Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Cohen: 6.5 months

At 6.5 months old, Cohen is now sitting up well on his own, rolling both ways, poking through his first bottom tooth, and going from a sitting position forward onto his tummy. He doesn't like to sit still and will rock, bounce, jump, or just bang his head if he sits on your lap, so watch out!

 His peach fuzzy hair has a mind of its own and his ample thighs make shorts and Bumbos a bit uncomfortable. He thinks grass is interesting to touch with his hands but doesn't like the feeling on his toes.

 We love his dimple, his kissable cheeks, and his sweet smile!

 He has a brother who loves him very much!

Sometimes maybe too much!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Cohen: First Cereal

We let Ryan give Cohen his first taste of rice cereal (6 months, 1 week) and I think it's funnier listening to Ryan's reaction than Cohen's!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Florida Day 7: Last Resort

After Animal Kingdom, Ryan wanted one last chance to swim with Saylor, so Adam brought him to the pool. The pool was nice because it was large enough for everyone to have their own space, had a fun pyramid waterfall, one long slide, and a little wading pool with fountains. It wasn't a waterpark, but for these kids, it was more than enough.

Swimming with Saylor
After swimming, we ate supper at the Pepper Market on property and took a few last pictures of the resort.  The Coronado Springs has a Spanish theme and is a sprawling complex that probably had more guests than our town. I wouldn't call it 5-star quality, but it was nice enough and we had rooms near the Convention Center where my meetings were held. If we came to do the Disney parks again (I'd say this is a small possibility, but not until all of our kids can go on the grown-up rides) I'd stay on property for part of the vacation but would find a place near the beach for part of the trip as well.
Disney's Coronado Springs Resort
The landscaping on Disney property is very well-maintained and it was fun to be surrounded by tropical plants. It also housed some of Ryan's other Florida favorites...geckos.

Geckos and their habitat

We had such a nice time together as a family and are grateful for all the help Adam's parents provided with the boys. We couldn't have done it without them!

Our wakeup call came much to early at 3:00am so we could return our rental car and catch a 7:20 Allegiant flight out of Sanford. If you want to know how to make a 3-year-old crabby, the key is waking him up at 3:30am to take him home from Disney World. Despite how tired we were, the flight went fine. I was once again thankful for a direct flight into Sioux Falls. Cohen slept almost the entire way and Ryan entertained himself with the ipad and safety card.
We dropped Adam's parents off and were to my parents by 11:30am to pick up Nika. After an afternoon of unpacking and laundry, it was back to reality the very next day. But, it was a good kind of tired and I am just so thankful for how well everything went on our first big family vacation!

Florida Day 7: Animal Kingdom

Our last day in Florida, we decided to visit Animal Kingdom. On the way to the bus stop, Ryan and his buddy Jacob were hashing over the Disney parks like two old farmers discussing soil moisture levels. It was cute to watch them talk to animatedly to each other and entertain each other with "who can jump the highest" while we waited for a bus. 

We didn't make it in time for the Extra Magic Hour so we were entering the park with everyone else at 9:00am. First on the agenda was grabbing a fast pass for the Kilimanjaro Safaris. We stood in line for the train to Rafiki's Planet Watch but the train was broken, so we ended up walking the Pangini Forest Exploration Trail. The highlights were some gorillas, fish, birds (and not the naked mole rats). By the time we completed it, we were ready for the safari! 
(Click collages to view larger-these were designed for a printed photo book).

Pangini Forest Exploration Trail

We were not disappointed by the Kilimanjaro Safaris. We had a great guide and with Ryan on one end of the bench and Sue on the other, we got some great pictures. Cohen slept through the whole thing while we sat in the middle. Highlights included rhinos, elephants, giraffes, flamingos, a warthog, and several horned animals that I am too lazy to look up the names to.  I love the picture of "pride rock" in the first collage even though you can't really see the lioness lounging in the sun. Overall, we were impressed by the reserve and had a great view of the animals even though it was already very hot by 10:00am.

Next, we headed to Camp Mickey & Minnie, took some pictures in a cutout and then got to meet Donald Duck! Cohen thought he was pretty funny.
Then it was time to get in line for the Lion King show. I had heard good things about this show and was not disappointed. I do recommend getting in line 15-20 minutes before it starts, though. The show included singers, dancers, acrobats dressed like monkeys, large floats with a giraffe, elephant, Simba and Pumba, stilts, a fire-twirler, and just a lot of color, sound and excitement! Again, Cohen slept through the whole thing but the rest of us enjoyed it a lot.

We decided to go right over to the Nemo musical after this show since it was getting very hot and crowded in the park. I liked the musical, but it might not have been the biggest hit with everyone else. Ryan's favorite part was all the bubbles coming from the ceiling at the end. None of my pictures turned out, so here's one from tublr:
We enjoyed the lush vegetation (and shade) of Animal Kingdom and I wish we would have gotten a chance to see the Tree of Life up close. I thought they did a great job of creating atmosphere in this park, although it seemed some spaces needed to be larger and the queues weren't able to hold all the people in line at certain points.

It was almost 2:00 by this time and there were other attractions we wish we could have seen (tigers, DinoLand, the rollercoaster) but there comes a time when you are given some signs that it's just time to be done. Here were two of them:

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Florida Day 6: EPCOT

We had "4pm" tickets to EPCOT to meet up with all the rest of the Pizza Ranch crew, but with Ryan not going down for a nap until late afternoon, we sent Adam's parents ahead and we finally arrived at 5:30pm.

We had to take the obligatory "picture with the ball." One son was all cued up and ready to smile and one thought his back was too itchy to take a picture.

I'll let you guess which is which.

We were happy to find a short line for the character greeting and loved meeting Mickey, Minnie, and-one of Ryan's favorites-Pluto.
Mickey Mouse at EPCOT
Mickey, Minnie, and Pluto at EPCOT
Minnie Mouse at EPCOT
Next, we headed to the Nemo attraction, which seemed the most kid-friendly place in this park. The Nemo ride wasn't my favorite and Ryan hated the shark part, but once we hopped out, we went to "Turtle Talk with Crush" which was a fun interactive animation "show". Ryan was disappointed he didn't get to ask Crush a question, but still liked it. After the show we explored the aquarium. This was Ryan's favorite part. We saw lots of fish, but also a dolphin, manatee, giant sea turtle, and some divers.

Turtle Talk with Crush
We had taken the stroller into the building with us at the start of Nemo and didn't realize it was the ride line, so the attendant had to bring our stroller out for us. Unfortunately, she didn't put on the rain cover (understandable) and also didn't pull the shade canopies forward. While we were oblivious in the aquarium, there was a major downpour which soaked the stroller seats and baby carrier. Therefore, Ryan sat on TOP of the rain cover the rest of th enight and Cohen had to be carried everywhere. We learned our lesson about always putting on the rain cover!

We headed over to the Imagination attraction, but since I'd gone on the ride in the morning during our learning activity, I knew Ryan wouldn't really like it since it had some pitch-dark parts, weird blowing sensations and a skunk smell sprayed on you (it's about the senses) so we skipped the ride and just went to the activity part. Ryan made his own dragon, which he named Dutch, conducted an orchestra by waving his arm, and jumped on squares that lit up and played different sounds.

Imagination activities at EPCOT
We grabbed some supper at the Electric Umbrella and then headed to the World Showcase Plaza where we were supposed to meet everyone to watch fireworks. They attendants ended up not allowing us into the special front-row viewing plaza (sometime about lightning, but whatev) so we just kind of watched from where we stood behind a pillar.  Cohen slept through most of the show and Ryan either played with his light-up Mickey ears or covered his (real) ears. 
ECPOT Illuminations Show
With everyone tired and another day of Disney ahead of us, we decided to follow the crowds to the exit after the show.  We had a nice night, but save for the aquarium, I wouldn't recommend taking kids this young to EPCOT.  We all had free 4pm-close tickets, though, so it was a fine outing and some fun fireworks.

Florida Day 6: Downtown Disney

On Tuesday, I had meetings from 8:00-2:00. We learned about Quality Service from the Disney Institute and did an in-park activity at EPCOT.  Meanwhile, the rest of the family took a bus to check out Downtown Disney. They shopped for Christmas ornaments to commemorate the trip and then ate at the T-Rex cafe.  Ryan was apparently a little scared of the dinosaurs so he ate his lunch sitting on Adam's lap, but still managed to finish an entire pizza.

Next, they explored the LEGO Store where there were larger-than-life LEGO models of Buzz, Woody, and Hulk.  He also got to build his own LEGO car and race it down a ramp.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Florida Day 5: Meetings and Mini-Golf

Monday was the start of my Pizza Ranch meetings. I spent the day listening to speakers, talking to franchisees and managers and attending the vendor fair. While I was in meetings, the rest of the family went miniature golfing. This was Ryan's first time mini-golfing and he did great! Adam reported that he had 2 legitimate hole-in-ones and 2 birdies. They went to Disney's Winter Summerland course, so this would explain the candy canes and snowmen.

They cooled off in the afternoon with another swim at the pool. Cohen enjoys the water once he's in and especially likes being pulled through the water toward you. Ryan's favorite thing is jumping off the side. He especially liked yelling "1 for the money, 2 for the show, 3 to get comes [various Super Hero name]!"

In the evening, Adam attended the Awards Banquet with me while the boys hung out with Adam's parents. I hope they enjoyed their McDonalds because we had a phenomenal meal! The funny thing is, from the whole fancy night, this is the only picture I took:
After dinner and awards, we heard from inspirational speaker, Aaron Thomas. He spoke about his family's response to the tragedies in their lives...first the F5 tornado that destroyed their hometown of Parkersburg and then the fatal shooting of his father, legendary football coach Ed Thomas. It was an amazing story and we all appreciated his words.

I think Ryan and Cohen enjoyed their night with Grandpa and Grandma and we were grateful for them being willing to watch the boys. It ended up being a late night but we enjoyed the chance to socialize, celebrate Pizza Ranch's 30 years and hear from a great speaker.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Florida Day 4: Swimming and Beach Party

On Sunday, we took it easy and made a few trips to the pool.  It was nice to have a slower day.  It was the only day I got to swim with the boys at the resort so it was fun to spend time in the water with them.  

Ryan also spent some time hanging out with Saylor. It sure does help when they can entertain each other!

At night, we were going to go to a Beach party with all the Pizza Ranch people. As we arrived, it started to rain, but Ryan and Saylor still stood in line for a balloon. Ryan was pretty pumped about his blue sword. So pumped that he immediately dueled a pillar...and lost. Good thing my balloon-twisting abilities from a book we had when we were young kicked in and I fashioned the remaining handle into a short dagger a la Peter Pan.


Unfortunately, the rain only got harder and after waiting it out under an alcove for an hour, we decided to call it a loss and went to Cracker Barrel and Target instead.  We missed out on pictures with Mickey and Minnie, but had some other opportunities later in the week.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Florida Day 3: Vero Beach

On Saturday, we left late morning to make the 2-hour drive to Vero Beach. My sister and brother-in-law were staying at his Aunt and Uncle's beach house, and we were lucky enough to be able to meet them down there to take advantage of a quieter beach for the boys' first experience!

After eating the lunch we packed, we cooled off in the pool.

 Then, we walked down to the beach. Ryan was timid of the ocean, even though it was very calm. He was more concerned about getting his bucket filled up with water so he could start building sand castles. Cohen thought the water was a little too cold but had plenty of people volunteering to hold him.

We had picked up some sand tools and molds at Target and Ryan had a great time building castles. He collected lots of seashells to decorate it as well. He learned a little about tides as several castles were washed out to sea (see bottom right photo in the collage) but handled it well and just rebuilt on higher ground.

We had a fun beach day and are so grateful for the hospitality of Wade's relatives.

On the way back we thought we'd avoid the multiple tolls by taking a route through St. Cloud/Kissimmee which ended up being a mistake. It took forever to get through a town that seemed to never end, but it probably didn't help that it was a driving rain the entire time.  When we got back, we didn't feel like getting all dressed up again, so we just ordered pizza from the restaurant at the resort. We were glad to have a day away to see little bit of the state that wasn't Disney property.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Florida Day 2: Magic Kingdom-TomorrowLand & AdventureLand

We headed back to Magic Kingdom around 5:30, ready to tackle more rides. Don't we look like we fit right in at The Happiest Place on Earth?

Ready for more Magic Kingdom
Until you realize that the picture snapped right before this was a more accurate representation:
In full negotiation mode.

As we walked into Main Street, we first stopped at Backstage Magic with Mickey Mouse.  Ryan was in awe and loved giving Mickey a big hug!
Ryan meeting Mickey for the first time
This "attraction" is really just a line to a photo-op but it took less than 10 minutes at 5:30pm  (the Princess line was MUCH longer). We were happy to learn they will gladly take photos for you with your own camera and we got a great one of the whole family!
Mickey Mouse with the Boones
Our next stop was Tomorrowland where we got in line for Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin. Ryan got a little antsy in the 30 minute line, but there was lots to see in the line and once we got on the ride, he liked trying to shoot the laser at the "Z's".

Next, we went to the Monster's, Inc. Laugh Floor show. This was very well done and a lot of fun. They often put audience members up on the screen and Cohen was shown with the caption "Can burp the alphabet" and got an "awww" from the crowd while Verlyn was shown with the caption "Buying Churros for everyone after the show". We all loved this show!

Next up with the Speedway where Ryan was excited to drive his own race car. Cohen and I watched from the Grand Stand. In Adam's words, "We have a lot to learn about steering before he turns 14." Ryan kept taunting Grandpa and Grandma that they couldn't catch up to him!

 We had a FastPass to go on Buzz again, but Ryan didn't want to, so we went to eat at Cosmic Ray's Starlight Cafe. It was getting dark and after 8:00 and instead of sitting around waiting for the parade, we decided to take advantage of the short lines. We navigated the crowds all the way to AdventureLand where Ryan and I did Alladin's Magic Carpets (after getting spit on by the camel). This was more fun than I thought, albeit a short ride, and Ryan thought it was awesome making it go up or down with the joystick.

It was very dark but we managed to find Pirates of the Caribbean. Since most people were at the parade, we were able to walk all the way through the queue and step right on the boat! Ryan claims this was his favorite ride, even though he had his head in Adam's lap for most of it. We tried to concentrate him on the little details like the crab waving its claw or the seagull (and not the sword-pierced skeletons around them).

TIP: If your kids can't sit for an hour to wait for the parade (mine couldn't), you're not going to get a good view anyway, so you might as well take advantage of the short lines from 8:00-9:30.

The boys were tired and done for the day after this, so we fought back through the crowds to the exit. Ryan saw the castle change color a few times and didn't seem phased at missing the lit-up floats going by.

We tried to quit while we were ahead and left before full melt-down mode (yet entering the uncooperative for a picture) mode.

 After getting on the bus, an older lady handed Ryan her light-up Mickey ears and we loved watching them blink the whole ride home. He also got a glow bracelet from the guard at the resort and it was interesting watching him try to go to sleep while still keeping an eye on it to see if it was still glowing.

Cohen was a champ through the whole day and was smiling when we arrived back at the hotel at 10:30. It was a magic day!