Friday, February 24, 2017

Keeping your mother entertained

On the way down to Orlando, I sat near a young mother and her toddler. I had so much fun keeping her busy while her mom took a break. They were travelling from San Francisco to Orlando, so it was a very, very long day for the young mother. The toddler looked so much like the brunette twin was she was the same age. At one point the little girl crawled into the brunette twin's lap so she could look out the window. She really did look just like the brunette twin.

One the way back to Chicago, I sat next to an eight-year old girl travelling with her family. They were separated with the girl sitting across the aisle from her father. She told me it was only the second time she was on a plane, so I talked to her about flying. She talked about her adventures at Disney World. It was her first trip to the Magic Kingdom and she was enchanted.

The girls had a good time talking about how I talked to the little girl for most of the trip. I was sitting next to Daddy, so they thought I ignored him. Daddy, though, had a different take. He thought it was great that the little girl kept me busy. He had a nice, quiet flight.

The girls understood what Daddy was saying. For future trips they will probably start looking at people who might fill in the third seat not as interlopers, but as people who can keep Mommy busy during the flight. It's a funny twist to my extrovert personality that makes for a great story.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Universal day three

We started our last day at Universal Studios the same way we did the first two days. We were at the gate early so we'd be in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter right at 8:00 a.m. We went directly to  the Hogwarts Castle ride. The first time I went on it, I walked out a little unstable. The second time was a lot more fun. We all enjoyed it again.

Since we had already spent two days going through the parks, our last day was a list of repeats. We went on our favorite rides one last time. We walked by a few attractions that had long wait times the previous days. It was strange when we would find a ride with a long wait time. For the most part we had short wait times at most attractions. There were a few, though, that always had long wait times. We just looked at the number posted and kept walking.

The one exception was Gringott's Vault. No matter when we went by the attraction there was at least a 60 minute wait. As we rode the Hogwart's Express we decided that we had to just get in line and wait to go into the vault. It was the last day. We had no other choice.

When we arrived there was a 90 minute wait. We found out that we could cut the wait in half by going into the single riders line. We did that, but I found myself wondering what we were missing. In each Wizarding World attraction you had the ride and you had the set-up. As you wandered through the lines (even when you were moving quickly because it was a short line), there were distractions. These were everything from story-related items to screens with the movie actors. The distractions often gave some background for the attraction. They were pretty interesting. We didn't see any of the distractions in the single rider line. It was more like a tunnel than the other attraction lines.

The prediction that the single rider line was half the time of the main line was right on target. Forty-five minutes after we entered the line, we were seated. I had fun on the ride. We finally saw Bellatrix Lestrange and Lord Voldemort. It was a clever story with unexpected twists and turns.

I was surprised when I met up with Daddy and the girls. The brunette twin said, "We waited a long time for a boring ride." She was annoyed with the wait time. She was not happy that she had to sit with strangers. She pulled out her wand and started doing her magic spells at the Diagon Alley shops.

We ended our Universal Studios weekend as a split family. The brunette twin wanted to go on a ride at Islands of Adventure. The blond twin wanted to go on a ride at Universal Studio. I took the brunette twin while Daddy went with the blond twin.

As we exited the Spiderman attraction, the brunette twin asked if she could walk through the Wizarding World of Harry Potter again. It was even more magical in the dark. The lights made it glow like we were on a movie set. We took the Hogwarts Express to Diagon Alley where we walked the cobblestone streets one more time. The brunette twin was content as we walked out for the last time.

Our final event was an evening concert by X Ambassadors. Despite the large crowd we did manage to find Daddy and the blond twin. The girls stood by themselves during the concert, enjoying their teenage moments as they giggled and sang and danced. Daddy and I stood away from the main concert watching to scene. After they heard their favorite song, the girls decided it was time to go. They ended their long weekend walking hand-in-hand with us as we made our way towards the exit. We were all tired and happy with our adventure. It was time to go home.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Universal day two

After exploring The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at both Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios, we ventured outside to the other attractions. We were at Universal Studios, having taken the Hogwarts Express from one park to the other.

What was really impressive at the attractions at both locations was the attention to detail. When we went to the Simpsons attraction, we heard the correct character voices throughout the ride. It wasn't as if the on-screen production was a cut and paste job pulled out of different episodes. These were unique stories with the real actors.

We were a little disappointed in Universal Studios. There were not that many attractions to keep the girls busy. When we were at Islands of Adventure, we had something to do at every turn. If there was a unifying theme to the attractions, it was the use of simulation screens. Most of the rides were a mix of motion and simulated screens. At first this was a little disorienting. By the time we went on the rides for a second time (and we did manage to go on most rides a second time) we were used to the format.

It was strange how watching a screen could make you feel like you were falling dozens of stories towards a certain crash. The graphics were really that good. Most of the rides had some kind of spin or jolt along the way to keep you from getting too comfortable in your seat.

The best rides, though, were the traditional roller coasters. We rode the Wizarding World of Harry Potter roller coasters over and over again. This ride took us upside down, through cork screws and on steep drops. We finished one ride and immediately went back into line to do it again. There were two tracks. We rode them both until we couldn't do it any more. The girls went crazy for The Hulk. They also rode the 'Rockin Roller Coaster, although the blond twin was happier with that ride than her twin.

We ended day two tired and happy, which is the best way to end a fun day at an amusement park.

Friday, February 17, 2017

It lived up to the hype

We decided to take the girls to visit Universal Orlando's Harry Potter World a few weeks ago. We had been talking about taking them there for a while. The stars aligned and we had the opportunity to take them for President's Day weekend.

Every time I talked to anyone who had already been there, they raved about the experience. They talked about how authentic it felt and how much fun it was to be among so many other Harry Potter fan. They raved about the activities, especially the magic wand.

We arrived in Orlando about 5:00 p.m., ate dinner and went to bed early. As part of our Harry Potter package, we received park admission one hour before it opened to the general public. We were going to be there as soon as possible.

As we walked into the park, the crowd started moving more quickly. The Harry Potter activities were located at the far end of the park. Everyone did a funny race walk as everyone wanted to move quickly, but not so quickly as to take a fall. It was entertaining to watch everyone race walk through the park. Every area had a different path floor. Some were pretty slick with morning dew. I'm not sure anyone really looked around at the attractions as they race walked to Hogwarts. I certainly did not look around as we move to the main event.

When we arrived at the Hogwarts arch, the Hogwarts express engine was smoking. A conductor welcomed us to Hogwarts. The brunette twin, our resident Harry Potter fanatic, gasped when she walked through the arch. She said, "I can't believe I'm here."

We rode the rides, purchased a wand and had breakfast at Leaky Cauldron. The streets were full of young wizards and witches in full Hogwarts attire. Wands were flying. Guests were pointing and staring and gaping. Everyone was so happy to be part of the experience.

Even before we made it to Diagon Alley in the other park, the Harry Potter attractions lived up to the hype. It was as magical as we hoped. The girls were enchanted and so were we.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

The root of the problem

Just before the girls went back to school after Winter Break, they went for haircuts. I talked to our stylist and left them in her hands. When I came back, both girls were beaming. The brunette twin chopped off about 6 inches of the hombre she had done when school first started. The blond twin's hair stopped me cold. It wasn't highlighted as we discussed. It was blond, think white blond.

I just stared while I clenched my teeth. I always told the girls that I didn't care what they did to their hair as long as it was a natural color when they started applying for jobs. The brunette twin has had purple hair, blond hombre designs and general highlights. The blond twin hasn't really done anything crazy until she showed up as a white blond.

The kids at school started calling her Elsa, like Frozen's lead character. I referred to her as Drako, as in the Harry Potter character. We settled on Elsa as it seemed more fitting.

The problem with her hair wasn't that she had it dyed white blond. It was the ongoing maintenance required to either keep it blond or let it grow out in some natural way. Friday night we had an exciting time coloring her roots. The dark growth was driving me crazy because it was starting to bleed through all over her head. The blond twin asked why it started growing out so quickly. I walked into the house with a hair color kit and we fixed the problem.

We're in this for the long haul at this point. Her long, blond hair is destined to remain blond, even if it becomes an ongoing project.