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Infocomm and Orlando Vacation 2017

We just got back from Orlando, and boy are my arms tired. Did I say arms? I meant eyes. And arms. Tired. I’m wicked effing tired.

I flew down for an industry convention. I had the honor of teaching a three day prep class for folks who want to get their CTS (a generalist certification for our industry). It was a lot of hard work (I had to be in my classroom by 7am every day, and I was on my feet the whole time, plus all of the prep before the show), but incredibly rewarding. I know that at least six of our students passed (my co-teacher and I had a group of 40). Most of them probably just needed a little extra confidence and some vocab lessons, but I’d like to think that we taught everybody a thing or two.

I hope that they ask me to teach again next year, because then I’ll have 2 extra polo shirts, and I won’t have to do any laundry in the hotel sink. Plus, you know, passing on knowledge, helping people grow, all that good stuff.

Game Face!

I didn’t see much of the sun while I was at the convention center, but I did manage to take advantage of the crazy amazing hotel pool a few times.Crazy Amazing Pool

I mean, look at that thing. Just look at it! My only regret is that the water slide was always closed by the time I got there.

The day after classes finished, I presented as part of a day-long event about emerging technology and trends. After four straight days of attempting to sound intelligent while talking about technology, my brain had just about turned to mush. Which made that night just about perfect for dive bar karaoke with all of my industry pals. I sang Total Eclipse of the Heart and almost got the DJ in trouble for using a word that sounded an awful lot like an F-bomb (I steadfastly maintain that I said “I freaking need you tonight”). One of the bartenders was wearing a tie-dye bandanna as a headband, and busted out his own harmonica for Piano Man. It was a surreal night.

Inception

Kristian and Lilian spent the week that I was nerding it up on an actual vacation with family and friends in Miami and the Florida Keys. For my last day at the conference, Kristian left Lilian with his sister and joined me for a night. I got a big award last year, but Kristian missed the ceremony because he couldn’t find parking. I got another award this year… and Kristian missed the ceremony because he was parking.

(It’s almost like large convention centers have a great distance between parking facilities and event space.)

(At this point, it’s just a running joke.)

rAVers

We crashed a few more parties, took a class about IoT and security (nerd love, amirite?), and managed to amass an impressive amount of industry swag. We stayed long enough for me to attend the annual Women’s Breakfast, and then it was time to get back to a certain little cutie who was just dying to see me.Auntie Face

Our brother-in-law found us all an Orlando house rental, not too far from the theme parks. After a week of living out of a hotel, it was just what I needed. I didn’t have too much time to decompress, though, because next thing I knew, it was time for…


Princess Prepping

… Disney World!

I wouldn’t describe myself as a super Disney person, but I would describe myself as a very big fan of that little cutie up there. Probably her biggest fan (although it seems like we’re a pretty big club). From the security guard at the entrance who solemnly bowed towards her and said “welcome, Princess” to the cheesy “pixie dust” on the Peter Pan ride (I appreciated the use of projection mapping, but I have to dock them points for the fact that I could see all of the equipment just by looking up), she freakingĀ loved it.

None of the waits were too terrible, the weather wasn’t too oppressive, and nobody ended up screaming “I hate you all! I hate you!!!” By theme park standards, I’d call that a damn good day. I found most of the rides to be rather underwhelming, although I was happy to finally get a chance to ride Space Mountain (I went to Disney World with some friends in college, but the ride was closed for repairs when we got there). I also may or may not have had a 2nd go on Space Mountain, because Lilian was too short to ride it and I took her FastPass.

( I got the front seat!)

(Sooooo worth it.)

Kisses!

Pro tip: if your in-laws suggest renting a stroller… listen to them. For the love of the FSM, listen to them. By the end of the day, I was legitimately concerned that my feet were going to fall off at the ankles. I spent a lot of time holding Lilian while we waited in line. I don’t even want to think about how painful it would have been to carry her everywhere.

Kristian likes roller coasters ok, but he’s not an adrenaline junkie the way that I am. I’ve always known that Lilian liked amusement park rides (we’ve taken her to a few crappy carnivals in our day), but I had no idea just how much she liked roller coasters. We all rode Thunder Mountain Railroad together and she smiled and yelled “yahooooooo-ie!!!!” the whole time. It would appear that I’ve got a little Six Flags buddy in the making.

We squeezed every ounce of fun that we could out of Disney World, but then it was time to go home, eat takeout, soak our feet in the hot tub at the rental, and rest up. We still had one more big day ahead of us.

Like I said, I am not what you’d call a “Disney Person.” I mean, I like quite a few of their movies. But if we’d gone to Disney World as children, I would not have been one of those people that ran around trying to get “autographs” from all of the princesses.

I am, however, very much a Harry Potter person.

Welcome to Universal Studios

(Lilian to me, just as we were about to take that picture: “We’re not muggles mommy, we’re witches.”)

I found all of the jostling at the Universal Studios entrance right before the park opened to be crazy stressful and more than a little off-putting, but it ended up being worth it… we made a mad dash over to Harry Potter World and got to take it all in before the place got crazy busy. And we got so lucky that day! Lilian’s cousins desperately wanted to go on the Escape from Gringotts ride, so we made the decision to do that first, before the line got too long. It was closed when we got there, which means that we had extra time to walk through Ollivander’s and be in one of the first groups to watch a wand “choose” a wizard.

Wingaaaaaardium Leviosa!

We splurged on one of those interactive wands (major thanks to the friend who gave me a heads up on them, so that I could budget accordingly!) . We were just starting to wander around when we started hearing the buzz that Gringotts was open! We made another mad dash over, hid all of our stuff, and managed to get in just as the crowd was growing.

After a day at Universal, I have to say that I’m kindof over simulated rides. After more than a couple of them, they make me queasy. And they’re not pure joy for me, the way a giant roller-coaster is. But Escape from Gringotts is a damn good ride. The details are incredible! It doesn’t even feel like you’re waiting in line, more like you’re wandering through the bank and taking it all in. I think it helps that the ride does move around quite a bit, it’s not just a bunch of action on a screen. Lilian loved it as well, “I wasn’t scared Mommy, until Voldemort showed up.”

After the ride, we wandered around Diagon Alley for quite some time. I remember reading other people’s accounts of Harry Potter World and how they could spend a whole day wandering around and taking it all in. I was kindof incredulous about it at the time, but now I totally understand! The details are perfect, and they’re everywhere. There is an enormous dragon on top of Gringotts that periodically shoots out flames. There is Hagrid’s magic motorcycle and they let you climb all over it. There is butter-beer ice cream.

We met up with a friend of mine and her husband and four-year-old daughter. She and I were gleeful about all of the Harry Potter stuff… and the girls enjoyed it as well. Lilian was very sweet about offering to share her wand, she even let the other girl go first when they came to their first interactive area.

I think our husbands were getting restless, so we decided we should probably go on some more rides, so we headed over to the Simpsons World. The main ride there is another simulated ride, but it’s also very well done. And, you get to wander around like you’re in an episode of the Simpsons! More incredible luck… we got out of the ride just as all of the characters were walking out. I had a major fan girl moment when Lisa Simpson walked by. I mean, I know it’s just a person in a foam costume. But… but… Lisa Simpson! I squeed so hard, she took me by the hand… and I got to be the first person in the little area where they pose for photos.

The Simpsons

I do believe that the fact that we went on the space aliens ride right after the simulated ride means that we are a family of iron stomachs.

A Third Party, Oh Sure THROW Your Vote Away!

You know, everyone talks about Harry Potter World, but nobody talks about the Simpsons World. Well, let me tell you… there’s a Quick E Mart, and a Moe’s Tavern, and a Duff Brewery, and I could have spent several hours there if we hadn’t had restless four-year-olds (and lunch reservations!).

The Seven Duffs

With so many references to the various episodes of the Simpsons where they make fun of theme parks, it all felt very meta. I laughed my ass off.

We took the “Hogwarts Express” over to Islands of Adventure for the afternoon. We missed walking through the wall (we took a back way in, because my sister-in-law needs a wheelchair), but it was just as magical as I could have imagined. Even the elevator ended up being a little magical… my brother-in-law told Lilian to use her wand to get it going, and the doors opened just as she motioned with it. I think her new career plans involve getting a letter from Hogwarts…Magic!

After lunch was when we really got into the roller coasters! We did the Hogwarts Castle ride, Lilian got her “yahooooo-ie” in on the Hippogriff ride, and I got to ride the faster of the two dragons on Dragon Challenge. We spent the whole afternoon wandering around with my in-laws, taking turns using Express passes to go on the rides. I think everyone got to go on just about everything they wanted. Except for poor Lilian, who didn’t understand why she’s about a foot-and-a-half too short to go on the big coasters.

(She was desperate to get on the Hulk ride.)

(I can’t say I blame her, it’s pretty much the greatest roller-coaster ever.)

It got stupid hot, but we went on a couple of flume rides, which helped a lot. And then it poured buckets, which really helped a lot.

Things that apparently don’t scare my child:

  1. A simulated T-Rex
  2. Large splashes
  3. A simulated King Kong
  4. Grownups screaming because they think that simulated King Kong is scary
  5. The Tower of Terror (I steadfastly refused to go on that one)

She will, however, get very sad when you don’t let her go on Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls (or the aforementioned Tower of Terror).

We made a trip to Honey Dukes for enchanted sweets, took one last walk around to make sure we’d tried out all of the interactive wand areas and then, sadly, it was time to go home.

U-No-Poo

It was all a little overwhelming, but it was also an incredible trip. I hope that Lilian remembers at least parts of it! I’m duly impressed if you managed to read this whole post. I know I’m going to forget a lot about our visit, so I want to make sure I get as much written down as possible.

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