Sunday, September 27, 2009

Disney Highlights

At the beginning of the year, Wesley and I threw around the idea of taking a family vacation to Disney World. Thanks to a friend who shared information with us about a great Disney deal, we were able to snag a 7 night stay at a Disney resort, tickets, and food for a very reasonable price.

After sharing our package deal with our friends the Howards, they decided to come along with us. We booked our trip for the last week in September.

We have so many memories from the week that I decided to break up this Disney post into several posts. Hope you enjoy the highlights and pictures from each day!
Side Note: There are a lot of pictures, but I know a certain Mimi and Grammy who have been dying to see pictures of Jackson on his vacation!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Heading Home

Saturday morning, we sadly had to pack up and head home. We had opted for one extra day in the parks so after saying goodbye to the Howards, we headed back to Epcot to ride one more ride and to pick up Flash.

Jackson chillin' before we headed home.

All packed up!

Before we left the hotel, we took advantage of a free 3o minute Arcade card we received at check-in. Jackson loved jamming on the guitar hero game.

One happy little boy with his happy Daddy!

The Benders at Epcot

When Wesley was little and came to Disney, one of his favorite memories centered around the Figment ride. He remembered experience this attraction with his Dad and really wanted Jackson to see it before we left. The park was packed but luckily, the Figment ride had a short wait.
Waiting for Figment
After Figment, we headed to pick up Flash. He was so happy to see us, but it looked like he had a wonderful time at Disney as well.

We hadn't been on the road long, when I looked back and snapped this picture. The week was enjoyed by all but wow! was it exhausting!

Two tired boys - Flash and Jackson

Friday, September 25, 2009

Happy Birthday, Wesley!!

We celebrated Wesley's 30th birthday on Friday. Disney really knows how to make a birthday special. They gave Wesley a pin to wear announcing his birthday and gave him a gift card to use on property.

Todd and Ashley made the day even better by decorating our door, and by giving him a shirt to wear that read "My name is Wes Bender and today is my 30th birthday." On the back was a hand print with the words: "Slap me. It's my Birthday!"

Since we had decided to take it easy on Friday, Ashley and Todd actually made Wesley wear it on Thursday throughout all Epcot. He got lots of looks, "Happy Birthdays" and a even a few slaps!

Wesley, Jackson and Tucker outside our door - Happy Birthday, Wesley!

We had seen pretty much all we wanted of the parks so we decided to just enjoy another character breakfast Friday morning and spend some downtime at the hotel. The breakfast we selected was at the Grand Floridian. Ashley and I picked it mainly because we wanted to see the inside of this gorgeous hotel. The breakfast was great and the characters were very nice.

I guess all the adults were out of it by Friday because as I looked over the pictures from the morning, I was tickled to see these two. Yes, for breakfast, Tucker had a cupcake and was drinking syrup and Jackson was enjoying Fruit Loops, chocolate milk, and waffles with syrup! No nutrition here!

Tucker and his cupcake and syrup.

At least he was happy...until the sugar crash about noon!

That evening, we decided to take advantage of a few late night Magic Hours at the Animal Kingdom. We rode the Safari again. We had experienced the ride in the morning and wanted to see if anything was different at night. It was a nice ride, but more animals were out on the morning safari.

We grabbed dinner and then headed to Dino-Land where we spent the rest of the evening. There was practically no one in this part of the park! It was so nice! We were able to ride a few rides and then play some of the carnival games. It is amazing how many times a two year old can win a game when he is playing only against his Mommy!

Jackson and Mommy on the Dinosaur ride

Watching Todd and Ashley ride a Whirly ride that the kids were not tall enough to enjoy

Carnival Game #1 - Race the turtles across the Board. First one to the end, wins!

Jackson wins!!

Game #2 - Watch Daddy shot hoops for a prize. Guess who got the prize? Jackson!

Game #3 - Smash the dinosaurs as they come up from the Dino-holes. This one Jackson actually won fair and square. I could not get the hang of it and he and Daddy were able to win by a landslide!

Thursday, September 24, 2009


Thursday, we started off the day with breakfast at Boma, a restaurant in the Animal Kingdom lodge. This hotel is amazing. The decorations are beautiful and so different from anywhere else we had been. I am so glad that we stopped here for a relaxing start to our day.

While I was waiting on the check, Wesley took Jackson behind the resort where the animals roam. He was able to get an up-close look at some giraffes and birds. Wesley said he really enjoyed that part of the morning.

After breakfast, we headed to Epcot. First up, was the Spaceship Earth ride. Last time we were in Disney, Wesley and I rode that ride and it was okay. They have updated it since then, and it is pretty amazing. The ride is very interactive and all three of us enjoyed it.

At the end of the ride, you are able to explore new toys and inventions. Jackson and Wesley played a video game on the ground. I couldn't believe it but Jackson quickly figured out how it worked and enjoyed playing with his Daddy.

Another renovated attraction at Epcot was the Innovations area. We were searching for a picture place and entered the first part of Innovations. It was so neat. The highlight was a fire safety game and the opportunity to play on a real fire truck. Jackson loved the fire truck and Wesley and I enjoyed competing in the fire safety game.

After the fire exhibit, we went on a search for the restrooms. The search lead us to another Innovations building. When we entered, I thought I was going to flip out. Jackson has become fascinated...almost obsessed...with "tash tucks" (aka trash trucks). He is constantly searching for one when we are driving.

When we walked into this second building, on display was a real life trash truck. A new exhibit was centered around trash and recycling. We waited in line so that Jackson and Tucker could participate. Though they had no interest in the game, they loved pushing around their kiddie sized trash truck. It was one of the highlights of the trip for Jackson!

The rest of Epcot was very low-key. I was pretty exhausted by this point and Baby Philip was giving me lots of clues to slow down! We spent an hour resting in the Baby Center and then headed home early. Thankfully, a little water and some rest was all I needed to feel better by Friday.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Animal Kingdom

Wednesday morning, we headed over to the Animal Kingdom. Jackson loves animals so I was most excited about experiencing this park with him. He loved it!

We took in the Safari ride, the Lion King and Nemo show, and even Wesley, Todd and Ashley were able to enjoy the new Everest adventure.

A highlight of Animal Kingdom was seeing a lot of characters. We were able to see Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Tigger, Eeyore, and Pooh.

Wesley and Todd on Everest

Isn't he the cutest?! Jackson wearing his Bugs' Life glasses

Waiting to go into the Bugs' Life

Again, the best seat in the house for the Parade

Jackson actually enjoyed meeting Mickey, Goofy and Minnie:

Minnie even remembered dancing with Jackson Tuesday night. That made Jackson so happy!

Though Jackson did great with the characters early in the day, when we meet up with Pooh and friends, it was a different story...

And just in case you missed it in the above picture, take a look at this close up...

Jackson actually bit Wesley he was so scared of Pooh!!! OUCH!!!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Magic Kingdom and Mickey's BBQ

Even though we had an action packed day on Monday at the Magic Kingdom, there were a few rides we missed. Tuesday morning, we decided to head back to enjoy those rides. We stayed until lunch and then headed back to the hotel for afternoon naps.

We had reservations at Mickey's BBQ Tuesday night and didn't want the kids to be completely exhausted for that. We put Jackson down and then Wesley and I each joined him for a two hour nap!

Wesley and Jackson on the race cars.

Here they are coming around the curve

Jackson and Leanne on the carousel.

Ashley had heard great reviews for an evening show called Mickey's BBQ. We were all looking forward to this causal night out even though we didn't know exactly what to expect.

We had the best time! There was great food and music. Mickey and Minnie joined the fun and invited all the kids up front to dance. Jackson LOVED that! He was able to show off his moves and everyone (including Minnie) was impressed :-)

Jackson dancing with Minnie

Can you spot Jackson and Tucker? They saw some older kids "break dancing" and thought it would be fun to give it a try. Here they are on their heads going trying out the new moves! It was hysterical!

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Magic Kindgom

After the late night at Hollywood Studios, we decided to take it easy Monday morning. We didn't head out to met up with the Howards at Magic Kingdom until around noon.

We took in a couple of rides and ate lunch before the first parade of the day. Then came more rides and dinner. After our Italian feast, we found front row seats for the evening parade. It was a Spectro-magic parade and was beautiful.

After that parade was a fireworks show. The Howards stayed up for it but we decided to call it a night and head home. Again, a great day!

This year is the Year of Celebrations at Disney. Jackson was given a button to wear to celebrate his first visit to Disney!

Jackson loved watching all the characters come by in the parade and he even started waving at them!

Each park has a Baby Center that we took advantage of each day. It was an air-conditioned room for diaper changes, eating, or in this case, just relaxing for a few minutes.

Waiting on the evening parade.

So you hear it all the time "It's a Small World After-All" but who knew the world was this small! As we were standing in line for Dumbo, I looked over and saw someone I knew from Norcross. We chatted a few minutes and then went on our way.

Then, as we were leaving the Pooh ride, we ran (literally) into the Sullivan family! We used to go to church with Mark and Kristen and now they attend Hillsboro with my parents. We had to snap this picture for proof that we actually saw someone we knew while on vacation! Funny thing is, we ran into them again at lunch at the Animal Kingdom. I guess with two-year-olds, we were on the same schedule!

Mark, Kristen, Maddie, and Ruthie Sullivan

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Chef Mickey's and Hollywood Studios

As soon as we scheduled our trip, I began making plans and securing reservations for our week. Top on the list - a character breakfast. We had been to Chef Mickey's before and loved it so we decided that our first official Disney stop would be breakfast with Mickey at the Contemporary hotel.

We left our hotel and hopped on the monorail to travel to the breakfast. Who would have known that would be such a highlight! The kids LOVED the monorail. We probably could have ridden it all day, never gone into a park, and Jackson would have been just as happy!

First Bender Family Picture of the week - Jackson's first trip on the Monorail

You could definitely see our group coming - four adults and three two-year-olds! It was a blast!

We were in our own car on the monorail and the kids loved playing on the seats.

Here I am showing Jackson the water outside the Magic Kingdom.

Breakfast at Chef Mickey's

Jackson and his Daddy

At first, Jackson was not a fan of the characters. Here he is climbing Wesley when Goofy came by.

He warmed up a little to Mickey and Donald...

Wesley and Todd had no trouble posing for a picture with Minnie!

Soon the kids realized they could play in the window seat. Once this party started we gave up hope on getting more pictures with the characters. They were having too much fun.

It didn't take long for Jackson and Tucker to start dancing!

After breakfast, we headed over to Hollywood Studios. Our first stop was the Baby Center where I stripped Jackson down to his diaper and covered him in sun screen! It was so hot outside and I didn’t want a sunburn the first day out.

We had an action packed afternoon watching shows, riding a few rides and taking in a parade. We finished off the evening with a firework/water show called Fantasmic. It was a great day one!

Jackson and Wesley with Handy Manny.

The Playhouse Disney show was one of Jackson's favorites.

The Benders with Lightening McQueen and Mator

In front of the set of the car stunt show (Wesley's favorite)

Waiting for the parade

It was so hot!!

Best seat in the house.

After the parade, Jackson dozed off...though Wesley is just posing here, I bet he could have gone to sleep too!

Chowing down on his favorite Disney treat - A turkey leg!