Wednesday, March 22, 2017

How We Did Universal Orlando In One Day

I almost felt like I was doing something dirty when I asked Natalie if we really had to go into the Harry Potter area at Universal Orlando.

Her jaw dropped open, offended. "YES!"

Look, I love JK Rowling. She's wonderful. She's giving. She's witty. I just simply could never get into the books or movies. I tried. Many times.

My daughter isn't obsessed with Harry Potter or anything. But her teacher is obsessed with Harry Potter, and her entire room is decorated with it. She even organized the class into different houses. Natalie is HufflePuff. She reads the books to the students when there is free time. So Natalie knows about it.

"It's just, we can't get an express pass for any of the Harry Potter rides," I explained.

Natalie shrugged. "Well, I want to see everything!"

So I came up with a plan. Natalie could pick ONE Harry Potter ride and we'd go there right when the park opened.

"Hmmm," she said, tapping her chin. "Hmm. Which ride do I want?"

Traveling with kids can be frustrating.

In the end, she picked the Gringott's ride. So true to my word, as soon as the park opened, we rushed back there. We only got lost twice.

TIP #1: Go to Harry Potter right when the park opens. It's less chaotic. If you only have one day, pick one ride. If you want to do multiple rides, do them all in the morning. You cannot get express passes for any of them. The rides are in different areas. Gringott's is in the Universal Studios section. The others are in the Islands Of Adventure.

I won't lie, I didn't know what anything was in the ride.

I didn't know what was going on in the ride either. Who were all those wizards? I recognized Harry at least. But there was a redhead who didn't look like Ron--I think his name is? Maybe it was Ron? There was some redhead wizard helping us.

But it was fun! And we got to ride up front.

We explored the Harry Potter area. I was glad Natalie didn't care about Ollivander's because the line was long. Get there early if you want to do it. The line was like 50 people deep when I saw it.

TIP#2 Get Express Passes! There are two options: one where you can go on a ride one time, or one where you can go on a ride unlimited times. We just did the single ride since we only had one day.

Most of the express lines were fairly quick. The longest one was the Despicable Me line. I think we were there for 30 minutes, but it beat the 80 minute wait others were doing. Skull Island: Reign of Kong was also about 30 minutes, but was an hour for everyone else.

TIP #3: Eat lunch early and beat the crowds. We walked over to Toothsome Chocolate Emporium at 11 and there was NO wait! It's located on the Citywalk and was between Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. I'll have more a review on this soon!

TIP#4 If you want to watch the parade, sit where it first comes out. Seriously, ten minutes before it started, the was still sitting space, because not a lot of people were there. And then when it ended, we could easily walk off to another ride since it wasn't super crowded.

TIP#5: It helps if you're a wimp. We only went on the 4D rides, the 3D rides, the ET ride, the Kong ride, plus the one Harry Potter ride. Oh, and the Jurassic Park ride. You WILL get wet. We also didn't bother with any shows. We would have done the Beetlejuice one, but they got rid of it. Boo.

TIP#6: Like lunch, eat dinner early. We ate at 5. There were still lines, but it wasn't as crazy. We ate at Mel's diner. It was basic, but good enough. Burgers and fries! Located in the Universal Studios side.

TIP#7: Do the raptor encounter but bring your patience! We waited for like an hour, because the raptor has to switch out. They only let so many people in. If we did this again, I'd go earlier and hope that the line was shorter. It's amusing though, the raptor acts like she's going to eat you. She'll sniff your hair and all that and sometimes will snap right near your ear. She wanted to eat my daughter.

TIP#8: Wear a fanny pack. I know, I know, people think they are uncool, but there are rides at Universal where you aren't allowed backpacks or purses. The Gringott's ride, for one. You had to put everything into a locker first. I found this fashionable fanny pack at least!

TIP#9: Leave an hour before the park closes. You'll beat the insane crowds. We took an Uber back, and it was still chaotic. Text your Uber driver and tell him or her what you are wearing. Trust me, the pick up area moves quickly, and security moves vehicles along. If you miss your ride, you're out of luck.

I felt like we did everything we wanted to do. If we went back, we'd probably follow the same plan, only there are some rides we'd skip. The Shrek ride, for starters. Next time we go, we might stay two days, only because we're curious about the hotels there. We were staying at Disney property.

So have you gone to Universal Orlando? What hotel should we stay at?

Monday, March 20, 2017

Hey, It's Okay

I got this idea from Glamour magazine. You can link up any day of the week. All you have to do is make a list of what you're okay about. Simple! Please do not link up a post that has nothing to do with Hey, It's Okay. It's rude.

Hey, It's Okay.... have had a wonderful time at Universal and Disney World. I can't wait to go back. be taking Natalie to see Beauty and the Beast this weekend. The boys aren't interested. have ridden on the Gringott's ride at Harry Potter even though I don't even read Harry Potter. But Natalie insisted since her teacher loves Harry Potter. be slowly going through all the vacation photos. There's a lot! think it's so cool that Sesame Street has their first character with autism. have a cold. I probably caught it on the airplane. Ugh. have bought that rose cup that the internet was going crazy for while at Be Our Guest. It is really pretty!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Two Whole Hands

"She won't stop crying," I told the doctor, frazzled. I was on maybe two hours sleep, my hair was sticking up all over, and I imagine my eyes were crazed.

The pediatrician smiled. I'm sure she had seen many parents like me. "All the tests came out fine." She placed a hand on my arm. "This is just her personality."

I stared at my daughter Natalie. She was about a month old, and she cried. All the time. She also spit up. All the time. At that moment, she was busy staring at the overhead florescent lights. She seemed like a sweet baby, but I knew the truth: as soon as we returned home, she'd screech and spit up all over me.

"Is it too late to exchange her?" I asked weakly.

The pediatrician chuckled politely. I'm sure she's heard the joke many times too.

My first baby, Tommy, was easy. He only cried when he needed something and as soon as he got it, he was quiet. He would eat and sleep for a solid 3-4 hours when he was born. Natalie? Well, she'd eat, and if you dared to set her down, she'd scream down the house.

She constantly gave me looks like this, looks that told me, "Hey lady, you're doing a sucky job":

For the first two months of her life, someone had to be holding her if you wanted any sleep. Then she graduated to her swing and finally, at around five or six months, she took to her crib. Finally.

Natalie kept me on my toes. She was never afraid to let me know if she was unhappy. One of her first sentences was "I don't YIKE this!" She was two.

She'd climb the baby gates that I'd put up to protect her. I'd find her in the kitchen and she'd smile sweetly at me and go, "Hi."

She'd color on the walls:

She tolerated me, and adored her Daddy:

However, there was something we bonded over. Shopping. She allowed me to dress her in whatever I wanted. While most kids would instantly pull off their hats, we had an understanding.

Today my little girl turns ten. "Two whole hands!" she told me triumphantly. She still doesn't hesitate to let me know when she's annoyed. While she picks out a lot of her clothes these days, she'll still humor me and put on things I pick out:

She still sits in my lap. She still reaches for my hand. She still shouts, "You won't believe what happened in school!" if something big has happened. (Big in the fourth grade is if someone was sent to the office for cursing or if someone farted in class.)

She still prefers her Daddy. She'll shout, "Daddy, my Daddy, my Daddy!" when she spots him during military events. She'll whisper to him, "Don't even leave us again," because we've gone through several deployments, and she doesn't much like being left with me.

It's been an adventure raising her. I'd like to say the frequent crying will be gone, but she's emotional, and I have a feeling the middle and high school years might be hectic.

But at least there won't be spit up.

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