a day at hollywood studios

This is another park we can walk to from The Yacht Club (see why we choose to stay there?). This park also we had heard had the highest wait times because of the lack of shows and just general attractions. So we had a plan. That plan being that I had to get me and mine on Rise of Resistance. It was a must. I knew a little of the process but my sister did most of the research for me.... At 7 a.m. on the dot you can join your virtual boarding group from anywhere, not just at the park. So that was huge for me. Also she had read you should shut down all apps, get off Disney wifi, restart your phone, and just keep refreshing the several seconds before the clock hits 7:00 a.m. Don't even read the screens just keep hitting join (I think I did it like three times?). So it was the most stressful 10 or 20 seconds of my life but we got in! Boarding group number 44! I needed a drink after that pressure!

So then we could relax until it was time to walk over to get in line for Mickey's Runaway Railroad, another attraction that we wanted to hit but knew had to be done first thing unless we wanted to wait, which we don't, because we got spoiled this trip. The line was incredibly short and we got on well before the park even opened. So there's that. Then we headed to Toy Story Land only to be told Slinky Dog was down and would be for quite some time. So we did the other two rides there that were working, Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger and the Swirling Saucers. By the time we were done with them Slinky was up and running and thankfully my sister had already hopped in that line so we joined her without having to wait long at all. So pretty much, the most successful morning ever. 

Then we ate foods. And then we got to go to Galaxy's Edge. And I just cannot put into words how cool this was for us. If you are a Star Wars fan you just need to get yourself there. It is themed to the very max and it really truly feels like you are on another world. Our boarding group was called around one and we just walked right on in there. My sister stayed out with Harrison and Tenley so we scanned a few of our Magic Bands for her to use as a parent swap thing and off we went! This ride is an 18 minute experience. You board a ship as part of the resistance only to be taken hostage by the First Order... and then they interrogate you.... and then you get rescued by the resistance and then you have to escape the ship. I mean I can't. I am not doing it justice. Just know it was amazing. When we got off my sister told us to just use the bands for a second ride since she doesn't care for Star Wars so I took Dom and Letty again, as they are the biggest Star Wars fans in the house. It was just as amazing the second time through. We didn't get to do Smuggler's Run only because the line was like a half hour and it was very crowded and we were the only ones really in to it... so that was a bummer but we still walked around the Millennium Falcon and so on before heading over to Tower of Terror. On the way we saw a cavalcade with Mickey and Minnie... I love these things! The crowds are basically nonexistent so the characters wave at you individually and even comment on like your sweatshirt or your shirt or just thanking us for coming.... it really is cool. 

Lena and Dom nailed the Tower of Terror, of course. And Pop got them their first timer t-shirts too! Then we went to the Frozen sing-a-long. It was our first show of the trip. They have every other row blocked off and then seats in groups of four with seats blocked off in between. The show itself was the same as normal holiday years except that the performers definitely stayed six feet away and there were quite a few comments about keeping masks on.... from the performers. And the final song is something along the lines of if we're together that's my favorite place to be and so on and it just  made me feel so sad for the coming holidays.... because we sure would love to all be together but sadly, we cannot. Thankfully the corny jokes of the show brushed off any of my sadness.... 

We had a character dining experience set up for this night at Hollywood and Vine! The food was served family style and wow was there a lot of food! We had to split into two groups and this night we were an hour apart which stunk. We got to see Mickey, Minnie, Pluto and Goofy quite a few times during the meal!

After dinner I headed to the front of the park to leave to go see my Floridian friend from college, Kerri. I took the bus over to meet her at Coronado Springs to go to the top of the new tower there and have drinks at The Dahlia Lounge with her and her friend. While I did this Matt and the kids wandered back to Galaxy's Edge to see it at night. Any of those photos Letty took for me with Matt's phone. 

The night with Kerri was too short and it's been too long but it was so good to see her face and catch up!

back at epcot

Oh my most favorite of parks! How I love thee! And Christmas decor was added since Monday! The best! We wanted to make sure we got the kids on the Frozen ride so we went there right as it opened, which was later than most parks, only opening up technically at 11. We got in by ten though and got in line for the ride. We passed the little mini Anna and Elsa parade on our way to Soarin. Oh that ride! I just love it so! We then decided that we were there during the Food and Wine Festival so we should really take advantage of all the delicious food and drinks, something we haven't done here before. Shame on us right! So we got all the things!! Letty and Matt and I tried a bunch of fun things, the boys sticking with their normal chicken tenders and fries and pizza, respectively. We rode Test Track twice because it is such a fun ride, and a first again for Lena and Dom...We had dinner at Coral Reef which we haven't done in awhile. Of course we had to ride the Nemo ride again because when they sing "It's a big blue world" I get a bit teary eyed. Each. And. Every. Time. Theeeen it was another Spaceship Earth ride and then some more Soarin before walking back to our hotel for some matching cousin jams and some popcorn.

I really hated saying goodbye to Epcot this night... Normally we just pop in and out of this park several times during the week because of the park hopper and because we are usually within walking distance... so this stung a bit. I think that was the hardest part for me, being here during the pandemic, the lack of park hopper. So I guess if that is the worst then I consider myself extremely lucky!

a day at magic kingdom

I always love me a good Floridian sunrise! I usually see them by myself on my daily run but because masks are required I made the executive decision to take the week off of running. It was a hard pill to swallow but I still walked almost 20,000 steps a day so it wasn't that much of a stretch. We wanted to be at the bus line early because of having such a large party and COVID restrictions we didn't know how that would all work out. They have partitions in the bus between seats of two but they let us just take over the entire back of the bus. So it wasn't an issue getting on any buses the entire trip. They also had the emergency exit on the ceiling open to promote airflow... Which made for a chilly morning ride!

Magic Kingdom was the place to go to today! We had to reserve which park we wanted to go to in advance and there was no park hopper option so we really had to commit! Magic Kingdom had herself all decked out for Christmas and I was here for it! We got there about an hour earlier than their posted opening time because we had a mission: Seven Dwarves Mine Train. As there are no Fastpasses we really wanted to make sure to get on this right away because the wait times were consistently the longest. Like, over an hour. Not the best for those with little legs. And we made it! 

From then on we just popped from ride to ride... wait times were really great, either completely walk-on or ten minutes or so. The lines themselves look ridiculously long because they have markings on the ground to stay six feet apart. So it could look like it'll take forever but basically you're just walking the entire time. They have dividers up in parts of the queue where there are switch backs too. We did Peter Pan, Small World, Dumbo, Barnstormers, Space Mountain (a first for Dom and Lena and they nailed it!), Carousel of Progress, Little Mermaid, Winnie the Pooh, I mean I'm telling you we were just doing all the rides! We found benches heading into Liberty Square for a bit of a break and from there were able to see a few of Magic Kingdom's cavalcades... Santa and his reindeer and Mickey and the list goes on! We did Haunted Mansion, the Magic Carpets and walked through the Swiss Family Robinson Tree House before dinner which was at the Jungle Navigation Company. Which is a total favorite of mine now! The food was so good and the jokes were so corny! After dinner we stuck around to see a few of the Christmas projections on the castle. They don't have fireworks during the pandemic but they do this instead! They changed every fifteen minutes so we saw a few before heading home for the day. On our way out we were very pleased to see all the characters hanging out above the exit! And in all their Christmas finery! Main Street is always a fav but Main Street at Christmastime? The very best!

We ended our night with a popcorn and pajama party in our room, as we did every night!

a day at epcot

After taking the Disney Magical Express to our hotel, The Yacht Club, we were able to go straight to our room. No check-in process needed. A lot of things were, in my opinion, changed for the better because of the pandemic. Things were more automated and less interaction with people was more common. So we checked in on our phones, got a text when the room was ready, and our Magic Bands opened the door right on up. We ditched our bags and then our strollers were delivered. We used Orlando Stroller Rental. They deliver right to your hotel and give you a stroller rain cover and a free cooler. I know our kids are too big for strollers but we have a Dominic so we thought better safe than sorry and it is kind of nice to have a "home base" as it were for all our stuff. Water bottles, sweatshirts, ponchos, etc. Then we started the short walk over to Epcot. We all got our temperatures taken (I did check everyone at the hotel each morning just in case, because they will send the entire party away if one of you have a fever) and went through security and scanned our Magic Bands to enter. No more fingerprint scanner, just fyi, another thing I was happy to see go. There are hand sanitizers literally everywhere and I'm pretty sure we used every single one we passed. Never pass a potty or a sanny!

We started walking around the World Showcase and stopped quick for some lunch. All quick-service dining that we encountered we could order online and they would alert you when it was ready. They are very strict about masks at Disney so unless you are stationary and actively eating or drinking it has to cover your nose and mouth. So we sat down to eat in America and as we did so we saw the little passing cavalcades! Anna and Elsa and Mickey and Minnie and friends! Within an hour of entering we had seen them already! I think we saw more characters this trip than in any other trip we have taken. No hugging or autographs sure, but still! 

We continued around the World, stopping in Mexico for a margarita after riding the Three Caballeros which is such a favorite of my kids! Then we did Soarin and Finding Nemo, and of course Spaceship Earth. We had dining reservations at the Trattoria at the Boardwalk so we had to leave the park anyway for that. The kids wanted to swim before dinner, which is incidentally, the only time you're able to have your mask off while on Disney property (unless you're in your room). We had a bit of a scheduling issue where dining was concerned. They didn't allow for our party size of twelve to sit together. So between that and COVID restrictions we had staggered reservation times and we were split up. Not ideal, but in no means a deal breaker. We were all so shot after dinner so we just headed back to the room to relax and go to bed early in prep for another big day tomorrow!

we took a trip! during a pandemic.

Which sounds ridiculous, I get it... but it was actually pretty normal! And I mean, it is Disney we are talking about here. They just do things right. We weighed our options over and over again for the past eight months trying to figure out what was the right thing to do.... and we followed along with Disney's reopening journey and decided that we would just do it! Make it happen! Make those memories! See the Disney Magic, etc! And I have zero regrets. The entire experience went amazingly and surprisingly well.

First up, getting there! We typically drive and when this trip was booked over a year ago the plan was to do the same... Us Olsens had debating flying down early at one point but then: COVID happened and everything changed of course. So drive or fly? We decided the less gas stations and take out food and hotels the better, and so we turned to flying. Southwest has a policy where if you aren't with a member of your party the middle seat must be left open, so as a family of five that was a perk to us. No strangers in our row thank you! We left my parent's house at 3 am.... So early! Everyone wore their masks in the van on the way down, throughout check-in and security, etc. I saw no one disobeying. We had a quick breakfast once checked-in and then we boarded our flight. Again, no one took their mask off that I saw. And just like that two hours later we were back on the ground and it was warm and there were palm trees! I mean, isn't that quite the deal? Maybe flying isn't so bad after all....

it's that time of year again.... the holiday home tour!

As I was taking these photos I was like why do I even do this? Not much changes year to year in how I decorate... everyone knows I'm still just as Christmas Crazy as I was the year prior... and yet, here I am. I guess I decorated like mad I might as well share with the internet void. And since I can't have people come and tour the home in person because: COVID, this is actually a good idea. Right?

And so here we are... starting in the foyer.

trick-or-treating, a week late!

Our little tradition of spending trick-or-treat night together has sure changed over the past thirteen years... from just being us adults getting dressed up to hand out candy in front of a fire pit to us all wandering around watching Letty toddle up to get candy to now counting heads all night as we visit house after house... it's a process! And sorry my kids, you will always be with family on this night. And I think they have accepted it. 

But first of course is the annual pizza delivery and then the rushing of the bulls... I mean costumes. Layer after layer after layer. I had face paint for my two skeletons (David refused) and so Rob did some fun talented drawings on his little ladies. Oh to have that artistic gene! And then it was time to be off! All the candy! All the political signs!


I don't leave my kids. It's a rule. Other than the nights I was in the hospital delivering a brother I have not left them. But it was time... Ten years of turning down girl's trips or solo weekends with Matt... My friends Janelle and Toniel informed me I was going away with them. A toe dip, as it were. We chose Alexandria as it was just a little over two hours away and none of us had been there before, but we heard it was really nice. Toniel took off running with making all the plans, and she sure knew what she was doing! Not only all the things, but all the educational things along with it. We left before the sun on Monday... or was it Sunday night? It was early. But the goal was to get there in time to see a sunrise. Which of course as it was gray and rainy we did not see. But we were there. The days were pretty much walk around, see beautiful historic homes, drink, eat, walk around and see more historic homes, eat, drink, and so on. The next day we left right after lunch so we were home in time for the kids to get home from school. Everyone survived! It was so much fun and just so very nice and relaxing to just wander around with my girls and not worry about my kids. Matt even had the house cleaned and the laundry folded so I mean, saint!

And now, a photo dump.

pumpkin carving night!

We will never let this tradition die so help me! The kids will be in college and I'll still make them come home to do this. Hopefully, willingly. 

We of course had to do the whole cousins in their costumes photo since come trick-or-treat night it will be frigid and the layers will be many. This must be done first before any messes are made. My mom had all the pumpkins cleaned and gutted for us which is so very nice when the kids are this young! And then they were off! My kids needing very little to no help which is actually pretty cool and much more enjoyable for Matt and I. Minus the fear that one feels when you witness David wielding a very large knife.... And I think as always they turned out so great!