Monday, January 28, 2008

The Vortex

We have this saying at our house when we can't find stuff (which is quite often) that "it's been sucked into the vortex". Anyone who has ever let a child spend the night or come over to play at our house has experienced this--they send a kid over with shoes on and when it's time to go home, the shoes/jacket/socks/hat are nowhere to be found. They have been 'sucked into the vortex'. Well, this little gem illustrates that principle in action...

After church last night (and it was a GREAT day in the house of God), we got home and I started about the process of getting dinner together. The girls started off for the bathtub, and Carter was throwing around a paper airplane. When he got tired of playing with it, naturally, he just left it the last place it fell and walked off without another thought. I picked it up off of the floor and went to throw it in the trash and I happened (thankfully) to notice some writing on it. I unfolded the paper and realized that I’m holding the sign up sheet for the Valentine Banquet off of the back table in the foyer at church.

That’s 20 people who would have missed having a steak at the dinner due to a paper-airplane-in-the-garbage snafu. Okay then.

When I called my son into the kitchen and asked what possessed him to use the sign-up sheet to make the airplane, knowing that it clearly had writing on it making it important, he said, “I didn’t make the airplane. I gave the paper to Mr. Adult Man at church and he made it.”

My five-year-old, who can’t read particularly well, making the paper airplane out of the sign-up sheet is one thing. Mr. Adult Man doing it is another. Of course, Mr. Adult Man can’t read the paper without his glasses on, so he’s got a pretty good excuse too. (and you know I’m laughing out loud at you right now Mr. C.) :-)

And yes, for those who are now stressing out about the list, I saved it from being sucked into the vortex, and I will return it to its rightful place in the foyer by Wednesday night, although it’s a little crinkly now and has a couple of strange tears in it (I think they were made to reduce wind resistance, which for a paper airplane—good, for a Valentine Banquet Sign-up Sheet—not so good).

And in other news…

My house has the flu-gooby (as we call any illness). We had this throwing up thing early in the week, then Carter came down with a fever, then the Husband came down with the fever, now Lily has the fever. Ugh. The Husband says he is dying of the flu. (As though his arm wasn’t enough to complain about.) (bad wife) Seriously, he’s sick. And he has surgery scheduled for February 4th on the arm, so I guess that’s really hurting too. This is really starting to interfere with my entire program. Sheesh.

(I’m such a lovely woman to be married to.)

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Snow in Alabama

Now, here's something you don't see every day...some actual snow in Alabama. We had a great time playing and goofing around. Of course after the novelty wore off and I got cold, it was naptime for the Mother Bear. The neighbors came over to play...The kids loved it!
Our backyard
Lily clearly enjoying the snow gear even if she wasn't so sure about the snow itself.
Redneck convertible. This cracked me up. We always say that the reason the South is so impacted by snow and ice is that we are unprepared. Guess that ain't no lie. :-)
The Trampoline that Santa Brought
The Auburn Snowman Coach.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Chasing Parts

And Lillian's highlight at Disney? She said that her favorite thing was "the chasing parts." And that was free. :-) <

Disney Day Five--MGM

MGM. The Grand Finale

This was by far the kids’ favorite park. No question. They LOVED MGM.
We had lunch reservations at the Sci-fi Drive-in Diner, which was also the kids’ favorite place that we ate (the adults would probably choose the Rainforest CafĂ©). But the atmosphere in this place is unreal.

Carter said that the highlight of his trip happened at this park—he met the Power Rangers.

Daddy dug it too.

We also got Carter to look at another dinosaur--I pointed out that the was wearing one on his shirt that day and this is the face I got in response.

The other funny was when we turned the kids out in the playground that's built like the "Honey I Shrunk the Kids" set--they play the sound of bees swarming in. When Lily heard it she ran shrieking through the playground towards me screaming, "NO BEES! NO BEES!" This photo was taken like one second before that freak out.

Elaina also had the highlight of her trip at this park—she saw the live show of High School Musical and was called on stage” (concrete flat area) to dance (This of course after Mommy ‘politely ensured’ front row seats at this general admission program—seems that all of those rock concerts I attended in the 80’s weren’t in vain after all. I turned to the three oldest kids right before they dropped the rope and hissed, “Don’t let go of me no matter what!” 30 seconds later it’s nothing but front row, Baby. Adding points to the Perfect Mommy Score yet again.).

And at this park we got to use my best e-bay purchase to date. I bought three adult size ponchos with Mickey on the front for $.99 total (plus $2.99 shipping). We whipped those out at 5:00 in the p.m. and were mostly dry by the time the Fantasmic show started at 6:30. I had packed the kids jackets with hats all save one. Elaina was the unlucky soul wearing a jacket with no hat who turned to me and asked the stupid question: “Well, where’s my hat, Mom?” Being a Super Mom undeterred by forgetting such a small thing, I simply rolled up a bag and shoved it on her head. That wasn’t quite what she had in mind (Oh, no way. I am totally not wearing a BAG on my head, Mommy. What if someone sees me?), but she kept it on when the rain picked up. And of course you know that I had to preserve this moment of humiliation in photograph.

One of my favorite moments on the trip happened during the Fantasmic show. The program is the larger than life depiction of Mickey Mouse battling all of the villains in the Disney programs in a dream sequence.

When adults view this show they think things like, “wow, that’s a really huge dragon—why it must be five stories tall.” And “I can’t believe they actually set that entire lake on fire.” My five-yr-old son brought it home to roost though when he jumped out of his seat, the villains on screen still appearing victorious with Mickey nowhere in sight and Carter screamed at the top of his lungs, “MOMMY! Is Mickey going to WIN????!!! Does he Win, Mommy?” All of the adults around us laughed because he was so…so truthful in his concern. When Mickey finally appeared at the end, unscathed, Carter Big Boy Johnson leaped from his seat and beat his hands together in a fury of gratitude and jubilation. I mean a true thankfulness just beaming on his face.

We got back to the hotel and ate in the All Star Sports Cafeteria. Not bad at all. Of course, Lily was her normal self…we are Johnsons, you know.

The Vacation that Refused to End

Disney Day Four--Magic Kingdom Revisited

On our second day at the Magic Kingdom, we rode all of these cool, exciting rides. Now, this day was still very crowded, but we were able to do and see much more it seemed. We had two character meals. The first was at the Crystal Palace with Pooh and friends.
It was a HUGE hit (as were all of the character signings with kids our ages). Lily wasn’t too sure at first, but she hugged Pooh until we had to command her to let him go. I’m talking nose kisses and the works.

We’d fought through enough crowds and had really mastered the Fast Pass system by this point in the trip, allowing us to ride much more in a more organized fashion. Still, the quantity of people cannot be over stated. It was a zoo.

We left the park for a few hours in the evening to go back to Epcot. There were several things we wanted to see over there, but the major attractions were so full, we just enjoyed what we could get into. We almost had one minor crisis when the Ellen DeGeneress Energy ride thing took off, first because Steve became overwhelmed with the urge to preach when they did the Cro-Magnon-Big-Bang-Darwin speech. And second, when the dinosaurs appeared again. Carter wasn’t playing this time; he got in the floorboard of the ride and covered his whole body up under his daddy’s legs.

We were able to ride the monorail and then took the ferry into the Magic Kingdom at nighttime, which was amazing. The castle was breathtaking. We got back in time to eat at the Liberty Tree Tavern with Goofy, Minnie, and several other characters. Lily passed out and slept on a bench in the restaurant. Enough is enough already. I wasn't kidding when I told y'all that Lily didn't take a serious photo the entire trip.

Disney Day Three--Magic Kingdom

Day three. Everyone's feet were falling off. And we were tired of being cold at this point too.
Crazy busy day. We got up a little late and went to the Magic Kingdom. I saved this park until later in the week thinking that A) the crowds would thin out with kids starting back to school, and B) that it would save the Best For Last so that Epcot wouldn’t be a bore. Well, seems that everyone else in the universe had this same plan, because it was so busy you couldn’t move. We only saw one or two things in three hours because it was so crazy. And still cold. Polar bear weather.

How cold was it? Well, I'd bought an extra pair of gloves before we went on the trip, since I have four kids and the odds of someone losing a glove in six days were pretty high. Who didn't have gloves? The Husband. By day three he was happier than happy to wear those baby blue Cinderella gloves all over the park. And it was one heck of a conversation starter.
We had a good meal at Tony’s Town Square Plaza and saw the afternoon parade with all of the princesses. Our only big regret was no Princess Contact at all. A big highlight though was meeting the evil stepmother and stepsisters from Cinderella. The girls loved that. They asked Carter if he was still available since they were still hunting up princes to marry. That made my son blush.

We also rode a couple of wonderful coasters and toured Minnie Mouse’s house.
Still fashionistas in the cold.
Everyone was exhausted and the adults were a little frustrated by the end of the day because of the crowds. It was overwhelming.

B'ball at the Springs

I know that I’m behind on the updates here, and I’m working on the rest of Disney now (wow, I took a lot of photos to sort through!). But here’s some in between stuff. Elaina and Carter are playing in our church Upward basketball league. It’s too much fun and the kids are having a ball too. ;-)
Because the league is small, some of the coaches do double duty and are referees too. The Husband is enjoying his service as a zebra.
Carter's team The Mudd Dogs. (He's number 8.) The man running the show there, Kip, is the funniest announcer ever. He'll get on the sound system and say something like, "And now, all the way from Spot-in-the-Road, Alabama, standing 4 feet 6 inches tall, it's Carter Johnson!" and they have this contemporary Christian music blaring in the background and everyone cheers--it's a hoot!

And Elaina's team the Lady Bulls (I have no idea except that they couldn't call them the Heifers and get away with it.)

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Disney Day Two

Animal Kingdom
The week before we left? 85 degrees.

The week we came home? 85 degrees. The week the Johnsons were there? 30 degrees.

Folks, it was cold in central Florida. Hat and gloves and parka cold. No joke. On Wednesday when we hit the Animal Kingdom park for the day the high was 32 degrees with a wind chill of 14. Lovely.
(Still fashionable in the cold.)

We went to the first of many character meals that I scheduled for the week (bonus points on the Perfect Mommy Title Ranking for 2008). We ate at Donald's Safari Breakfast Buffet at The Tusker House in Harambe, Africa. This is where the kids discovered a new 'favorite': Mickey Mouse Waffles.

Let's Animal Kingdom we did all sorts of interesting things. The parade was number one with the kids. It was bitter cold outside, but we had a really nice time.

We left after the parade for a rest, then came back for dinner reservations at the Rainforest Cafe. This was by far the best and most relaxed meal we had the whole trip. I told the woman at the check in counter that we'd had the worst table in "Mexico" and that I'd wait for a good table, and she seated us in record time at a place that had a view of the whole goings on in the building without being too loud or in the way. It was excellent!

But the funniest/worst thing also happened at Animal Kingdom on our first official Full Day. It was the late hours park at Disney that particular day, so resort guests get these snazy arm bands and get to stay in the parks later--in this case three hours later--than the regular park closing. So, because it was bitter cold, everyone with any sense went home. But because we are Johnsons, we stayed. Alone. From 8:00-11:00 p.m. Alone. As in no one else in the park.

Now, on first glance, this was a monster huge one-up on our vacation. We walked right up to characters to get autographs, we didn't wait in any lines--it was--to quote the great Carter Johnson--"Totally wicked." But we fell into a trap, friends. See, I bought this book before going called "Disney With Kids" that's full of tips and suggestions that were truly a blessing and made the trip much better for us. One of the handy dandy features of this book is a section that rates the rides. It gives them exclamation points for "scary factor" so that parent's can better decide if their kids are ready to ride certain rides.

I know I'm qualifying in an early heat for Perfect Mommy 2008 (Hey, I took four kids and my mother to Disney the first week of the year. Top that.), because I'd put together my master list of things to see in each park and had specifically crossed some out that were "too scary". At the top of that list crossed off in red marker was a ride called Dinosaur which said that it had loud noises, darkness, and some troubling images.

You see the trap yet? The park was empty. There was no one in line. It's our first day. So we walk up to the ride and The Husband says, "I'm sure it'll be fine, I mean, we're at Disney; how bad can it be? Let's do it." It's not his fault. I said yes.

So, in the front car of this ride sat Elise on my left, Mommy in the middle, and Carter on might right. In the car behind us sat Elaina and The Husband.

What the description of the ride should have said instead of "loud noises, darkness, and some troubling images" was this:

"Guaranteed to have your children sleeping between you from now until college!"

Darkness? Try can't see anything half of the ride, but things breathe and snot on you in the dark.

Loud noises? Dinosaurs scream, shriek, and chase you the bulk of the ride.

Troubling images? Yeah, I'd go with that. That big three-story tall dinosaur slinging the small dinosaur back and forth in its jaws as it ate it was pretty troubling. Especially if you're FIVE.

The best part was the gigantic dino that almost ate us at the end. It's head was as big as a Toyota truck about oh, two feet from the front of where we were sitting. They took a photo while we were on the ride, and me and The husband are laughing wildly because we know what a monumental disaster this is and the three kids have their hoods up over their heads, faces buried, screaming and crying in complete terror. (I think this might have actually run me into the negative column on the Perfect Mommy Title.)

And the bonus that just kept on giving? The entire rest of the vacation, every single ride we went on, Carter Johnson asked, "Does this ride get really dark? What happens when it gets dark? Is anything going to chase us on this ride? Does anything have teeth in there?" I"m talking we're in line to see the Little Mermaid live show and he wants to know what happens in the dark parts.

And the best question? "Are there dinosaurs in this ride?" (bad Mommy)

Disney Day One

The Big Adventure Begins.
Tuesday, January 1st

At 4:00 a.m. we pulled out of the driveway and off to Disney we went. The drive went well (which is code for 'uneventful', although it's something to note that seven people ordering off of the value menu at McDonald's rounds off to something like $33.00 a stop which is pretty dadgum eventful). Anyone who knows me any length of time at all knows that I'm a bit of a planner (psycho list maker), so I had the Loser Cruiser packed to the gills with interesting stuff to ensure an uneventful trip. Like CD players and new CD for the kids. Ten new DVDs to keep everyone entertained (although there was that little slip of buying Ratatouille knowing that my mother is terrified of mice/rats which didn't go over so well).

We checked into the All Star Sports Resort at 4:00 p.m., right on time.

Plus: Hotel was nice.
Minus: Room was in the farthest building from the bus stops. Like 200 yards from the bus stops. Now, 200 yards isn't so bad unless you're walking it four or six times in a day with four kids and strollers and diaper bags and assorted drinks and souvenirs hanging off of you. Then it's like some sort of nomadic gypsy desert crossing of the badlands.

We got to Epcot at around 5:30 and had enough time for a couple of rides before our dinner reservations.Epcot was a sleeper hit. I thought it would be the place the kids would snooze through, but perhaps since it was our first day or whatever, they were wound up. I think that the Nemo ride in The Seas area went down as a favorite.

Lily didn't take one photo with a straight face the entire trip. Here's her impression of this character from Nemo. Spot on.

We ate at the San Angel Inn in "Mexico" for supper.

This place is so cool. They’ve got a huge Mayan ruin-style pyramid and volcano in the restaurant and the sky looks like night time with stars overhead. Of course, we couldn't see any of that from the table they put us at. This was the most average meal of the trip and the worst table in the history of time. I determined before leaving that Sister Sunshine Charlotte wasn't going to appear during this vacation, so the first night out, these folks got a major break and I took that poopy table without remark. But I silently vowed then and there not to make the mistake of being so hungry that we couldn’t wait for a better seat! The entire point of being at Disney is the experience of being at Disney. No more table in the corner without a view for this family! We are Johnsons, by God! (She almost escaped again there.)

They have a huge "river" that runs through the restaurant, and you can ride boats through the building. This is ubercool for Shorties. We also had time to ride the boat in "Norway" (although Lily handled this well, she did talk a lot about "dat boat" and I know this is the one she meant since it had the huge troll that jumps out and tries to eat you). We came outside from that ride to see the park closing fireworks production. Lily watched from the vantage point of my shoulders and every time a big firework would blast off she would jump and scream, "THAT IS SO BE-U-TEE-PUL!!!" at the top of her lungs until everyone around us was tickled.

That's all the energy we had for day one. :-) The Mother Bear was tired.