“A Tale as Old as Time”

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We are back home, getting back into a routine and as I’ve been facing the mounds of laundry to be washed, the list of phone calls to return and the pile of mail to be sorted I have been reflecting on the sweet memories made over the last two weeks. In particular I have been reflecting on our “picture perfect” final day.

We spent our final Disney day in Magic Kingdom. After spending the first Magic Kingdom day in Adventureland, Frontierland and Tomorrowland, and missing most of the second day at Magic Kingdom due to illness, we were ready to tackle Fantasyland. Everyone was eager to spend time in this new section of Magic Kingdom where Rapunzel’s tower has popped up, the Beast’s Castle now sits, and new Little Mermaid and Snow White rides are running. We loved all the new additions but the focus of the day was definitely “Beauty and the Beast,” my all time favorite Disney flick.

Our day started with a trip to Gaston’s tavern where we met “the charmer” himself.

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“As you see I’ve got biceps to spare”

For lunch we got in line early for Be Our Guest restaurant. After two previous attempts at eating lunch there and finding it filled by 11:00am we made sure we got in line by 10:30am. We had reservations for dinner that night but wanted to have lunch there as well since the menu and experience are entirely different. At 11:00 the doors opened and they began seating. The process to get your food is quite ingenious. You start at a menu screen where you place your order. You then seat yourself and the servers find you through the tracker in the magic band you are wearing or the magic rose you receive when you order (if you don’t have a magic band.)

Ordering lunch..

Ordering lunch..

You can choose to eat in one of three rooms: The West Wing, The Ballroom or the Music Box room. We chose the Music Box room.

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Soon after sitting our food arrived.

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Everyone’s choices were delicious, although I highly recommend the roast beef sandwich with horseradish sour cream. It was delicious! For dessert I had “The grey stuff.”

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The Grey Stuff...it's delicious. Don't believe me? Ask the dishes!

The Grey Stuff…it’s delicious. Don’t believe me? Ask the dishes!

We have only good things to say about this restaurant. The food was delicious and the atmosphere was amazing!

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In the afternoon we visited the rides we missed earlier and revisited our old favorites. Everyone had a must see or ride item on our to-do list.

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My must see item was the Rapunzel bathrooms…the cutest bathrooms in Disney World!

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Another item on our must do list was riding the new Little Mermaid ride. After sitting in our clam-mobile we were taken on a ride through the Little Mermaid story, complete with our favorite songs to sing along to.

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For dinner we returned to Be Our Guest restaurant for our final dinner. For dinner the meal is table service and more formal than lunch. We were thrilled to be seated in the forbidden West Wing right under the prince’s torn portrait.

The West Wing

The West Wing

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It is here in the west wing that the enchanted rose can be found. You can sit and watch the petals drop. When the final petal drops the rose disappears, the thunder crashes and the portrait changes from the prince to the Beast. It was very cool!

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IMG_3558The food was just as amazing as lunch only fancier.

The dinner menu

The dinner menu

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After dinner we stopped in the study to thank the Beast for his hospitality.

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It is hard to believe the magic is over, the story is done,  and it is time to say good-bye to all our new friends.

It is like Winnie the Pooh said at the end of the story…

“Goodbye? Oh no, please. Can’t we go back to page one and start all over again?” :)

A Pit Stop in Radiator Springs

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(We arrived home last night but I am a day behind in blogging. The next few blogs will document our last 48 hours of vacation.)

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One stop we wanted to make sure we made before our last day was a quick pit stop in Radiator Springs…via the Art of Animation resort. This is one of the newest of the Disney resorts and one of the most kid friendly with their larger than life decorations and displays. After seeing pictures of the amazing rooms we were tempted to stay here but then discovered that the free dining wasn’t be offered at Art of Animation this time. Even though we weren’t able to stay there we at least wanted to stop by and check it out.

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The Art of Animation resort has four sections of rooms based on four different Disney movies: The Lion King, Cars, Finding Nemo, and The Little Mermaid. Although we walked around the entire resort the part we really came to see was the Radiator Springs area. We knew our two little Cars lovers would be thrilled with this courtyard area and we were right…

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Their faces lit up and they took off running when they saw the first car.

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They ran from car to car shouting, “Take my picture with Doc…take my picture with Mater!”

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Everyone had a favorite car character that they had to a have their picture taken with…

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Tyler was especially funny. My “too cool” boy that I had to beg to pose with living characters wanted a photo with all the cars. When Gracie asked him later why he liked the cars more than the living, talking characters we meet in the parks he explained, “Because they look like the real ones.” It bothered Tyler when the princesses and other characters didn’t look exactly like he thought his favorite cartoon characters should.

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One of the neatest parts of this area was the pool that looked like Sally’s Cozy Cones Motel with giant traffic cones serving as pool cabanas. It was very cute.

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The boys loved this short stop on our Disney road trip.

As Mater would say, “They were happier ‘n a tornado in a trailer park!” :)

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On our way out we stopped in the lobby to get some fun photos with the animation sketches that decorated the walls.

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A magical resort for sure!

Enjoy the ride!

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“Life is like a roller coaster. You can either scream every time there is a bump or you can throw your hands up and enjoy the ride!”

Here are some of the rides we enjoyed this week :)

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Test Track at Epcot

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Dinosaur at Animal Kingdom

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Rock ‘n’ Roller coaster at Hollywood Studios

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Tower of Terror at Hollywood Studios

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Space Mountain at Magic Kingdom

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Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin at Magic Kingdom

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Space Mountain at Magic Kingdom

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Splash Mountain at Magic Kingdom

We hope you have enjoyed riding with us!

Today is our final day in Orlando before we trek home…what a ride it has been!!!

“The Wilderness Must Be Explored!”

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“A Wilderness Explorer is a friend to all, be it plants or fish or tiny mole.” – Wilderness Explorers Pledge

Yesterday was our second day at Animal Kingdom and the kids participated in a super cool explorer program taken from the movie UP. They became Wilderness Explorers for the day. When we saw multiple booths labeled with the Wilderness Explorers seal we just had to stop and ask about it. After hearing how the program worked the kids were eager to become Wilderness Explorers just like Russell.

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They began by receiving handbooks.

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The handbooks contained requirements needed to earn 30 different badges around Animal Kingdom park including:

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A music badge, insect badge, tracking badge.,ham radio badge, Mt. Everest badge, currency badge, and dinosaur badge… among others.

Molly immediately embraced the idea of getting all 30 badges before the park closed and encouraged the others to be equally committed. The others wanted to be more casual Wilderness Explorers and just earn badges as they worked their way around the park revisiting the rides and shows they enjoyed last time. That is what we ended up doing and they earned about half the badges over the course of the day.

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The stations were so well done, with fascinating information being shared at each stop. I learned as much as the kids as we visited the different spots. It was especially fascinating visiting the badge stations for certain countries that were run by cast members from those countries. We were able to ask questions and learn so much about a variety of cultures as we traveled around the park.

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Often the requirements to earn a badge required performing a task or seeking out a clue in the area. On the safari ride the kids had to listen closely to the safari guide for a certain secret word that they had to record in their books.

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Other stops were more science focused. At the insect station the kids learned that the reason that Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches hiss is because it is a natural defense against the lemurs who love to eat them. By hissing they can scare away the lemurs who are fearful of the snakes that make the same sound. Who knew…right?!

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Halfway through the day we ran into fellow Wilderness Explorers… Russell and Dug!

"Keep calm and...squirrel!"

“Keep calm and…squirrel!”

"The wilderness must be explored!"

“The wilderness must be explored!”

After a full day of exploration and adventure it was time to pack up and go to dinner…

Toby thought this looked like our family's road trips.

Toby thought this looked like our family’s road trips.

But first we had to stop for one last Dole Whip.

A frozen pineapple dream in a cup.

One of our favorite Disney treats!

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For dinner we headed over to Animal Kingdom Lodge for an African feast at Boma restaurant.

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Boma desserts...yum!

Boma desserts…yum!

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“Adventure is out there!”

Animal Kingdom- Thanks for the adventure…

Tomorrow we will have a new one!

Final stop- Magic Kingdom :)

Dining with Royalty

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“I am a princess. All girls are. Even if they live in tiny old attics. Even if they dress in rags.  Even if they aren’t pretty, or smart or young. They’re still princesses. All of us. Didn’t you father ever tell you that? Didn’t he?” – The Little Princess

A royal invite!

A royal invite!

Last night my princesses (and princes) dined with Disney royalty. We had dinner reservations for Akershus, a restaurant in Norway (Thank you free Disney dining!). There you are invited to dine on traditional Norwegian dishes like smoked fish, kjottkake, and rice cream dessert in castle-like surroundings.

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When we arrived we were ushered in to meet Belle and have our picture taken with her.

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We were then seated and as the meal was served the princesses worked their way around the room to meet the princes and princesses dining with them. I only stayed long enough to get some photos before I had to excuse myself to stroll around the world showcase while everyone else ate. (My stomach just wasn’t ready for meatballs or smoked salmon.) :)

Here is a look at this royal meal…

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Ariel asked the kids if they had feet and if they had used them a lot today. :) Yes, yes we did!

Ariel asked the kids if they had feet and if they had used them a lot today. :) Yes, yes we have!

Snow white was darling! Our photo mats are officially filled. We can't wait to frame them with a Disney photo when we get home.

Snow White was darling! Our photo mats are officially filled. We can’t wait to frame them with a Disney photo when we get home.

Snow White commented on the fact that Grace was wearing Dopey's favorite color.

Snow White commented on the fact that Grace was wearing Dopey’s favorite color.

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As soon as the food arrived I made my exit. Everyone said it was a wonderful meal...I'll take their word for it :)

As soon as the food arrived I made my exit. Everyone said it was a wonderful meal…I’ll take their word for it :)

 

 

Sea World and sickness

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After sleeping for the last 16 hours I am finally emerging from the land of the dead and can sit upright to type. We have been hit with a killer stomach flu that has worked its way through Molly, Rusty, Ozzie and I in the last 24 hours with Ozzie and I being hit the hardest. Yesterday started out just fine. It was our Sea World day.

A few months ago when Toby decided he wanted to take the kids to Sea World he began looking for deals on the website, Groupon. He found a deal where he could get an annual membership for each of us for less than the cost of a one day ticket. As a result we have a few Sea World days planned into our trip. It was a beautiful day…

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Ozzie was so excited to meet Franklin. He ran up to him shouting, "I had you as a stuffed animal when I was a little kid!"

Ozzie was so excited to meet Franklin. He ran up to him shouting, “I had you as a stuffed animal when I was a little kid!”

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Hold your breath!

Hold your breath!

Grace and Toby loved this rollercoaster that you rode while laying on your belly.

Grace and Toby loved this rollercoaster that you rode while laying on your belly.

Petting sting rays...

Petting sting rays…

The shows were all amazing!

The shows were all amazing!

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This is what happens when you it in the splash zone :)

This is what happens when you sit in the splash zone :)

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Brrrrr

Brrrrr

A beautiful day!

A beautiful day!

We left the park around 4:00 and came back to the hotel to relax, swim, and get ready for dinner. We were really excited about dinner. We had reservations for Ohana. When we took the older kids to Disney three years ago this was our “hands down” favorite meal. We arrived at the Polynesian Resort at 7:30 and were seated at our table. I was feeling a bit out of sorts but as soon as I caught the first sight of food, I lost it. (Literally) I barely made it to the bathroom before the vomiting began. After scaring quite a few people in the bathroom off the idea of eating dinner at Ohana I was finally able to make it back to Toby to let him know he needed to drive me back to the hotel.

Leaving Joy and the older kids at the restaurant, he took me and the little boys with him. He dropped me off and then headed back to dinner with Ozzie. Tyler volunteered to stay with me. He was such a love. We lay in bed watching football as he kept asking me if I needed anything. When I threw as I raced to the bathroom Tyler cleaned up the vomit on the floor for me. His thoughtfulness touched my heart.

Everyone else had a wonderful dinner! Here are pictures Grace took of their Ohana dinner:

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Coconut races...

Coconut races…

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In the middle of the night Ozzie began throwing up and it became a battle for the bathroom, with Toby bouncing back and forth between the two of us. In the morning Ozzie and I stayed put and Ozzie watched The Weather Channel all day while the rest of the family headed to Hollywood Studios for the day. The good news is that Ozzie and I haven’t thrown up in the last few hours. We both still have fevers and aches. I am hoping we rally by tomorrow. I am also praying nobody else catches this bug.

 Joy leaves tomorrow and we have our last Epcot day.

Around the World in…8 Hours!

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Yesterday we were back at Epcot for round two. This time, rather than spending time in future world, we spent our entire day in the World Showcase. It took us 8 hours to travel from Canada to Mexico, taking the most indirect way possible through China, Morocco , France, and a few other countries along the way.

Knowing we were going to spend our day at the World Showcase we took advantage of the fact that is didn’t open until 11:00 am and we slept in. For the first time since vacation began a week ago we weren’t up with the birds. It was needed. The day before we spent the day at Magic Kingdom. The crowds had been minimal up until that point but the combination of it being a Saturday, being Magic Kingdom and not one of the other parks, as well as it having “magic hours” until 1:00 am made it a crowded place. It was also our hottest day since arriving in Florida. Halfway through the day the heat got to be too much for Miss Molly so I took her back to the hotel where she napped for three hours. When she woke up she felt better so we returned to meet up with the family.

That night we didn’t arrive home until 12:30 am. Everyone was exhausted so it worked out well that we didn’t need to be at the park the next day until 11:00. Everyone slept in until 9:00 am and woke up feeling much better.

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When we arrived at the park we began our adventure on the right side of the lagoon in Canada. Our first stop was the kids’ area where they all decorated fans to have stamped as they traveled around the world to the different nations. The boys also had their coins with them so that they could have a penny pressed from each country.

Decorating fans...

Decorating fans…

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Our first stop was Canada, where watched “O Canada,” a 360 circle vision film about Canada. This was also our first food stop of the day.

With our dining plan we receive 7 free snacks a day for our family. We have been saving the bulk of those free snacks for our “nations day” so that we could eat our way around the world. Stealing a friend’s idea, we bought a sampling of food from each country and each tried a bite. This became our lunch/dinner for the day.

In Canada we had maple sugar candy.

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Our next stop was the United Kingdom. Here we stopped for a bit to watch a great interactive comedy troupe called “The World Showcase Players.”

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Our food was fish and chips, which was enjoyed by everyone except Miss Molly.

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We also met Alice…

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The next nation in our trip around the world was France. This is the country we ended up spending the most time in, due in part to “Agent P’s World Showcase Adventure.” We stopped at the booth where the kids received a transmitter and a mission to perform. We chose to do ours in France. The kids loved it!

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Other activities in France included shopping…

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Trying perfume samples…

This perfume is the first in the world made entirely out of food and no flower extracts.

This perfume is the first in the world made entirely out of food and no flower extracts.

And of course eating. You just can’t visit France and not try the delicious French pastries. Here we bought a Napoleon, Citron, Mousse Au Chocolat, and an Éclair. When Ozzie bit into the Éclair he said, ” Mmmm, I think this is better than a twinkie.” That is a high compliment coming from Ozzie. :)

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Morocco was the next stop on our tour.

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Here we feasted on baklava…Yum!!

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Japan was next…

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When we arrived at Japan Toby informed the girls that he had a surprise for us. Here, at the Japan pavilion, you can “pick a pearl.” Toby paid for Gracie, Molly, Joy and I to each pick an oyster and get a pearl. The entire process was a lot of fun. We all made our choices and our treasures were revealed one by one.

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Our treasures...

Our treasures…

In Japan we decided that rather than buying a food we would try some traditional Japanese drinks instead. (Everyone was thirsty) Some were better than others. :)

Rusty didn't like that one :)

Rusty didn’t like that one :)

Our next nation was the United States. This marked the halfway point in our journey. Here we had the joy of listening to the “Voices of Liberty,” (they were amazing!) and watching a show called, “The American Adventure.”

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Here we dined on funnel cakes, of course!

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Our next country was Italy. This was a quick stop. We only stayed long enough to get our Italian lemon ice and keep on walking…

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The next stop was…Germany!

As we were walking around Germany I was telling the kids about living there as a child. Halfway through my description Ozzie interrupted me with the question, “So, how’d you like living in China?”

I’m so glad my children listen to me when I talk. :)

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Here we feasted on pretzels.

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Next stop was China. We knew we wanted to watch the Jeweled Dragon Acrobats so we found a seat before the show began while Toby went to pick up our snack for China- eggrolls.

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As we were leaving look who we met…

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By this point in our journey we had two nations left.

In Norway we had lefse to eat which was rolled flat bread with butter, cinnamon and sugar.

The big hit at this nation was the Maelstrom ride.

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Momma's little Vikings.

Momma’s little Vikings.

And our final stop…drumroll please…Mexico!

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Here we rode “Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros” and ate nachos.

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By this time it was almost 8:00 pm. Everyone was ready to put their feet up. Every wonder how many miles it is from Canada to Mexico…10.3 miles. You thought it would be more, didn’t you?!

Well it felt like more. :)

It was a good day.

“I want to travel the world with you: go to every country, every city, take pictures and be happy.”

Ohana means family

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“Ohana means family. Family means nobody gets left behind or forgotten.”

Such a simple quote from a charming Disney movie but for one of my kids, one that lives in fear of being left behind or forgotten, the message is profound and promising.

The fear never leaves. Even in the middle of a fairy tale vacation he worries that this will all end if he messes up. Just yesterday as he sat with me in a time out in the parking lot of the Polynesian Resort (because of a big temper tantrum) he said to me, Now you’re going to get rid of me, aren’t you?”

The lesson of ‘Ohana is one that will be hoped for until it is believed. And for Ozzie, believing that this is forever and that family never gets left behind or forgotten is going to take time and testing. He tests us with his worst behavior and we remain…we do not walk away…and with time he will believe.

Yesterday we had breakfast at ‘Ohana. It was a character breakfast with Lilo and Stich.

When we arrived we waited to be seated.

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We were soon called in by the hostess. She walked us to the table while explaining the meaning behind the word, ‘Ohana, and how the meal is served. Then the feast began. The food was served family style with platters of food being placed in the middle of the table. You could then dish up what you like. They kept refilling until you had to be rolled out of the restaurant.  :) The food was delicious!

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They served:

Hua Paka.: scrambled eggs

Uala Kahiki: fried potatoes

Pua’a: pork sausage and bacon

As well as sweet breads, fruit, and Mickey Waffles!

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My favorite part of the meal was the juice. It was so good…

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Tyler’s favorite part of the meal were the scrambled eggs. Can you tell?

Serving number three.

Serving number three.

Once we were settled and enjoying our breakfast the characters began making their rounds…

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Ohana means family!

‘Ohana means family!

We will be heading back to ‘Ohana in a few days for dinner, but until then…

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“I believe in Aloha and kindness,

‘Ohana first, and meaningful friendships,

counting my blessings, and giving to others.

I choose to see the good in life even during times of struggle.

I am grateful for the life I have and all the wonderful people who make this journey with me.”