Saturday, November 22, 2008

Sunday...Do we really have to go home?

If you were a fly on the wall the morning after the birthday festivities, you would have gotten an earful. The conversational topics consisted of such things as...

"Do we really have to leave today?"

"I wonder if it really will take Francis a week to get home?"

"This was the best birthday, evah!"

"I loved that chocolate cupcake that Paige and Alberto gave to me. The frosting was amazing!"

"Can't we just stay another day?"

"I can't believe Francis was hanging out with Grammy! What do you think she did when she opened the door and found him standing there?"

"I had the best time with our friends last night, but I don't think I'll ever get that Kitchen Sink again. That was too much ice cream!"

Insert a shocked look by both parents. Too much ice cream? What is this 'too much ice cream' that she speaks of? Did someone take our child and replace her with another?

"Do we really have to go home today?"

As you can see, no one wanted to go home. This had been a trip to remember, and we didn't want it to end. Unfortunately though, Mark was needed back at work the next day. If I didn't get him back there, I don't think his boss would ever let him go away with his girls again. He might think that we were a bad influence! LOL!

Before we left the room, Renee posed with the birthday card and balloons that Minnie had left for her the day before.

Sigh...she just looks so grown up in that photo, doesn't she?

After loading the van, Renee decided that she wanted to spend her last day in Epcot. She was disappointed that we didn't get to 'Eat Around the World' the way we had planned to. If we spent our afternoon there, she just may be able to sample some new foods!

Side note: We did a ton of mobile food blogging that afternoon. If you are interested in seeing what we sampled, feel free to hop back to the month of October. You'll find it there!

Renee remembered that there had been a pear exhibit last year right in front of the American Pavilion. She wanted to see if they were still giving out the little coins like they did last year, so we made our way over there.

Woo-hoo! It was there again! And you know that the three of us couldn't walk by these cutouts without stopping for some silliness. First up, the 'Proper Princess' Renee.

Agrrrrr. You've realized by now that he really is a pirate, right?

And how funny is this?

Our dear friend, Danny, has been calling me 'Mare Pare' for some time now. Quite fitting, don't you think?

After learning all about pears, Renee wanted to stop by to see if her friends were performing with the Voices of Liberty that afternoon. As we walked inside the American Adventure to look for them, she struck up a conversation with a Cast Member. Before we knew it, we were being whisked upstairs and honored as 'Family of the Day'!

Renee is holding some of those pear coins that she was given at the pear exhibit. I think she wanted her Grammy to know that she didn't line anyone pockets to end up in such high places!

Look at them.

Family of the day, indeed.

Just don't look at the mobile photos I blogged that day. I seem to remember a certain someone being silly and displaying some 'not so perfect' behavior.


When the Voices of Liberty came out, we were all excited to see that Renee's friends were performing that afternoon!

And then, in a total surprise to us, they looked up at the balcony and began to sing.

Sniff, sniff.

After this trip, I think Mark should be working for a tissue company.

After a quick hello, Krista had to head back to work. Jay hung around for a little while though and posed for a photo with Miss Renee.

As we made our way outside, I had to laugh when Mark yelled, "Voices of Liberty rock!"

And you know what? They do, in their own special way.


And, most importantly, they make Renee smile even bigger than you could ever imagine. So to Krista, Jay, and everyone else, thank you for what you do.

Oh, and you so do rock.


Off to see some friends in Morocco.

Earlier, while over in the New Orleans exhibit, we had picked up a few extra necklaces for Jasmine and Aladdin.

Yup. I think they liked them.

It was beginning to get a little late in the afternoon, but there was a new attraction over in Innoventions that we really wanted Mark to experience.

'Slap Stick Studios' proudly presented by Velcro would like to know...What's Your Problem?!

Looks like their problem is that nobody is there to give them their tickets!

I guess they were cute enough to not need tickets. Once inside the theatre, guess who was chosen to participate in this amazing game show?


And did you know that Velcro is the brand name of the product? It's really called 'hook and loop'. Never knew that!

When they spun the 'Wheel of Seemingly Insurmountable Problems', they were lucky (or not!) to have it land on 'Pack it On'.

Now I can't remember whether Mark's humongous cape was the hook or loop part, but either way, he looked pretty darn incredible in it.

Then Renee had to try to stick as many travel items as she possibly could to Mark's amazing cape!

Just watch. You'll love it!

I really have to learn how to keep my hand steady while shooting video of something that is making me laugh. Between Francis' phone call the day before and their frantic packing this afternoon, my hand was all over the place!

After making and dressing a really cool (FREE!) Velcro frog outside of the theatre, we decided to head over towards one of Renee's favorite attractions.

A little 'Where's the Fire?', anyone?

And just to warn you, if you ever have the opportunity to play Renee in this game, she will totally kick your butt!

Before we headed back over to the World Showcase, Renee really wanted Mark to see Innoventions' 'Smart House'. We timed it perfectly, because a new tour was about to head inside!
In this house, there's an awesome room that has a bunch of electronic musical instruments. Why didn't they have these when we were growing up?

Of course, they had a drum set. The one instrument that Mark always threatens Grammy with that Renee will one day play.

Guess who was handed the pair of drumsticks?

I think Mark was jealous that he didn't get to play them, too!

As we made our way back towards the World Showcase, we stopped to enjoy the hidden beauty that makes Epcot what it is.

We are always sad to leave, but we thought that one last visit with Aladdin and Jasmine might just help a little.

We also thought it would be fun to surprise them with the Velcro frogs we had made. I don't think they have things like this in Agrabah.

Aren't they cute?

Because it was beginning to get dark, Jasmine, Aladdin, and Genie were about to head inside. Renee was quickly whisked away in their little group, and Mark and I happily followed along.

Jasmine's body language may say that she is mad (the classic hands on the hips pose!), but I can assure you that she wasn't. She was quite happy that Aladdin was giving Princess Renee the royal treatment, and smiled through the whole thing!

When we walked inside and gave Aladdin the Velcro frogs, he came up with his own use for them. He decided to stick them on Genie.

Things got a little crazy after that when Aladdin figured they might look better as a bikini top.

As you can see, Renee is pretty amused!

I guess I'll have to admit that I was the one who sent it over the top. I figured that my red hair would make a perfect Ariel wig for Genie, and he really seemed to enjoy dressing up. Just look at his smile!

Renee, on the other hand, couldn't even look at the camera. She was either laughing hysterically, or totally embarrassed by my behavior.

We shared a sad goodbye, and walked towards the front of Morocco.

Another beautiful sunset, and this one would have to last us until our next visit.

As we walked towards the gates, Mark and I came to a quick conclusion. We both know that Renee is pretty smart, but she is getting quite crafty, too. As of late, she has come up with cleverly disguised plans at delaying our departure for home. This could come as a request to stop and browse through a store, the cry of hunger, or even a reminder to us that we forgot to fulfill a promise we had made to her earlier in the trip.

Ding, ding, ding! We have a winner, folks! Mark and I had promised Renee she could fill one of those pixie stick tubes at the beginning of our vacation, and we couldn't go back on a promise.

Hmmm. Does it look like she was winking at me?

I'm sure she was secretly patting herself on the back. She had put off our departure for at least another 20 minutes, and I think she was quite proud.

As we made our way around the Boardwalk, these are the faces that looked at me.

Sad, aren't they?

I, on the other hand, had to keep a happy smile on my face. Inside I was crying, but someone needed to keep the group's spirits up!

In another attempt to extend her amazingly wonderful birthday trip, Miss Renee curled up on one of the couches that flank the entrance to the Yacht Club.

What she didn't take into consideration is that she can still be carried.

Even against her will.

Which, if under the right circumstances, can turn into a tickle war that will make anyone smile.


It was pretty tough driving off property. Maybe it was the kindness of others, the joy in Renee's smile, or possibly the amazing memories we had made that made it so hard to leave this time.

As I drove towards Georgia, I knew one thing for sure. Although we will return soon, this family trip will remain in our hearts forever.

See you real soon...

Friday, November 21, 2008

Saturday...It's Renee's 9th Birthday!

It's Saturday!

And, it's Renee's birthday. Woo-hoo, time to celebrate!

The next shocking thought?


Our little girl is only one year away from the double digits! How did that happen?

Once we caught our breath from that little dose of reality, it was time to begin our day of park hopping. Our Dream Team friend, Anastasia, had let us know that she would be leaving surprises for Miss Renee at every park. It was our goal to find all of them, even though it would mean an awful lot of running around.

First stop? Magic Kingdom!

Because she was a Star/Princess, she made sure to bring along her bodyguard.

I bet if I blew him a kiss that he would let me in for a closer photo.

See? It worked! He must have a thing for red-heads.

Although Disney World now has one birthday button for all the parks, there was a time that you could collect a different button for almost every park. This was because the Magic Kingdom and MGM Studios shared a button, and honestly, I have never been able to figure that one out. ;)

Either way, if you look closely, you will see that her purple birthday princess sash is totally adorned with buttons. I pulled out all the buttons we had collected over the years and attached them anywhere I could find a bare spot. There was no way that anyone would miss the fact that she was celebrating something special!

We made our way over to Guest Services and found our first surprise of the day. Waiting for us was an envelope with a special pass to visit the princesses!

Cinderella greeted her first. Considering that Cindy is all about the bling, I think she was quite impressed with Renee's adornment.

The beautiful Belle was next, and she wanted to know what books Renee had read recently. I think she was very happy to hear that we were reading through the Mary Poppins series. She are Mary are good friends, you know.

Aurora wanted to teach Renee the proper princess pose. I think she did a wonderful job, don't you?

In a moment any parent of a little girl would love, all the princesses gathered around her for the perfect photograph.

But they didn't want to let her go! They wanted to know all about her future plans for the day. Mark and I just stood there in awe of the moment. I don't think we could have been any more happy!

But wait! By the look of that smile on her face, I think Renee may have beat our happiness quota by a mile!

Although we needed to make our way over to MGM...I mean, Disney's Hollywood Studios...we had a hungry birthday girl on our hands. We would have taken her anywhere, but she chose the Columbia Harbor House right there in the Magic Kingdom. I don't think it's the chicken nuggets that pull her in. What she loves is the malt vinegar that they conveniently place on their condiment islands. We all know it is meant for the fish and chips, but our girl marches to the beat of her own drummer. Drizzle it on, girl! If I can say so myself, chicken nuggets and fries are pretty darn tasty splashed with the malty stuff!

Our tummies full, we made our way over to The Park of Which We Refuse to Call by its New Name. Our next surprise was waiting for us at Guest Services. Anastasia had left a special pass for us to see Fantasmic that night without having to wait in line! Woo-hoo!

Dancing down the street, we headed over to watch some of our favorite Streetmosphere performers. What happened next is something that you just have to see with your own eyes.

Taking a moment to wipe the happy, happy tears from my eyes.

Sigh...wasn't that just something?

Although Francis was still in Georgia trying to brush the cobwebs off his face, Paige was more than happy to pose for a quick photo with the birthday girl.

And then, being the amazing director that he is, Alberto Dante set up the 'perfect' shot.

Thank you, Paige, Francis, and Alberto. You made Miss Renee's birthday so special for her, and we will be forever grateful for that. You make The Park of Which We Refuse to Call by its New Name what it is. Toy Story Mania rocks, but you rock even more.


We had more parks to hit, but Renee wanted to stick around to see some more Streetmo. Ready Freddie Fiddlesticks joined Paige and Alberto for the annual stockholder meeting of 'In the Can Pictures'.

Then, how could we leave when they were just about to start the Funniest Citizen of Hollywood Contest?

"99 (insert object here) walk into a bar, and the bartender says..."

Poor LeRoy Small was stumped by an audience member's suggestion for the "99" object. Especially after one of the other Citizens stole his joke!

After their set, we looked at our watches. We couldn't believe the time! We had plans that evening to play miniature golf, and we suddenly realized that our friends would be meeting us at the same time that Fantasmic would be showing. We were so appreciative that Anastasia had arranged for us to see it, and we felt terrible that the surprise would go to waste. What to do, what to do?

I am so honored and proud to say that Renee came up with her own solution to our problem. She parked herself right near the entrance to the Studios and began to look for a family of three (just like us!) to bestow the gift of reserved Fantasmic seating upon.

I am laughing as I type this because I think when she ran up to this family and yelled, "Wait!" it must have scared them senseless! They looked at us like we were nuts (I'm not debating that at this moment, so just hush!), and sort of backed away as we walked towards them. Once Renee flashed that smile of hers though, all was well.

Now I will have to admit that I am getting sort of misty as I type this part of the story. This family had never seen Fantasmic, had always wanted to, and it was the last night of their vacation. They would be heading back to Alaska in the morning, and weren't sure when they would be back to WDW again. Of all the people walking through those gates, Renee picked the perfect family.


Later on, she told us that their smiles made her feel so good. I think that's a pretty awesome birthday gift, don't you?

Now that we shared some magic, we realized that we were running out of day. This would mean making a choice between heading over to Animal Kingdom or to Epcot. Since Animal Kingdom would only be open for another hour, we chose Epcot. The sunset that greeted us as we walked towards the gates was just breathtaking.

Mark and I would personally like to thank the person who placed the order for Renee's birthday sunset. It was just lovely.

We headed directly to Guest Services to pick up Renee's final surprise. Poor Anastasia. Although she had left passes for us to ride Test Track, what she didn't know was that Renee won't go anywhere near it. Thrill ride to Renee means putting your hands in the air while you are riding the tram-LOL!

I think Anastasia would be happy to know that Renee gifted another family of three with a trip to the front of Test Track's line. None of her surprises would go to waste on this special day, that's for sure!

We spent a little time in Innoventions, and realized it was time to head over to Winter Summerland to meet our friends for some mini-golf. Before we left, Mark captured a photo of his two girls.

Then I had to get Mark and his mini-me together.

And then, someone felt bad for us and offered to take a photo of the Badelves three. Although my camera was misbehaving, this turned out better than the Photopass picture we had stopped for earlier!

After a short drive down the road, we arrived at our destination.

I promise this isn't Mark and Renee in the backseat of our van. I DO NOT drive like a crazy woman, no matter what anyone says!

After waiting for a bit, everyone trickled in and we could begin our game. The Birthday Princess and her bodyguard were ready and raring to go!

Golf by Renee.

At least she has progressed beyond just walking to the hole and dropping the ball in! LOL!

We knew this would be an interesting game when Nick got 'down and dirty' to check out the perfect shot.

I guess you can tell by Angie and Nick's shivering that we were playing the 'Winter' side of Winter Summerland.

Renee, forever a Princess Elf, practiced the pose that Aurora taught her earlier in the day.

Although a perfect Princess, she was not afraid to get her hands dirty to help to feed her elfkin family.

But what is this? Why was she fishing when there was a cooler filled to the brim with cookies, candy canes, and plenty of milk to wash it all down?

Oh, look. Mark, Renee, and Kelley are welcoming Nick, Danny, and Angie to their elfkin trailer. And they brought refreshments, too!

Do you think Renee let them know that she cleared out that cooler earlier? ;)

After some visiting, it was time to warm up by the fire. Angie looks a little concerned about all that smoke.

Yes, I realize that you probably can't see it. But it was there, I promise!

Renee, the Princess Elf, has become so famous that she now has to decline autographs from the fans who have lined up to see her.

Poor Danny. He blew out his flip-flop, which made getting the perfect shot very difficult. Maybe he could crouch just a little lower?

Just then, we heard something crashing through the brush and hid in fear. When we dared to take a peek, we realized it was our friend, Mike. He's the most quiet guy you'll ever meet, but he sure knows how to make an entrance! Sadly, I was too frightened to get a photo of that.

What? It could have been Bigfoot or something!

I think the people behind us offered to take the next photo because they were afraid we would never leave this hole. The little drawbridge that went up and down was really exciting to certain people in our group!

Nope. Not tellin' who it was. No way, no how.


At that point I looked at my watch (wasn't this a recurring theme of the day?) and realized if we completed all 18 holes that we would never make it over to Beaches and Cream.

I must interrupt this story to explain how important Beaches and Cream was to Miss Princess Elf Renee. (Wow-was that a mouthful!) All she had been talking about doing on her birthday was sharing a Kitchen Sink with her Florida friends. The mini-golf had been a last minute addition to the festivities, but the Kitchen Sink was it, baby. The highlight of her day! Although I knew she would be disappointed that we wouldn't be able to finish our golf game, I knew that she would be even more upset if she didn't get to dig into that Kitchen Sink.

There were some tears shed as we discussed this dilemma, but the thought of not getting that ice cream was enough to dry them up-LOL! As we made our way towards the 18th hole, I saw the perfect photo opportunity for Mark.

If you knew what a ski bum he used to be, it would all make sense to you.

Since Renee was the Birthday Princess Elf, she got to make the rules. Before we left, we had to stop at her favorite hole.

First, you hit (or drop, as you can see by this photo!) the balls into the hole.

Then, you watch patiently has the balls travel up the North Hole and are spit out from the top. Just make sure you aren't standing directly underneath!

After a promise to Renee to return on a future trip to play all the holes, we turned in our clubs and made our way towards our cars. Of course, there had to be one more silly photo.

Mark and Renee make the cutest reindeer, don't they?

We almost didn't make it to Beaches and Cream on time. Somehow, we all ended up parking in different areas, and we were so worried that they wouldn't seat us if we weren't together. Luck was on our side though, and we all arrived at the entrance on time.

Renee always says that Beaches and Cream is a place that her Grammy would have gone to when she was a teenager, and I have to agree with her. Burgers, fries, and ice cream sodas are all on the menu-this is not a place to visit if you are on a diet!

We had only planned on that Kitchen Sink, but everyone was starving after our intense (Ha!) golf game. We filled our tummies with some real food, and then moved on to the highlight of the day...The Beaches and Cream birthday serenade and the delivery of the Kitchen Sink.

Then she got a special phone call from Goofy!

Look at this.

Although I can't remember everything that was in that bowl, I do recall something like 8 different kinds of ice cream, oreos, brownies, angel food cake, sprinkles, hot fudge, bananas, strawberry, pineapple, whipped cream and cherries. That's a lot of delicious goodness!

Time to serve all her guests.

I promised not to show photos of the carnage, so you'll just have to use your imagination for that.

Oh my, there is still some left?

Hey, should we try to finish it?

Renee seems to have changed her mind after all. I think she's going to go for it! And Mark? I think his face expresses his thoughts on the matter quite clearly!

Ooops. I think Renee has had enough. Maybe I should try to take one for the team and attempt one more spoonful?

That was it for me, thanks. Not...another...bite.

Matter in fact, I can't even look at it anymore!

Miss Renee found an even better use for the remaining melted mess. Chocolate manicure, anyone?

Looks like Mark is even up for that! LOL!

What an absolutely, amazing day. This photo just sums it up for me. Great friends, good times, and happy smiles.

So thank you, Danny...

and Nick...

and Angie...

and Mike....

and Kelley...

and of course, the guy who gave her that little twinkle in her eye.

Having you there with her in the attempt to try to devour the Kitchen Sink was an experience she will never forget.


And now, if you don't mind, a little reflection from me...the woman who gave life to the Birthday Princess.

Mark and I know we are so lucky to have such a sweet, loving, little girl. She has brought so many special people into our life! I'm sure that if it wasn't for her enthusiatic joy and spirit, we never would have met any of the wonderful people who made this day so special for her.

So to everyone, everywhere, who made Renee's 9th birthday so amazing, thank you so very much. And I know Mark won't mind me speaking for him when I also thank you for loving our little girl as much as we do. It means more than you'll ever know.

Happy Birthday, Renee.

We hope your 9th birthday was everything you'd dreamed about...and more!