreamed were possible, and makes things look so special that you never really thought about before. Some come to that show and SLEEP through it and I just want to shake them- do you KNOW that you are missing? Let the shows speak to your imagination and your feelings- let it in and watch what it can do for you.
As the finale came, and they soared sea creatures literally above our heads- I wanted to cry at how happy I was. In moments, we were going to meet these amazing performers, and I couldn’t wrap my head around it. “In the Big Blue World” is a favorite song of mine, and as they closed the show with it, I had goosebumps all over. It was THE moment of truth, the moment we would forever remember as one of the most magical moments ever had on Walt Disney World property.
Our Cast Member friend, joined with others, took us to the back stage area outside to meet and greet the Cast. Emily was bursting, and it was exciting to watch her anticipation of this special event. We walked around a corner, and they all came pouring out. I was so excited, I just kept shaking hands and thanking them for letting us meet them. The general Cast was SO NICE and joked with us if we could guess who was who. They remarked that they loved our smiles and energy during the show, and they were happy to meet us. As I was talking to “Crush,” Emily was swarmed by Dory, Marlin, and NEMO!! I tried to snap as many pics as I could, and they couldn’t have been kinder. They talked to us about the show, about WI, and about their job. I asked Dory if she is ever on stage and thinks “This is my life!!” She said “Every day- I love it!” She was so nice, so was her hubby, Marlin, and Nemo spent the most time with Emily. She was SOOO kind and sweet with her- I couldn’t get over how down to earth and nice they all were. I told Crush he was my favorite, which is why I am standing next to him the group picture. The Meet was all of 15 minutes, but it was the best 15 minutes on the planet! We took 2 group pictures- one serious and one silly. I then tried to get pics with the main cast and most importantly, the kids with Dory and Nemo. Again to the Cast Member who made this happen- we love you, we thank you, and you hold a special place in our heart.
I love my Florida life.