I’m seriously so grateful to Andy’s mom for watching our kids so we could escape for a week! They had a great time and at one point, my mother-in-law said, “Harvey’s been an angel!” Not sure what I’ve been doing wrong, but they were great for grandma! Which I was super happy about, because it made for a worry-free getaway. Max told our next-door neighbor that “It’s been so easy since my mom’s been gone!” I was a little confused by that, so I had to ask what he meant. “Everything is already made! All I have to do is open the fridge and grab what I need for breakfast and lunches!” So what he meant was I made it super easy for them while I was away. I made a bunch of freezer meals, packaged snacks for lunches, bought premade breakfasts, so it turned out to be a big help. My MIL said that most mornings Max was up before her and had everybody’s lunches and breakfasts made. I asked Max how much I owed him for helping out so much and he said, “Nothing.” So I may be winning with one kid. Harvey has been a bit of a handful since we’ve been home, he just seems really tired, so hopefully a few nights of good sleep and he’ll be back to new. All my kids loved having time with grandma and she didn’t threaten to not come back for next year’s trip, so I think it was a win for everyone.
Andy and I had a blast in Orlando. We started the week off at Teatro Martini. This is not me recommending the event, but we did have fun. I was warned there were a few raunchy jokes and that there would be circus acts and dancing. Well, they didn’t disappoint in those areas, but the circus acts were a bit more… risqué than the reviews had led me to believe. There was a very athletic female… pole dancer (don’t worry, she had something resembling clothes on) followed by (I think) her partner who offered a costume change on stage and then showed us his athleticism with two rope trapeze type handles. The costume he did the act in didn’t leave much to the imagination, so my good friend Steph and I spent a lot of time slinking into our sweaters and looking at each other awkwardly, but the food was good, and the rest of the night was pleasant and not morally surprising. They had a charity gambling event outside of the show and we donated twenty dollars to their charity (fighting against bullying) and learned how to play craps and roulette. Roulette was a lot of fun and we could’ve played with the money we started with all night, but when we switched to craps we were out of our chips within minutes, which was fine, because we were all tired and needed rest for our full day at Universal Studios.
Andy invited his good friend, Matthew Wood and his wife, Stephanie, to join us on our getaway for the first two days. It was fun to have them and made waiting in lines go by faster. Despite there being lines, they weren’t horrendous even though it was a Saturday. The longest wait time was probably around an hour, but most were 15 minutes or less. We rode Gringotts twice! It was probably one of our favorite rides. Honestly, just being immersed in the setting of Harry Potter world was incredible. I really enjoyed the surprising twists in Hagrid’s ride, got a little motion sick during Harry Potter’s forbidden journey, tweaked my neck on the Hulk, raised my heart rate at Velociraptor, spent a moment in Hogsmeade with a frozen butterbeer and ate at the Three Broomsticks. Universal uses a lot of 4d experiences to help you feel totally immersed in a new world. Even though Velocicoaster was TERRIFYING, I ended up really liking it and during our three days at Universal we made sure we went on it every day. Though it takes you upside down, sideways, over the top of park guests, and jets off in two places, it was quite a smooth ride and by my third time, my heart rate only got into the 80’s. My honest assessment of “The Leaky Cauldron” and the “Three Broomsticks” (two different Harry Potter themed restaurants in the parks) was that the food was mediocre, but the ambiance was worth it. I did have the thought that it might just be authentic, because the British are not known for adding enough spice in their dishes. I got the Shepherds pie at Three Broomsticks and a chicken sandwich at Leaky Cauldron. While the chicken sandwich didn’t sound too adventurous, it was probably the best flavored thing I ate between the two restaurants, but the chicken was overcooked. (I guess better that than undercooked). Andy and I also split a deep fried boiled egg, which is called a “Scotch Egg.” It came with pickled beats and a delicious mustardy sauce, that was probably the best thing I ate at the park. Andy got the Banger (an English sausage on a bun) and Fish and Chips. I think he really enjoyed his. We also were able to grab a soft serve Butterbeer ice cream in Diagon Alley which was delightful. I was so tempted to buy all the sweets at their candy shop because of the nostalgia, but the prices were quite ridiculous so I resisted until the very last day when I snagged a chocolate frog. I talked to Cait about it and we both agreed that the frog needs to be a third the size, and it should be a gummy dipped in chocolate with a spring that makes the frog bounce out when you open the packaging, but of course they design it for the most money earned, not the most magic created. Which brings me to a fun little moment Saturday evening when we got to hug Caitlyn and Dallin before we left the park. They had evening passes and we had day. But it was so good to give her a quick hug before we parted ways.
Our friends, the Woods left Sunday evening. We enjoyed playing board games with them after church before we had to drop them off for their flight home. We attended church at the local congregation and were blessed with some beautiful testitmonies from people from all over the world. Orlando must be a pretty diverse melting pot.
Andy and I chose to eat just outside the park for one of the days we went on their City Walk. We ate at Cowfish. It was very delicious and about the same price as park food, but definitely more worthy of that price. We had sushi and a mini hamburger in a bento box with edamame, sweet potato fries, and a delectable vinegar cucumber salad. We finished our last night out at a rotating sushi bar. It was such a fun experience, pretty good sushi, and not too badly priced. We tried Sea urchin (never again), fish eggs, octopus, raw scallops, salmon, eel, and a couple of other pieces. The coolest part was picking it off the conveyor belt and having a robot bring us our drinks. What a world we live in.
Monday we went to the hunger games movie and did some shopping at Trader Joes since we don’t have one up here. Tuesday/Wednesday were park days and then we used Thursday as a recovery day before heading back on Friday. We did miniature golfing, paddle boating, painting, and relaxing on Thursday. It was a lot of fun, but the biggest perk for me was having one on one time with Andy without work, church, or family obligations. We hadn’t had that for this long since before kids.
We made it back an hour later than I wanted to (I didn’t calculate traffic and Tesla charge times well enough) but the kids were still excited to see us when we walked through the door, though Harvey must’ve missed the memo because he didn’t come down till we called him, and then he ran down the stairs and gave me a big ol’ bear hug. I was gone long enough that I missed my kids and was super excited to be with them again. I hope they felt the same way. We got to spend some time with Mom before she headed back this morning, we know she sacrificed a lot by being here and had a lot to do when she made it home, we’re just super grateful she was willing to come. We grabbed a stuffy for the kids and pjs from Bucc-ees and didn’t know how much Harvey would LOVE his. He wore it for twenty-four hours straight and threw a fit when I told him it was time to wash it, then another fit when I told him he couldn’t wear it to church today. But it’s pretty darn cute on him.