Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Reinforcements Arrive

Y'all - 

Walt Disney World is great, don't get me wrong, but with the crowds and the heat, it can start to get to you.

...But if you're lucky, you have a sweet sister to console you.

Hagen's favorite thing about our vacation thus far had been dinner at the Irish pub at Disney Springs. They had a live band and both of you clung to the side of the stage, completely engrossed. When one of the performers approached Laney to ask if she'd like to join the dancers on stage, she shook her head "No." But then Hagen - always full of surprises - said, "I BELIEVE I WILL!"

You just never know with that kid.

Speaking of the enigma that is Hagen, the next day we went to Epcot and rode Spaceship Earth, which is a suuuuper slow, 20 minute-long ride through that big white Epcot ball, narrated by Judi Densch, that tells the history of human communication. I'm probably overselling it. Y'all, there are 90 year old librarians who would get off that ride and declare "Man, that was boring as hell." Most people ride it so they can sit down in air conditioning. HAGEN LOVED IT. In the nights to come, he would wake up in the middle of the night, sobbing (I am NOT making this up), "You only let me ride the space ride two times!!"

We maxed out our fun every day and were starting to drag a little...

And then on Day 3, reinforcements arrived!

The timing worked out for my cousin Heidi and two of her children - Hope and Rhett - to join us.

Hagen and Rhett hit it off immediately, and started making some plans for the future.

I say this as someone who has worked in the reality TV business since 1999: Rhett needs his own TV show. He's this tiny feisty redhead with a southern accent who says stuff like "Well, go ahead and ride that roller coaster, Mama, but don't come cryin' to me when you throw up."

Speaking of roller coasters, I took my GoPro camera on Splash Mountain and have enjoyed putting this picture of Heidi all over social media:

At Hollywood Studios, I asked Hagen if he wanted to ride Star Tours, which is a simulator that makes you think you're flying a spaceship like the Millenium Falcon from Star Wars. You're firing lasers and almost getting blown up and you have to wear 3D glasses. I reminded Hagen that it was just pretend, and if he got scared, he could take off his glasses and close his eyes because it was just the chair moving around and we were perfectly safe. 

This led to maybe my favorite Hagen moment of the vacation - As soon as our "windshield" lifted to reveal "outer space," Hagen had the happiest grin on his face I've ever seen. It was like he was really at warp speed, invading the Death Star as a member of the Resistance. I tried to hold his hand to remind him he was okay, and he pulled his hand back and yelled I GOTTA FLY THIS THING. 

So of course we had to go meet Chewbacca and tell him all about it. 

Laney is a huge fan of thrill rides and was loving riding all the grown up roller coasters. That night, as Hollywood Studios was near closing and the lines had died down, I suggested the girls all ride the Rock n' Roller coaster. I vaguely remembered riding it back in college, and I remembered the premise of the ride is you're in the studio with the band Aerosmith and they realize they're late for a gig at the Hollywood Bowl, so you have to meet them in the parking garage (the whole ride is indoors) where you'll get in a "limo" that will speed you through a black-lit version of Los Angeles. I repeated all of that to Laney, and reminded her that is WAS a grown-up roller coaster and probably would be super fast and in the dark. She asked me if it went upside down. I said "I truly don't remember. And it doesn't say on the ride description. I'm not lying - I just don't know. I just remember that the lights are pretty."

I'm a moron. 

Because the line was so short and so fast, we were seated in a fake limo in no time with those huge harnesses down over our heads. I couldn't see Laney to my left, but I kept a grip on her thigh to remind her I was there. Here are some facts about that ride that I've since learned: It goes 0-57 mph in 2.8 seconds, and riders experience 4.5G as they enter the first of two TWO INVERSIONS - more than an astronaut does on the space shuttle launch. 

This all came back to me as we were catapulted around inside that building while Aerosmith sang "Love In An Elevator" straight into our headrests. When the ride finally came to a stop, I still couldn't see Laney as we waited for our harnesses to be lifted. That may have been two of the scariest minutes of my life, because I didn't know if she'd passed out or was sobbing or what...and I wanted to comfort her but I was literally in lockdown. 

When the harnesses finally lifted, Laney looked at me calmly with one eyebrow raised and said, "Turns out it does go upside down. TWICE."

She skipped out of that ride so proud of herself for having done it, so we stopped on a bench right outside the exit so she could call her dad in Afghanistan and tell him all about it. 

The next day, the restaurant at our hotel had a carnival night with cotton candy and corn dogs and free face painting, and the kids went all in:

Then we headed back to the Magic Kingdom for one last round of rides.

Disney takes pictures of you like the one below every time you get on an interesting ride. Please look at Laney with her hands up on the Mine Train coaster, and then look at the boy behind her. I could laugh at that all day. It's like they're not even on the same ride. 

This is the first time Hagen was tall enough to ride a real grown up roller coaster, and I happened to get this picture with my phone as we went down the first big hill. This is a boy wearing his favorite dinosaur shirt, with make-up that makes him look like his favorite thing (triceratops) on his first-ever roller coaster. This is what pure happiness looks like.

I know I make fun of Disney all the time, but what a magical place it was. Don't tell Peg Peg.


Tuesday, September 26, 2017


I think in this whole vacation, I am in 4 photos, 3 of them out of focus. 

Hey, y'all -

And so I found myself heading into another Disney vacation, because Peg Peg had used her Disney ninja skills and/or drugged me and put me in the trunk.

Usually, being a military spouse is a hard road paved with sacrifice and separation and heartbreak, but it also comes with cheap Disney tickets, so there's that. The Disney folks offer a "Stars and Stripes" ticket that offers five days in a park PLUS five days at their water parks or mini golf courses as long as you use it all in a two week window. I was determined to max that sucker out because I refuse to leave money on the table and I was hell-bent on sticking it to Disney. Your dad reminded me - in his calm, measured tone - that however I used that ticket, I would not be even the tiniest blip on their multi-billion-dollar radar. This is why of the two of us, your dad would make a great President and I should be kept from the nuclear codes at all costs; he's always rational, and I WILL GO TO TYPHOON LAGOON JUST TO STICK IT TO THE MAN.

We played mini golf to start. Laney is really an accomplished putter, scoring under par overall and even getting a hole in one on one of the last holes. 

Hagen is an inveterate cheater, which I let him get away with because he's so darn cute and because just getting him to participate in something outside is a miracle. He agreed that the Florida heat was ludicrous.

Peg Peg made us lunch reservations at the T-Rex Cafe, where we were seated directly underneath an animatronic pteranodon. Every ten minutes, that dinosaur would get pissed off about something (maybe the slow service at this particular themed restaurant) and would start flapping its wings and squawking at volume 90 which scared the heck out of Hagen and me. Then a faux meteor shower would happen and lights would flash and the age of the dinosaurs would come to a dramatic end, only to be queued up again in time for everyone to order dessert.

Raise your hand if you love ice cream.
The next day, we entered the Magic Kingdom. 

Sometimes, it was hard to tell who the 7 year old was. 

At one point, we thought we were getting in line for the Little Mermaid ride, but accidentally got in line for an Ariel meet-and-greet. We had no idea, until we rounded a corner in the sea cave, and there she was, perched on a rock. Laney was a little shocked, but Hagen was fiiiiine with it. 

Speaking of the Little Mermaid ride - I've seen that movie dozens of times in my life, but I honestly don't remember King Triton having those abs. It's like they got lazy in the robot lab and put Santa's head on The Rock's body. 

This little guy banged our car against the center rail the entire time we were on the Tomorrowland Speedway until we pulled up to the exit and he said "Oh! So if I turn the steering wheel THIS way, the car goes that way too?!?" Oh, my head. 

It was a great day overall, and we stopped on our way out to rest on the Tomorrowland Express...

...which gave Tex and Hagen just enough time to ponder the performance of their stock portfolios. 


Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Welcome To Florida

Hey, y'all - 

You probably don't remember it because it was so long ago, but we went on an epic southern vacation this past summer. 

We're to the point in our traveling now when I could probably just hand you tickets and meet you at the destination because you know exactly what you're doing, pack yourselves, and never look back. As soon as Hagen can read the departures board, I can officially wash my hands of you people. 

Hagen got a set of wings from just about every Delta employee he encountered. To hear him tell it, "I got THIS one for being on time and THIS one for rescuing somebody and THIS one for always landing at the right airport." The faux medals would probably be more impressive if they weren't pinned to an inside-out shirt.

The inside-out-on-purpose thing is a new development. Hagen says he prefers to wear his shirts inside out because when they have characters printed on them, he can lift his shirt up over his face and talk to them inside the shirt. It's easier to have a private conversation with the Transformers on your shirt that way. I thought that was the wackiest thing I'd ever heard of, but since them he's gone through a solid-colors-only phase, followed by an "It must be symmetrical!" phase. 

For our visit, Peg Peg and Tex found a bike for Laney because they know she needs to be doing something ALL THE TIME. Just landed from a three-leg, cross-country flight? "But NOW what are we doing?!?" It was great to be able to tell her to go ride her bike when she was bored. She fell in with a pack of neighborhood girls almost instantly and they spent a lot of time biking the neighborhood and creating secret hideouts. Laney can make friends faster than anyone I've ever seen, which is a miracle considering her mother would be happy to only communicate via text message with the rest of humanity. 

Because we were in Florida, it's the law that you have to get up at 6am and speed-walk through the neighborhood, commenting on everyone's landscaping choices and how one neighbor has nicer curbing than another. We do not have curbing in Montana. Then again, your dad says Tyvek plastic is the final stage of Montana construction.

When you stay with your parents, you're instantly demoted to backseat status, which was a real drag. Doesn't matter that you're forty; comparatively, you're a kid and you belong in the back.

Before we left on our trip, Peg Peg would call me to discuss all things Disney, and I would remind her that we could just tell the children that her neighborhood was Disney and save ourselves a metric ton of money. You think Hagen cares? Hagen "Shady Pines" Burbach would be happy doing this 12 hours a day:

This is Hagen, describing his invention to Peg Peg, and me laughing, because I know we're going to be here at least another hour before he's done discussing the attachments.

Laney convinced Peg Peg to get out and play scoop ball...

...and we went to the pool every day. 

Y'all, Florida is ungodly hot. And so, so humid. By the time you walk to your car, you need to change clothes. I'd assumed Florida would be the most miserable, weather-wise, on our vacation until a few weeks later when Georgia was able to combine soul-sucking heat with apocalyptic swarms of gnats. Well, played Georgia. 

But you don't notice the weather when you're under water. That's my (new) motto. 

About once a year, Peg Peg calls me to talk about visiting Disney. And every time it happens, I tell her "NO. ABSOLUTELY NOT. We were just there and we don't need to go back." And somehow, just as often, I find myself at the turnstiles at the front of the park, having my wristband scanned and I wonder how the heck I got there. 

I'll let you go ahead and guess what tomorrow's post covers.