7/30/10

No one cares for YOU a smidge when you're in an ORPHanage

For years, I’ve felt that my definitive Mallory story was about how she refused to ride a bicycle. Well, now I’ve got a new one.

Last Friday, Mallory made her theatrical debut in Annie, Jr, put on by the summer drama workshop held at Chris’s high school. She was an orphan/servant, had no lines, but was part of the chorus for the four big songs: Hard-Knock Life, You’re Going to Like it Here, NYC, and Tomorrow.

The kids put on two performances – one in the early afternoon, one in the evening. Chris and I attended both. During the matinee, Chris and I shook our heads fondly at Mallory during the first two songs – she knew all the words, she knew all the steps, but she had a kind of grim look on her face the whole time, and she was about 5 seconds behind the rest of the cast. (Incidentally, here’s a way to cure any young performer of stage fright. Let them know that any parents in the audience are ONLY watching their own kid. I have no idea how the other kids performed during any of these songs – my eyes were fixed on Mallory.)

Then the “NYC” song started. A group of young “starlets” came out; then Daddy Warbucks and Annie came on stage; then a big group of other “New Yorkers” came from the wings and lined up for the big dance. I looked and looked, but didn’t see Mallory. “Where is she?” I asked Chris, and he shook his head. She wasn’t there. Did she get cut from this scene? I wondered, indignant. Then I thought: No – she missed the cue. She forgot to come on stage. I immediately corrected myself – No, that’s not possible, she couldn’t have forgotten. Surely not!

And yet. At the evening performance, when “NYC” started – here came the starlets, here came Daddy Warbucks and Annie, here came the other kids – and then, about 30 seconds later, here came Mallory, stage left. She wandered across the front of the stage, and then saw another girl in the chorus waving at her, and scampered over to her spot. At which point she joined in the dance and was fine, I suppose, although in truth I was giggling too hard to pay much attention.

Mallory was also about 10 seconds behind the other orphans who came out to sing “Tomorrow,” and completely missed her chance to take a bow with the other orphans.

Later I asked her: “Why weren’t you in ‘NYC’ during the first show?” She said: “Yeah, I totally forgot! I was just sitting there, and then I heard the music, but I thought it was for some other part, and then I realized I was supposed to be on stage, but it was too late!” She said this with a big smile. I don’t know whether to be relieved, or more concerned, that she was so blithely unconcerned herself about missing the cue.

Chris talked to the director, whom he knows, after the show, and although she started out with a “Bless her heart,” she did say that Mallory did just fine for her first show, and considering that she was one of the youngest cast members, and that she actually improved a whole lot from the first week of rehearsal. Mallory seemed to have made friends, and she says she had fun, and she wants to do it again next year. I’m thinking she may not have much of a career on the stage.

I’m proud of her anyway.

7/23/10

Day Five: The Magic Kingdom Redux

Before returning to the Magic Kingdom for our last day of fun, we stopped at Downtown Disney, a huge shopping/dining complex in the middle of all the resorts. There the kids saw more characters than we ever saw in the actual parks (although it’s true these were not animate, and some were made of Legos):









After some serious shopping, we headed on to the park. This time, at Mallory’s suggestion, we rode the ferryboat to the gates instead of the monorail. We all agreed that it was a far superior way to ride:









It was, by some stroke of fortune, only in the mid-80s on this day – and it turned out to be the best day we had. Being only moderately hot and sweaty, instead of miserably so, does wonders for one’s attitude (especially Phoebe’s attitude). We got off the ferry, then immediately hopped on the Walt Disney World steam engine for an express ride to Toontown, where we visited Mickey’s house and garden (adorable!):









And then Minnie’s house and garden (also adorable!):







Next to the Mouse houses was a big tent where you could stand in line to get autographs and photos with the characters…but we’d already done that, so we moved on to Goofy’s rollercoaster. This was another stand-in-line-for-twenty-minutes-for-a-thirty-second-ride kind of ride, but it was fun:



Next up, Tomorrowland! We stopped first at the Speedway, a ride wherein small children give their parents whiplash.



Next up, Buzz Rider’s Space Ranger Spin, which was similar to the wonderful Toy Story ride at DHS – you spin around and shoot things with your laser gun. It wasn’t quite as fun, but it was full of Little Green Men. I love the Little Green Men:



Then we saw Tomorrowland’s famous robotic storks:



Just kidding! It was a real bird! And it flew off with an abrupt flourish after I took this picture, which scared me quite a lot.

We were thisclose to Space Mountain, but the line was over an hour, so we went instead to Stitch’s Great Escape, another very cute show – although this one was also very loud, and sometimes completely dark, so I’m not sure if the kids liked it was much as some of the others. We got sprinkled with water in this one too (a common theme of all the shows, as though Disney is trying to make amends for building their park in the hottest place on earth), but we were led to believe that it was Stitch sneezing on us. The kids found this amusing.

Almost all the rides and shows exit into a gift shop, of course. We did not buy this hat:



We went out to find a dance party going on, led by Space Goofy, Space Pluto, and Stitch.





Phoebe boogied on down:



Mallory ended up getting a hug from Stitch, and Phoebe ended up telling the emcee that it was her birthday, but I can’t find those photos. So close your eyes and just imagine those things. It’s Disney, after all.

Next we went back to Fantasyland, because the kids wanted to ride Peter Pan again. Alas, the line was too long. We settled for It’s a Small World again, and then Snow White’s Scary Adventure. Which was really quite scary – not great for small children. The witch was around every corner:



But there was also Dopey:



And kissing (“Ewww!” said my children, when this came into view):



The mine carts for this ride, by the way, each bore the name of one of the dwarfs. “I hope we get Dopey!” Phoebe said before we boarded; in fact, we got “Sneezy,” (appropriate, with all the allergies betwixt the girls and Chris) while Chris’s parents ended up on “Grumpy.”

We went back to Tomorrowland to check on Space Mountain. Broken! It was broken! This happened when my family went to Disneyland, way back in the 80s, as well. Phoebe was bitterly disappointed; Mallory was relieved. Instead we hopped on the Tomorrowland Transit Authority, which is a tram that tours through all the Tomorrowland rides and attractions. This turned out to be Mallory and Phoebe’s favorite thing, weirdly enough. There was no wait, which was a big plus, and it was just zippy enough, with enough sudden swerves, to make it kind of fun. Still – my kids are weird. The tram does go through a section of Space Mountain, and you can hear the screams and the ratcheting of the cars (must have been on an audio loop, since the actual thing was broken) – and that’s when Phoebe said, “You know, I don’t think I want to ride Space Mountain after all.”

After the tram, we went to our final show, the Monsters Incorporated Laugh Floor. And we laughed.





By then it was getting late – too late, in fact, for us to find a good spot to watch the night parade and fireworks. We should’ve left then, to beat the rush to the parking lot, but the kids didn’t want to go. They wanted to ride the tram again. So we did.



And then they wanted to ride it one more time, so we did.




And then they wanted to do the Buzz Lightyear ride again, so we did. (It’s Disney World! And it was our last day. You think I was going to say no?)



When we exited Buzz, the fireworks had begun. We had an adequate view; and then we had a heck of a time getting out of the park when it was over. The crush of people! The horror! The humanity! I had a child in each hand and told the other grownups in our party: “I will not let go of the kids. If any of us get separated, remember – we’re parked in Donald 23.” We managed to not get separated, after all; Chris had to carry Phoebe part of the way, because she just gave out; he finally had to pass her to his dad:



And then we found our car, and then we went back to the hotel, and that was the end of one of the best weeks of our lives.

Honestly – it was a great vacation. I remember the heat, of course, and the standing in line and the maddening logistical problems of getting from here to there – but mostly I remember how much fun we had. And that’s all my kids remember, which makes the whole thing more than worthwhile. They keep saying they want to go back. They’re not the only one.

7/22/10

Day Four, Part Two: Disney Hollywood Studios

DHS is, as you may have guessed, a Disney park devoted to the movies and show biz. It also has, of all the parks, the least amount of child-friendly rides and attractions; hence our decision to go there in the late afternoon on Thursday. It also is supposed to have an absolutely spectacular fireworks show. Spoiler: We didn’t get to see that.

The first thing we did at DHS was the “Great Movie Ride,” which is, surprise, a ride that takes you through scenes of great movies, like The Wizard of Oz and The Searchers and some Jimmy Cagney film and Alien and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. General consensus: mostly goofy, and the robot thingies meant to represent the characters were not that good.

We did, however, get to see one of the carousel horses from Mary Poppins:



When we left the movies, it had started to sprinkle, so we ducked into the line for the Little Mermaid show:



…at which point it started to pour:



The show was very cute; it was a 15-minute version of the movie. (Mallory did say, in a tone of outrage: “They SKIPPED a LOT of parts!”) We exited to find that it was STILL pouring, so we decided to go find something to eat. As we walked through the rain, Phoebe suddenly shouted: “Hey! My shoes have bubbles in them!”



I guess her socks still had laundry detergent in them, and were sudsing all over the place. We all had a good laugh; this is still her favorite story to tell about our trip.

We ate dinner, and then went to stand in line for the Toy Story Midway Mania ride, which was supposed to be THE highlight of this particular park. The line was 90 minutes, but, since it was still raining, what else were we going to do? So we waited a long time:



But, the waiting area was adorable:









And the ride was so cool. You get 3D glasses, and you spin through a series of carnival games, and you try to score points by shooting the virtual pop-gun thing on your car. You aim baseballs at bowling pins, you try to land rings around little green men – it was so much fun. General consensus – best ride ever. I think we were all a bit giddy after it was over.

Next stop: the 3-D Muppet show:



It was awesome too, because who doesn’t love Muppets? (Although I heard a guy say, as we went into the theatre: “Kids these days don’t even know who the Muppets are!” Which is true, and sad.)

The kids found a snowman:



We were all pretty wet and bedraggled by this point:



Certain members of our party wanted to go on the Tower of Terror (Amy, Phoebe, Claudia), so we wandered that way. Certain people chickened out once it actually came into view (Phoebe). A certain other person thought she would probably hate it but decided to go on it anyway (me).

The Tower of Terror is a giant “hotel”; you get on an “elevator” and then get sucked into the Twilight Zone (or something), which causes the elevator to drop and raise and drop again and raise again and so on for an eternity. The worst part was waiting for the dropping to start – the elevator kind of creeps forward for a while, and weird music is playing, and you keep thinking that any second you’re going to fall to your doom, but no – not yet – not quite yet – and then it does start and you’re sure you’re going to die. I couldn’t even scream, I was so terrified. As we were getting off, Amy paused to let a guy stand up and go ahead of her, and his wife leaned over and said: “No, please go ahead – he’s not going anywhere for some time.” Ha! It was awful.

At this point, it was time for the fireworks to begin, but it was still pouring rain. So, no fireworks for us – we just went back to the hotel. It seems like we didn’t, after all, do all that much at Disney Hollywood Studios, but everything we did was pretty wonderful. It was a good evening. It certainly wore Phoebe out:



Next up: our last day! I’m almost done!

7/20/10

Day Four, Part One: Universal Studios

We’re in the home stretch now, people. Bear with me.

As an anniversary present to ourselves (12 years! We rock!), Chris and I decided to take a morning and go, sans children, to Universal Studios. He wanted to see the Marvel Superhero stuff; I wanted to see the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which had just opened two weeks before.

I overheard Chris telling a friend of his that Universal lacked the magic of Disney, and this is true; but it was very visually appealing. It had six or seven clearly demarcated sections – Superheros, Comic Book Alley, Dr Seuss Island, Jurassic Park, Harry Potter, and I’m forgetting one other – and they were all very cool. Here are some shots of the superhero area, which are not good pictures at all, because I took them as we were leaving and I was so hot I had lost the will to live, but you get the idea:





We hopped right in line for the Spiderman 3-D Adventure ride, in which you are a Daily Bugle reporter who gets to leave your desk:



And go on a frantic chase after bad guys, or something. It was a wild ride. You’re in this car thingy, and you get thrown all around on this track, sometimes up, sometimes sideways, sometimes high in the air, and at the same time, you’re whizzing by these 3-d screens, and sometimes Magneto or whoever jumps right in your face and blasts you with hot air, and sometimes Spidey saves you in a giant web. Chris can actually tell you the whole story; I was just trying to hang on. I was, in fact, kind of squealing like a girl and clutching Chris’s arm the whole time, marveling that Chris himself seemed so stoic and manly – until the ride came to a stop, and I looked over to see that Chris was perfectly green. “I think I’m going to be sick,” he said; he felt nauseous for about an hour afterwards.

So we proceeded through Comic Book Alley to Jurassic Park, where I saw a man holding up a sign that said: “Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Entrance.” I knew we were on the other side of the park from HP land, so I approached the man and said: “What?” He confirmed – the line just to enter the HP area started with him, and stretched all the way through Jurassic Park. “It’s about an hour wait from this point,” he said – this was just to enter the area, forget about riding the rides or getting a butterbeer.

I was quite put out by this. We decided to go elsewhere for a while, to see if the crowd died down. We chose the Jurassic Park River Adventure ride, which had only a 5 minute wait (because everyone else was waiting to get into HP world, obviously). This was a “flume” ride in which you get chased by velociraptors and whatnot, and end up plummeting down a cliff and getting soaking wet. This meant that for the rest of the day, we had clammy underwear. Yay!

Even so, the HP line had lessened when we were done with the dinosaurs. We probably only had to wait about 10 minutes before we got to Hogsmeade, and it looked great:













As you can see, though, it was absolutely packed with people. The streets were very narrow, there was no room to walk, and lines of people waiting were stretched every which way – you couldn’t even tell what people were waiting for. “What is this line for?” I asked one woman, and she said, “I don’t know…I think it’s a gift shop.” So, I never got into Ollivander’s Wand Shop, or Honeydukes, or Zonko’s; I never got a glass of pumpkin juice.

As for the rides – the section has two roller-coasters, which I didn’t care about, and the “Forbidden Journey of Harry Potter,” which I totally wanted to get on – but the wait was over two hours, which was a bit much even if you are an HP nut. So we left Hogsmeade, filled with bitterness and despair (on my part), and went to eat lunch (horribly expensive and tasteless burgers).

Afterwards, I decided to try my luck again, while Chris went to take a closer look at the superhero section. The crowds in HP world had died down considerably. I approached the Forbidden Journey ride and heard an attendant say that the wait for single riders was only 30 minutes. Score! The line takes you through a couple of rooms in Hogwarts, and there are talking portraits and even a talking Sorting Hat – however; the only things they say are, “Please keep your arms and legs inside the vehicle at all times,” which was a bit disappointing.

A short time later I boarded the ride, which is one of those where your feet hang down and the car moves on a track attached to the back. You go along kind of placidly for a minute, through a Hogwarts corridor, and then suddenly a hologram of Hermione (the movie Hermione, that is) appears, and she warns you to hold on tight, and then suddenly you are off. You fly along with Harry and Ron on their broomsticks, and you chase a dragon, and you soar over the castle parapets, and then you plunge into a cavern and see the giant spiders, and then it’s suddenly freezing cold and Harry is yelling at you not to look at the dementors. Then suddenly you’re in a Quidditch match with Draco Malfoy taunting you and trying to knock you over. You go backwards, and sometimes forwards, and you go really high up in the air, and then plummet down, and you twist and turn and gyrate. Sometimes the car tipped frontways and you’re just dangling there, praying that the seat belts don’t snap. I honestly thought I was going to die.

It was the most fun I’ve ever had in my life.

Satisfied at last with my HP experience, I caught up with Chris, who was meeting with some old friends:







He was miffed at me for riding the HP ride without him, until I told him it was like the Spiderman ride, only ten times worse. So, we bought a few Spongebob souvenirs for the kids and headed back to the hotel. So long, Spidey! See ya, Harry! And so forth.

Our day was not over -- we were off to Disney Hollywood Studios that afternoon. I'll tell you all about that tomorrow. (Bet you can't wait!)