Monday, July 9, 2012

Christmas in July - Week 1

During Winter Break (2011) we got to go to Florida!  We really wanted to spend some time with my Grandma (Nana) who winters in Florida and since we couldn't convince her to come to us (even though we live in H.A.W.A.I.I.) we decided to go see her.  And we're so glad that we did.  We hadn't seen Grandma for 2 years and we got to spend some time with other extended family that we hadn't seen in 5 or 6 years (and it was like 10 years before that).  We spend the whole 2 1/2 weeks of winter break on vacation - leaving the day after school got out and arriving home literally 10 hours before school was back in session in January.

The biggest decision while we were there involved the age old question: Disney World or Universal Studios?  We really wanted to do both, but it was just too dang expensive.  I mean seriously - fun should not cost you that much, but what can you do.  After much indecision and many conversations weighing the pros and cons we finally settled on Universal Studios.  For one main reason - Harry Potter.  It's only at the Universal Studios in Orlando, so it was really a once in a lifetime thing.  And in the end, I think we were all happy with our decision.  (And it's not like we haven't been to Disneyland EVERY other time we've been to the mainland....because we have.  seriously.)

Here's a visual run down of some of what we did at Universal:

We all loved Who-ville (more than I thought we would), but Juliana couldn't get enough of all things Dr. Seuss.  And it was all prettied up for Christmas.

This is what the big kids were waiting for - Harry Potter. The whole set up was pretty awesome.  Especially since it was Christmas time.  Moaning Myrtle could be heard haunting the girl's bathroom and we even tried butterbeer.  And the Hogwarts castle was actually pretty cool looking, at least from a distance - it's pretty small when you get up close:)

 The wand the kids are holding is a replica of Voldemort's from the film.  I should have taken a picture of just the wand, it was pretty cool looking, but alas.

(I wonder how many times an hour that poor woman has to pose like that?)
While waiting in line for the broomstick ride (I don't remember it's name) you wander through the halls of the castle.  I took some other pics, but it was dark and they didn't come out well.
The entrance to Dumbledor's office.

The sorting hat.

Cameron with the Terminator robot.

Isaac having second thought about standing in front of the robot, even just long enough to have his picture taken.  I don't blame him - especially right after the T-2 show when the robots practically attack you right in your seat!!

One of the days we went, my Aunt Jennifer and her 2 boys went with us.  They've had annual passes in the past and have been many times, so they knew all the good stuff to go on.  While there, we all went on the ET Adventure and stuck.  For a long time.  We took up a all but 2 seats of the "car" - I hope the poor folks that got stuck with us didn't think we were too crazy.  While the music stopping and the lights eventually coming on did kind of kill the magic, it was probably a favorite moment for most of us.  Aunt Jennifer kept us all in good spirits.  And it was actually pretty cool to see the magic of a ride revealed.  It's pretty amazing what a few fake trees, mannequins, props, the dark and music can turn into when put together in just the right way.

OK - I totally have a video of us all singing Christmas songs, but I can't get it to upload....grrrrr!

So I guess you'll have to settle for this one:
Cameron also got to be a balloon handler in the big Macy's Christmas parade - actually he marched in it after the new year, but you know.  Here's Cameron's balloon handling debut - he's in the front row on the far left.  Lucky for us the balloon in front of his got stuck in the tree we were sitting next to, so we had plenty of time to video.  We also happened to have every. single. candy "helper" stop and give up yummy peppermints - I'm not usually a bit peppermint fan, but these were tasty.  We just put the in our pockets and waited for the next one to pass by.  Sometimes it pays to have super cute kids!

Well, for all the time we spent there (like 7 days) we sure didn't take a lot of pictures.  Oh well.  At least we got a few.  Here's everyone's favorite rides:
Cameron - The Hulk
Lisa - The Simpson's Ride (don't judge - it was fun, and funny and ALL the kids could go on it)
Abi - The Hulk
Isaac - ET
Danielle - ET
Juliana - Flight of the Hippogriff (it was the only cool coaster she was tall enough for, but she LOVED it and wanted to go again and again and again...)

It was super fun and even rivals the trips to Disneyland.  I have to say as far as family accommodations and parent swaps, Universal has it down.  At Disneyland it can get a little complicated since there's not a parent swap area built into a lot of the rides, but since Universal is newer - and especially a lot of the big rides - they have awesome parent swap areas that are usually situated right next to the exit so you're not sitting there forever wondering if you missed your party coming out and have to wait in line all over again.

During that first week in Florida we also got to hang out with my aunts and uncles in Ocala on Sunday.  And Aunt Leah and Aunt Jennifer and their kids hooked us up with a whole day of hanging by the pool, playing games, and just getting to know each other again.  It was a lot of fun - believe me, Aunt Leah knows how to party with the kids - it helps that she spoils them...they still talk about how cool she is:)

Coming up next - week 2, hanging out with Nana!!