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Happy Halloween

Friday, October 31, 2014
Happy Halloween!!!

It's been a fun week of fall and halloween-y festivities around here already and it's not over yet. My personal favorite part of Halloween? It's passing officially starts the holiday season in our house and it is my self-inflicted rule that the Christmas trees must wait until after Halloween to make their appearance. And there is a date with me and our Christmas decorations blocked on my calendar during naptimes this weekend.

Anyway, back to Halloween. The candy and costumes and parties are also pretty great.

Last Sunday as soon as we got back from Auburn we unpacked the car and headed to Mayfair (Perry's preschool) for their Fall Funfest. It was so much fun. We got to see Perry's teachers and some of his classmates, pet some exotic animals, play games, moon bounce, eat cotton candy and trunk-or-treat.

For the record, 1 year old Perry does not like cotton candy. But collecting candy from strangers' baskets? That he is quite good at. He got a bucket full. Most of which he can't actually eat...doesn't mean mommy and daddy can't though. :)

Then on Wednesday, Perry got to dress up in his Donald Duck costume for school because all the kiddos were going to trick-or-treat at the church offices. He came home with a bucket full of more candy. Perry was super cute in his Donald shortall. It had to have a little mending by Granna after he pulled off one side of the bowtie in Disney World. But it is good as new.

Tonight we are hanging at home instead of hitting the streets for more candy. Andrew has got to work so it will be P and me, and the Caudles and Garretts are coming over to have dinner and yummy halloween snacks and pass out candy to neighborhood kids. We are taking bets on how many little girls dressed as Elsa we will see. It will be a fun night. If you want to see our cute little Donald Duck in person (and get some candy) come trick or treat at our house!

Hope you have a fun and safe Halloween!

Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party 2014

Thursday, October 30, 2014
I wrote a guest post for my friend Sarah's disney blog, Memory Making Moms all about our Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party (MNSSHP) experience. So if you saw that, you will have read most of what is below already. But I wanted to include all the info and pictures here as well.

We loved the party and it was definitely a highlight of our whole trip. The party takes place officially from 7 pm until midnight, but with just a little research you quickly learn that you can get into the park as early as 4 pm with just a party ticket. We knew it would be a long night so we spent just a couple of hours in Epcot that morning and went back to our resort for a good afternoon nap and rest time before the party. 

There are so many fun aspects of the party from dressing up, to meeting special characters, trick or treating, the Halloween parade, fireworks, dance parties, and on and on. Add to that short waits for rides, fun snacks to try, and Halloween music piped throughout the is a great time.

Before we left, I ordered and printed out our tickets online. I was glad to have them ahead of time because the parties the week we were down there did sell out so we would not have been able to get them the day of. If you are interested in seeing which dates tend to sell out and the most and least crowded MNSSHP party dates, has all of that data compiled in a handy table.

As a little extra magic and fun, I also created a little invitation to take with us and give Perry "from Mickey Mouse." I don't have rights to the image files, but anyone could do something similar with images from the Internet for their own personal use.

We knew we wanted to dress up in costume for the party. Almost everyone does. And it is so fun people watching while you are there and seeing all the amazing, creative costumes. I have a thing for coordinated family costumes...I think they are just precious. To the dad I saw who had antlers on his head as Sven alongside his two daughters dressed as Anna and Elsa...well done.

I already had a red and white polka dot dress I bought last year online in preparation for our disney cruise and thought it would be cute for Andrew and I to dress as Mickey and Minnie. Sticking with the classic Disney character theme, Perry dressed up as Donald Duck. He is super into Mickey Mouse Clubhouse these days and knew exactly who he, and his mommy and daddy, were dressed as. I found the cutest Donald Duck shortall outfit online (thank you pinterest) that I knew would be perfect for the occasion. It was cool and comfortable for a toddler to run around in the Florida heat. I have a sweet lady on Etsy that makes most of Perry's Disney trip clothes. I sent her the pinterest picture and asked her to re-create the Donald Duck shortall and a hat and she did an amazing job on it. I loved how the costumes came together. Though not unexpectedly, Perry's hat did not stay on this head very much. We could either get a smile without the hat, or a frown with it. :)

If you are brainstorming costumes for the MNSSHP, make sure they are not too cumbersome or hot. Even in October it still feels like summer in central Florida. I was very happy to be in a sundress and Andrew was happy to be in Mickey red shorts instead of pants.

The rest of the family dressed up too, Andrew's sister and her family dressed as characters from Wreck it Ralph while his parents made a perfect Mary Poppins and Bert. Step number one once we got in the park was to take pictures, before we got distracted with party activities, and before the warm Florida weather got to us (and our hair). Those first couple hours between 4 and 7 are great times to focus on pictures and grab a bite to eat before the party stuff officially begins. During this time the park is still pretty crowded as you have partygoers coming in and the day people still hanging around. This is not yet the time for riding rides, unless you have fastpasses. It is good to note that if you haven't used fastpasses earlier in the day, and even if you only have party tickets not an actual day park ticket you can book fastpasses in the magic kingdom between 4 and 7. Once the party starts fastpasses are not don't need them at that point anyway.

Character Meets
There are two major character sets that you can only meet at special parties like the Not So Scary Halloween Party and the Christmas Party. These are all 7 dwarfs (at one time!) and Jack and Sally. Based on our research we knew that lines for these groups would stay long all night so my sister-in-law Emily and I headed to the 7 dwarf meet and greet line about 6, an hour before the party started. At that point we were about 15 families in front of us and the line continued to accumulate behind us. It was well worth the wait when we were in and out and had our coveted 7 dwarf pictures by 7:10 and had the rest of the party ahead of us. My best advice (that we heard and worked well for us) would be to pick the one special character set you most want to get and go get in line well before 7. You don't want to waste party time in long lines. While Taffyta and I stood in line our families went and rode some rides and joined us a little later. What's there to do while two moms stand in line for their families but to take selfies.

The dwarfs don't sign. There is no time for that. And they really encourage group pictures so that the line can move as fast as possible. How cool is their set though with all the buckets and wheelbarrows of jewels?

For us personally the other characters we really wanted to meet were the characters we were dressed up as so we went and met Donald (and goofy) and Minnie Mouse. All the classic characters are there meeting mostly sprinkled throughout fantasyland, dressed up in fun costumes themselves. There are lots of villains out meeting as well throughout the park.

Boo To You Parade
I think one of the best parts of the party is getting to see the Boo to You Parade. It happens twice each night (weather permitting). The first parade is more crowded because it is more appealing to families with little kids who will be asleep before the second parade which is not until after 10. For that reason we braved the crowds and watched the early parade. 

The parade is full of characters dressed up in costume, villains, grave diggers, and a very catchy song that will be stuck in your head for a while afterwards. The star is the headless horseman who leads the parade off which is a very cool site to see. He comes galloping by, head in hand, a few minutes ahead of the parade start.

There are lots of festive things to eat and drink at the party. We grabbed a quickservice dinner before the party officially started so that we wouldn't have to waste precious party time sitting down for a meal. We had aspirations of trying lots of the special halloween goodies, but were only hungry enough for a couple. We shared a mummy cupcake (chocolate cake) from the Main Street Bakery and then at the very end of the night we shared a pumpkin spice waffle sundae from Sleepy Hollow. I love Belgium waffles and the pumpkin spice was a great flavor. Meanwhile Andrew prefers ice cream so it was a perfect sharable snack for us. Other snacks that we didn't have time (or stomach room) for included ghost cupcakes at Gaston's, candy corn soft serve ice cream, candy corn cotton candy, and bubble teas. 

I am not a good fireworks photographer. At all. I love watching them though. The Halloween party fireworks are incredible. I have heard they are some of the best the Magic Kingdom has to offer. We didn't sit and wait to have a perfect view, but did pause and watch them from a sidewalk near the hub when they started. They lived up to their expectations for sure. Halloween party fireworks go off at 9:30, between the two parades. If we had a kiddo who would sit still better I would have liked to have staked out a better viewing place in front of the castle. Crowds really start clearing out after the fireworks as lots of families with little kids will head for the exit. We spent the next couple hours doing rides and eating snacks in a relatively empty park.

Magic Shots
There are some cool magic shots you can get through photopass photographers exclusive to the Halloween Party, such as these with the hitchhiking ghosts. We got these from a photographer stationed just outside of the haunted mansion. I am not a lover of all magic shots, but these are really cute and make me smile. You will notice that we are toddler-free by this point in the night. My precious in-laws decided to head back to their hotel when it got late and took Perry with them to spend the night. We happily allowed him to go and took advantage of the childcare to enjoy every last minute of the party. Photopass photographers don't broadcast their ability to do magic shots or solicit you to take photos. So don't feel bad to ask them (at a special party or otherwise) if they have any magic shots they can do. 

Rides and Trick or Treating
It is true that almost all rides are walk-on with no wait during the party. Only exception we noted was the mine train which still had a wait but was much shorter than it is normally, and the haunted mansion which is popular given the fact that it is the halloween party. We wanted to ride the haunted mansion (like most everyone else) and at the end of the night decided to stand in a 20 minute wait to do so. May not sound like a bad line, but it was the longest line we waited in the entire trip thanks to a lot of planning. We also rode headliners like space mountain and big thunder mountain with almost no wait. We didn't spend too much time on rides though because we really wanted to focus on party specific activities that you can't do during normal park hours.

There are trick or treat stations all around the park, indicated by signs and on the brochure map. They seemed to be quite busy early in the night and by the end cast members were literally working to give the candy away. We didn't do very much trick or treating because a 21-month-old doesn't yet know to ask for candy. But we did let him do it once for the sake of it. Later on when it was just us adults we grabbed some candy a time or two to munch on while we walked.

We had an amazing time at the party. If you are find yourself at Disney World in September or October I would highly recommend finding a day that you can include the party into your plans.

Walt Disney World Trip, day 7

Wednesday, October 29, 2014
On day 7 we spent the morning in Epcot with the Eckleys. We met up for rope drop. We made rope drop every day of the trip that we intended to, which is no small feat when you have busy days and late nights but so worth it given what you can accomplish those first couple hours the parks are open.

And somehow or another, Perry was all smiles and ready to go.

The big kids and adults went to go ride thrill rides at rope drop while P and I went straight over to Nemo and rode it over and over with little breaks to look at the fishies in the acquarium and play in the shark playground. It was fun mommy/perry time. 

Once the others rode Test Track and Mission Space they came over and we all rode Nemo together. Perry loved Nemo and pointing out all the fish and sea creatures through the attraction. He now calls all fish "Nemo." Then we did Turtle Talk with Crush which was cute.

By this point we were ready to use our Soarin fastpass and get some lunch. The Eckleys ate at Sunshine Seasons and kept Perry so Andrew and I could ride Soarin together without having to rider switch which was awesome. 

Then our family walked out the back of Epcot to the Beach Club resort to eat at the Beaches and Cream Soda Shop. This was on my short list of places that I had never eaten and wanted to on this trip. We had yummy burgers and fries and shared a "No Way Jose" ice cream sundae for dessert. Which was chocolate and peanut butter heaven.

Perry fell asleep on the walk over. All that Nemo riding wore him right out. He perked up for his hot dog and fries though.
After lunch it was due time to get ourselves back to our resort for rest time because we had a big night ahead at Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party. Which will need a post all it's own.

Walt Disney World Trip, Day 6

Tuesday, October 28, 2014
Day 6 of our Disney World trip was spent at HollywoodStudios, all day. That's right. Even with a 21 month old we were in the park from rope drop until after Fantasmic! It was a long day but we made it and had fun all day long.

First thing on the docket was a ride on Rockin Roller Coaster. Emily took the kids to go sign up for Jedi training while the rest of us speed walked to the coaster. Ann watched Perry while Gary, Matt, Andrew and I rode. We had an awesome time. It was a great way to start our morning.

While we were waiting on everyone to rendezvous, Andrew and I grabbed a rider swap for Rockin Roller Coaster (we didn't know Ann wasn't riding at the time) and we also walked over and grabbed a rider swap for Tower of Terror to use later in the day (since we knew we could get someone to watch P while we rode together it was like an extra fastpass for us). Probably a bit of a disney ethical grey zone, but it worked.

Hands down the worst 15 minutes of the day proceeded next. Perry's arch nemesis during periods of the trip was the stroller...when he just wanted to run around. We tried desperately to get him to stay in the stroller while we headed to a playground on the other side of the park, but he just wouldn't have any of it. By the time we made it to the Honey I Shrunk the Kids playground he was in full on meltdown. We gave him snacks and coaxed him to play and slide and got him in a better mood. But it was rough. Thankfully that was the worst meltdown of the whole trip...and was short lived.

Then it was time for our Toy Story Mania fastpass as a whole family. Emily had successfully gotten the kids enrolled to fight Darth Vader later on that day. We love Toy Story Mania. It's so fun. Perry rode with Granna and Grandaddy.

From there our little family went to see the Disney Junior stage show. Perry loved it. It had all of his favorite characters and songs.

We had a little time to kill after Disney Junior so we went to the Animation Courtyard to see what kind of characters were there with little wait. There was almost no wait to meet Minnie, so we took advantage of that.

We had an awesome lunch planned at Hollywood and Vine with the whole family. We knew we wanted to do it because you get to dine with Disney Junior characters like Sofia, Doc McStuffins and Jake. Perry's favorite part of the meal? The tater tots. And spotting Jake (his favorite character) across the restaurant. He was the last character to come visit us and Perry was just tolerant of the others, but when he saw Jake, Perry got so excited.

Every 15 minutes or so they invited kids to come and dance around the restaurant with the characters. Perry had fun parading around with Jake and cousin Kate.

I knew Perry was tired and tired of being out in the hot sun so after lunch he and I ducked into the Baby Care Center for some air conditioned respite while the rest went and watched the Indiana Jones show. Perry wasn't interested in falling asleep, but enjoyed some chill time watching Disney Junior on the TV.

After the others got done with Indiana Jones we met back up outside the Tower of Terror. Perry wound up falling asleep on the stroll there so we found a shady spot and let him just sleep in the stroller a while. A few of us rode Tower of Terror and we all waited to see if the early Characterpalooza would happen. It didn't. From our reading it sounds like the early time may or may not happen...but the later time almost always happens on days when there is a Fantasmic! show.

So we decided to go watch Beauty and the Beast and come back at 5 for Characterpalooza. Kate had a magical moment when she was selected to be given a rose by the beast at the end of the show. She was so excited. And we all got great seats for the show thanks to her cute self. Perry was totally zonkered so Andrew stayed out and took Perry somewhere air conditioned to nap.

Here is Kate getting picked to get the rose.

After Perry woke up and Beauty and the Beast wrapped, we all met back up to experience another day of Characterpalooza. Its this crazy 15 minutes where they open the gates near the Tower of Terror exit and you can go back and meet a bunch of random characters with little or no wait.

We had all used up our fastpasses for the day so we stopped by the kiosk to see if there were any left for fantasmic that night. We were worried about getting into fantasmic since we would be coming straight from watching the Jedi Training Academy so we were super happy to snag fastpasses for it.

Then we all went and rode the Great Movie Ride and had a quick, simple dinner at the Commissary. We had that ride swap pass for Rockin Roller Coaster from the morning so Gary, Andrew and I ran and got one more thrill ride in for the day.

Then it was time to see Ben and Kate in the Jedi Training Academy. They did so good.

The day ended with Fantasmic. It has been ages since I have seen the late night Hollywood Studios show. It was great and we wound up haphazardly with really awesome seats right in the middle. Perry loved it and didn't mind the noise and fire and scary-ness one bit.

And that wraps up one amazing day in Hollywood Studios.

Tailgating on the plains

Monday, October 27, 2014
We just got back from our second and final trip down to the loveliest village on the plains for this football season. By the end of October the weather is just perfect for a weekend spent outdoors on campus.

The trip down to Auburn Friday morning got off to a little bit of a rocky start when our car didn't start when we went to leave. But it all worked out and we were able to charge the car enough to get it to crank (thanks Dad for that charger you gave us for Christmas a few years ago!) and drive to autozone to get a new battery. The whole ordeal only took an extra hour and we made it down to Auburn by late afternoon. Travis and Gina had beat us down there and already had a great tailgate spot by the library and two parking spaces marked off nearby. Kristen came to join us from Atlanta for the weekend too. It was great to see her meet up with us on campus Friday afternoon.

After we got the tailgate situated we made a community trip to the grocery store and went over to some friends of the Garrett's for a bonfire. It was fun meeting some new friends and roasting hot dogs and s'mores over the fire. Perry loved it. He ate an entire hot dog and enjoyed throwing sticks on the fire (with plenty of adult supervision).

We had a relatively leisurely Saturday morning since the game was not until that night. We didn't get out on campus until about 10 am. We got everything all set up and before we knew it it was time for lunch. We grabbed some BBQ from the BBQ house to go with our sides, buns and dessert and watched the early football games on TV. Perry played with his pint-sized sports balls and a lot of corn hole.

Perry is good at tailgating already. He eats junk food, watches football, he lounges in a tailgate chair and plays corn hole. I'd say he's got it down.

Speaking of junk food. This little guy tried to get cookies from just about everyone. Sneaky little thing. He was about to grab a (second) one right off of Adrienne's plate here...

Me and my favorite little Tiger

And two of my favorite girls

We watched football and grazed on food all afternoon long. Kristen and I made a quick trip downtown to shop the bookstores for a little bit (and tried to get Perry to nap in the such luck there). Adrienne and Chad made it mid afternoon to tailgate with us the rest of the day. Then we grilled out burgers for dinner.

None of us had tickets for the game. We all kind of decided to just stay together outside and watch on TV from the tailgate. It was really nice. The weather was perfect with just a little chill once the sun went down and it worked particularly well given the late kickoff time with little ones. I couldn't imagine keeping a tired, squirmy Perry in the stands past his bedtime.

Adrienne and Chad kept Caroline (a friend's little girl) at the tailgate during the game. Perry and Caroline kept each other entertained for the most part. We did hear the word "no" come out of their mouths more than anything else (once when Perry tried to hold Caroline's hand). lol. But what can you expect with two toddlers. They were cute watching each other, chasing each other around in their little jersey and cheerleader outfit.

Both Perry and Caroline crashed before the game was over. They slept through the Auburn win and resulting cheers. It had been a long, but very fun, day.

The game was exciting, more exciting than we would have liked. But in the end our Tigers pulled it out and it was so fun to be down there and hear and see it happen almost live. We could hear the roar from the stadium from our tailgate and the TV broadcast was a few seconds delayed which was an interesting experience. We knew when something good was going to happen...but alternatively knew when a play was not going to be exciting at all too.

It's been a fun adventure learning to tailgate with these sweet friends. Wouldn't want to do it with anyone else.

We got to stay with Grandmama (aka GG) this trip which was so nice. It was great to see her and Aunt Lisa who was also visiting for the weekend. Perry loved getting to see and play with both of them.

I promise P is perfectly happy in GG's arms. The sun was in both of their eyes. : )

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