Animal Kingdom!

Monday morning came very early, thanks to Extra Magic Hours at Animal Kingdom. The kids were super excited to see some animals, and the adults were… awake. Which was saying a lot.

We made our way to Kilimanjaro safaris first and were on one of the first trucks out. I think we saw all of the animals that we expected to see, and our driver made sure to find a couple of giraffes for Kendall, who was hoping to see one. (Disney delivers, y’all.)

The boys made a beeline for Expedition Everest as soon as we were done, and the rest of us took a leisurely stroll in the same direction they were heading in, stopping along the way to watch as monkeys, uncaged, were swinging through the trees! (Surely there had to be cages, but I couldn’t find them.) It didn’t take long until Chris and Wes were back with news that the standby line on Everest was walk on, and Kerry and Gramps went back with them, leaving Chicken Gram and Chicken Jenn with the kids. We played an interesting game of “I Spy” while waiting, and every other answer was Ana’s stroller. True story.

From there, we headed to Dinoland USA, where Chris and Wes went to go ride Dinosaur, while the rest of the crew went to ride Triceratop Spin. A character greeting with Pluto followed, then some playtime at the Boneyard playground, and then we were in line for the Finding Nemo musical. This was our first time to see it, and I’m embarrassed to admit that I kept tearing up. I can’t watch the Nemo movie now without thinking about a very young and tiny little Ana holding a pretend baby fish in her hand and whispering, “Don’t worry — Daddy’s got ya,” so seeing it live and onstage was just as tear-inducing. Sniff, sniff. I’m not sure if the kids loved the show as much as the adults did!

Believe it or not, by this time it was already time for lunch. How does time pass so quickly when you’re having fun at Disney then drag on so unmercifully while you’re waiting in long lines for Dumbo? (A question for the ages.) The family opted to eat outdoors by Flame Tree BBQ, but since there was nothing on the menu that our girls would eat, I walked over to Pizzafari to pick something up. (Which, if you know me, wasn’t really a sacrifice since I LOVE Pizzafari.) I almost got lost going and coming back because I have absolutely no sense of direction in Animal Kingdom. Too many bridges! Too much greenery! Too many people! Thankfully, I found my way to the family (after providing great advertisement for Pizzafari, as everyone who walked by me breathed all over my pizza, asked “where did you get that?!,” and hightailed it over there when I said, “Why, Pizzafari, of course!”), and as we ate, we decided to go to the Maharajah Jungle Trek next. Ana loves the tigers there, and we were able to get up close to the glass and see them. Connor was also very interested in them and found himself a stuffed tiger at a stand outside of the trail. Gram and Gramps took it to the cashier to buy it for him, and Ana followed Gramps with a tiger of her own, prompting Emma to weep and say, “I wanna tiger, too!” Kendall was the only one to stay strong and hold out for a souvenir she had already picked out at the Magic Kingdom.

Our last stop at Animal Kingdom was the Festival of the Lion King. Oh, y’all, if anyone had told me, eighteen year old college freshman and theater major that I was fourteen (!!!) years ago, that there are actual legitimate jobs that you can get in live theater, then I would have run away to Walt Disney World a long time ago. Of course, I’m not an acrobat, I can’t walk on stilts, I don’t sing, and my dancing looks kind of ridiculous, so… hmm… maybe it wouldn’t have worked out so well for me in the end. (Good thing I changed majors and ran away to Africa instead.) All that aside — wow! What a treat to watch so many talented performers putting on such a great show! And the animals! I kept elbowing Wes and hissing, “Watch that lion!” He was some sort of super animatronic character, dancing and singing and moving like a REAL lion! Amazing!

If we were exhausted before the show, we were doubly exhausted afterwards when we walked out into the hot sun. The Faulks made their way to the bus, and Ana told me, as we waited to be picked up, “I feel like I need to die.” Wow. I’ve never heard such an apt description of Disney exhaustion, but, y’all, that’s EXACTLY what four days of hitting Disney full force feels like. Apparently, it was just as bad for the rest of the crew, who ended up on the same bus we did fifteen minutes later. (Yes, didn’t we look foolish waiting all that time for a bus when we could have just spent those extra fifteen minutes playing in the park? Oh, well.)

Once we got back to the hotel, Wes was feeling a little under the weather. So much so that he didn’t think he’d be able to make it to the dinner we had planned at Downtown Disney with my parents while the Gains headed to Cinderella Castle. My parents were actually relieved when I told them we would just have dinner the hotel food court and nix the Downtown Disney trip… but they put on enthusiastic faces when, after dinner, I told them that I REALLY wanted to take the girls to the big Disney store down there but would need help. Way to take one for the team, Gram and Gramps!

We hit Downtown Disney before sunset, stopping at Pin Traders to buy this year’s pins for the girls. My parents bought the 2011 ones for them, and I let the girls pick out their favorite pin (two different Stitch pins) and a pin from their favorite rides (Small World for Em, Pirates for Ana). I thought Wes was being silly when he picked up pins and lanyards for them on our first trip, but it was actually a great idea. Pins have been such a great souvenir, and there’s a story behind all of them for our girls.

We went on to the World of Disney Store (ie, the biggest Disney store EVER), where the girls spent their souvenir money on THE EXACT SAME THINGS. Oh, well. At least this way there was no coveting one another’s toys because they were exactly the same!

After a moonlight boat ride back to the hotel where Emma very nearly made me lose all of my marbles (she was delirious, y’all), Gram and Gramps volunteered to have the girls sleep in their room. Which I was thrilled to hear given the Delirious Boat Ride of 2011. I was sleeping really well until 3:30am when Ana woke up in Gram and Gramps’ room, complaining that her hair hurt (???) and that she wanted to come back to me. Which she did. Because only Mommy knows how to cure hurt hair.

Would Wes be cured of his illness by morning? Would the lack of sleep slow us down for our first day of Epcot? Would we, the Faulks who are always there when those gates are opened, actually MISS THE EXTRA MAGIC HOURS?!

Guess you’ll have to come back tomorrow to find out!

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